Legal Service Providers (LSPs), also known as vendors, have awakened to the fact that legal professionals have tremendous buying power. While the extent of that authority varies from firm to firm and east coast to west coast, no one can deny that legal professionals influence the firm or in-house legal department in the selection of suppliers of services and goods. This is verified through the number of exhibitors at any one conference, the current increase in newsletters, blogs and fortunately or unfortunately, the number of direct sales calls you may now receive.
By giving you buying power, firms bestow an additional responsibility: to wisely and prudently spend dollars. The buying power enables you to maximize your name on the recommendation, and perform factual research into the service or product. It also puts your reputation on the line. As with anything else, when the selection is great, such as a responsive new software package, the firm responds with “Wow, did we pick a winner!” When the selection is bad, the firm responds with “Who selected that miserable package anyway?”
Your experience selecting products and services gives you a unique advantage – understanding what law firms want. While some law firm professionals believe that taking a position with a vendor is “going over to the dark side,” careers with legal service providers can be fun and lucrative. If you are through with the billable hour monkey on your back, here’s a whole other avenue you can take and still stay in the legal field. Vendors seek out legal professionals in order to utilize their legal background, purchasing and decision making abilities, contacts and knowledge of the marketplace.
Usually, the first reaction to taking a position with a vendor is, “I don’t want to go into sales.” People may feel it’s not “dignified” nor hold as much status as being a member of a law firm. You may feel that your law firm career has been derailed. I once asked a Vice President of an eDiscovery solutions company if she felt any less dignified working for a vendor than being employed by a law firm. Her response was, “Actually, at precisely 5:00, I head down to the parking garage, get into my Mercedes, and drive home to my house on the hill. I don’t have to worry about anxiety-ridden attorneys, billable hours or unreasonable requests at 10:30 at night. My lifestyle is very different from the one I had in the law firm.” Folks, think outside the ole box! There are more positions than sales existing within the vendor world.
Vendors need general counsel, marketing, project managers, paralegals, research professionals, eDiscovery, litigation support and IT professionals. They also need expert consultants, technology officers, strategy officers, trainers, database managers, trial technicians, HR staff, outsourcing experts, general managers and more.
Let’s circle back to this sales position. If you have the right personality, you may want to consider it. Generally, most LSP’s provide a base salary or draw against commission. A standard salary would be anywhere from $60k to $100k, depending upon experience, knowledge and standing in the community. From there, you may receive a commission from either the net or gross revenue. It also depends on what type of LSP you choose. Staffing, teaching positions or copy companies may pay less; eDiscovery, software providers, consultants may pay more. While you don’t have to hit billable hours, you may be required to hit target numbers. Accountability is something, isn’t it?
The size of the company will vary. You may find yourself in a start-up, an entrepreneurial enterprise, a major player in the legal market or even in a publically owned company. You may be stationed virtually and hold meetings via Skype. You could be in a national or even international company, dealing with clients in Asia or Europe. Anything is possible.
The environment will be different from a law firm. Decisions are not made by consensus as in a law firm and there is a corporate ladder open to your climb, too often never found in a law firm – even for attorneys. High expectations are generally not less but your entire organization’s reputation usually does not rest on one major client. You may have more interaction with the public than you do now. Some law firm legal professionals, attorneys included, rarely, if ever, interact with clients. You may even find yourself standing at the photo copy machine for the first time in years. There may not be any yearly bonuses and if you are currently in a major law firm crossing over to the vendor side, you may miss all of the added support and goodies that you currently receive – the firm retreat, attorney parties, and the like. If you’ve never been invited, there you go! You aren’t missing a thing.