Neil H. Wasser started working in the mailroom at Constangy, Brooks & Smith in high school and was just 16 when his grandfather, firm founder Frank Constangy, died. He joined the labor and employment firm after graduating from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1980 and was named chairman of the executive committee in 2006. The firm now has 23 offices and 130 attorneys. He recently talked to Robin H. Hensley about his views on marketing the firm.
You're the only member of your family besides your grandfather to practice law at the firm, and you were a teenager when he passed away. What did he teach you that influences the way you lead the firm 40 years later?
My grandfather taught me that you can learn a lot about a person from the way he treats a waiter in a restaurant. He carried that philosophy of respect not only to clients, but also to the firm's lawyers and staff.
Respect remains a part of who we are as an organization today. We help companies prevent workplace disputesand we aggressively defend management's interests when problems arise. So, it also makes sense that we strive to create a workplace that fosters productivity and positive relations among everyone in our own offices. Each person at Constangy makes a contribution to our success, and it's incumbent upon me as a leader to always be cognizant of that fact and treat people accordingly.
What marketing activities for you or your firm do you feel are most beneficial?
This may sound simple, but investing in opportunities for our lawyers to meet people is our favored approach. Here's whyand I can't make this stuff up. I visit clients yearly and ask for feedback about our firm, our work product and our relationships. Clients say that what sets Constangy apart is our lawyers' "humility factor" and that "it's not all about egos." One GC even said, "Constangy lawyers have soul."
Advertising also has its place, and our website and employment law blogs reveal a personality that I believe distinguishes us.
Unique initiatives help get our name out too, like our annual Work-Life Balance Award. In this program, which we started in 2006, in-house counsel and human resources professionals from nominated companies receive recognition for excellence in work-life balance programming. To date, we have honored 10 companies for their visionary efforts on behalf of their own employees.
But the best use of marketing dollars is placing our lawyers face-to-face with decision-makerswhether it is in sponsoring a targeted industry conference, hosting a regional briefing, or visiting an existing client.
Do you employ any innovative strategies for training lawyers about marketing?
We understand that client satisfaction with work product, rates and responsiveness is, without question, critical to client retention. The business of law also necessitates that lawyers become marketers of legal services. Our associate business development team program has proven successful in mentoring lawyers to network, develop relationships and fulfill companies' needs.
Without giving away trade secrets, this internal program awards cool prizes like steak knives. Just kidding. Winners receive trips to the Caribbean.
Six years ago, only 14 percent of associates brought in new clients. (And trust me, it was even fewer when I came out of law school.) Today, with the help of our program, 65 percent of our associates generate new business. We think of it as developing the next generation of rainmakers.