A Model Business Development Expense Reimbursement Policy for Your Law Firm
Lawyers and firm administrators often ask me to help them develop standards for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses associated with individual attorney business development. Recently, Brigid Heid, marketing partner at Luper Neidenthal & Logan in Columbus, Ohio and I developed an excellent policy and standard of review, which you may want to consider adopting in your firm. It appears below:
“The firm will consider paying for certain activities such as membership dues, conferences, seminars, sponsorships, or attendance at events that meet the following criteria:
- If joining an organization, the organization should meet on a regular basis, preferably no less than eight times per year. The attorney must attend all regularly conducted meetings of the organization.
- Within six months of joining an organization, the attorney must become an active member in the organization by taking a leadership role or joining a committee.
- The organization’s membership should consist of individuals who are potential clients or referral sources for the attorney or firm.
- The attorney must report on whether the money spent by the firm for the attorney’s business development activity has been worthwhile. Associate attorneys should report to their mentor during the semi-annual and annual associate review process, and shareholders should report to the executive committee prior to approval of the annual budget. Attorneys should consider reporting on the following:
- Whether the name(s) of new contacts from the organization or meeting have been added to the firm’s marketing mailing list, and the attorney has sent personal notes telling the contact that they will soon receive firm mailings/notices.
- Whether a meeting or conference was informative. If informative, whether the speakers’ remarks were circulated to other lawyers, clients or referral sources in an email or memo. “I thought you’d be interested in a summary of the remarks made at last week’s meeting of the (group) by (name of speaker…).”
- Whether those who attended the event or who are active members are possible clients or referral sources for the attorney or firm.
- Whether the attorney has had any follow up with a new contact (for coffee, lunch, etc.) and discussed how helping each other can accomplish mutual business development goals.
- Whether the attorney has introduced a new contact to another lawyer in the firm, or to a friend, client or referral source that may be able to help them, even if the need is not legal.”
Your marketing partner, committee or director should review reports like these annually before memberships in trade and community groups are renewed. 
1. By Bob Weiss