In an effort to give women and minority attorneys the opportunity to practice pitching to potential clients, Ballard Spahr LLP’s Baltimore office brought back its “Art of the Pitch” program for a second year.
The program is part of Ballard Spahr’s wider efforts to push diversity and inclusion in response to studies that show women and minorities have fewer chances to pitch, said Virginia Essandoh, the firm’s chief diversity officer.
“We saw this as an opportunity to provide exposure,” Essandoh said.
Designed for junior partners and mid-level associates, Ballard Spahr partnered with the Baltimore offices of Miles & Stockbridge PC and McGuire Woods LLP, along with numerous affinity bar associations, to help associates learn how to pitch services. Ballard Spahr has held similar programs in four of its offices across the country.
Kraig B. Long, a principal at Miles & Stockbridge, Ava E. Lias-Booker, a partner at McGuire Woods and Tommy Maulding, general counsel at Sagamore Development Co answered the attorneys’ questions last week about how to make connections, land pitch opportunities and give an effective pitch.
At the practice pitches, participants get direct, one-on-one feedback from panelists, which often put the attorneys’ knowledge about their own firm to the test.
“Lawyers say in preparing, they learn more about their own firm,” Essandoh said.
The program also is a response to a legal-industry trend toward government entities and large corporations opting to solicit legal services through pitches, said Jon M. Laria, a partner at Ballard Spahr.
“People want to know who is going to be working on their matters, who they’re going to interact with,” Laria said.
In general, pitches are done both through presentations as well as questions-and-answer sessions with the potential client, Laria said. Government entities and large corporations have more formal processes that usually include a written proposal. Sometimes, the clients seek representation for a particular piece of litigation while other times clients want more holistic representation for ongoing matters, he said.
While Art of the Pitch is designed to be practice, it can sometimes lead to future work from participating panelists, Laria said.
“A lot of times it’s about selling the firm and not just selling yourself,” he said.
Which is another reason Ballard Spahr started the program, he added, in addition to promoting diversity.
“I would like to think we would be doing this anyways,” Laria said. “For us, it’s part of who we are.”