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Marketing: Basic instinct- capitalise on internal competitiveness

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Cite as: (2008) 82(10) LIJ, p. 79

Incentive programs are an effective way of motivating your employees to help your business go that extra mile.

Some lawyers are naturally multi-talented. They seem to be good at everything. But there are others that do need, and often want, some guidance and motivation when it comes to the basics of marketing or business development skills.

It definitely pays for law firms to take a unique, creative (and fun) approach to motivating or encouraging staff to do their bit in marketing or developing their own business.

Cue the incentive program.

Incentive programs are an effective tool to, for example, bolster sales or work, motivate employees or influence staff and client behaviour. The key is to recognise and take into account all the factors that affect performance, such as motivation, skills, recognition and the ability to measure progress.

Creating an activity, program or even a competition for people to participate in and succeed is a proven winner when enticing people to go that extra length for the business. Basically, give people reasons – through incentives such as points, prizes or recognition – to make that call to a client, go out and see a new one, or chase an opportunity.

Here are some pointers to creating a successful incentive program.

Discover what motivates your lawyers to give them the push to join in – is it money, prizes, prestige or recognition from the managing partner?

Think of a theme. A theme-based incentive program gives participants something to visualise and get excited about; it also makes communicating or rolling out the message a lot more interesting. So, be creative: what about Monopoly – have teams called thimble, shoe or horse and “Get out of Jail” prizes (such as a day off work during a busy time of the year); “Survivor” (again, teams are formed, and weekly challenges or targets are set); “So You Think You Can Business Develop?”; or even “[Firm name’s] Next Top Lawyer or Idol”.

Determine what activities will earn points (maybe one point for contacting a current client, five points for a new client, 10 points for attending a networking function and 20 points for talking at a seminar).

Decide whether people will participate as individuals or teams. Forming teams, headed by a partner, has the added bonus of building rapport and strong bonds among employees of different practice groups and levels of seniority.

Organise for firm leaders to champion the incentive program from the start. Having the managing partner’s involvement means everyone (especially junior lawyers) can see the firm is taking it seriously, and is a good way for them to make themselves and their reputation known to the firm.

Having HR involved is important – they can provide excellent insight into how teams should be formed and who will make great matches. An internal committee is a great source of ideas for what will make it work and how lawyers will want to get involved.

Create a budget (including what it will cost for prizes and communicating the program).Set clear timeframes: for example, does the program run for a financial quarter at a time, or a year?

Look into creating an interface (such as a spreadsheet) that everyone can access. Seeing where teams are placed will create a buzz and give extra incentive to be on top.

Provide tips to lawyers on ways to broach conversations once they meet people.

Think about having mini prizes along the way. People lose motivation or give up when not winning. Weekly and monthly prizes can help prevent this.

Once this is all established, the incentive program can be rolled out and the theme promoted. Your internal communications channels are helpful here – online, email or newsletter. One firm, which operated on a single floor, set up whiteboards along an internal corridor to display the points each practice was earning. Sounds all too simple, but it really did bring out the competitive urges of the lawyers.

Incentive programs are a refreshing way for firms to motivate and entice staff to do more business development for the firm – and at the same time provide a perhaps needed bit of (business-effective) fun in the workplace.

JANE FOLEY is a consultant with House Communications and can be contacted on ph 8611 8188 or

I.T. in practice: More choice, more problems


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