A Path to Partner—An Interview on Business Development and Passion with Partner Charles Macedo

Posted on 06-19-2014 by
Tags: change , career advancement , Upgrading Your Skills , time management , people , career management , clients , business development

Charles R. Macedo is a partner at Amster Rothstein & Ebenstein LLP, an intellectual property law boutique located in midtown Manhattan. Mr. Macedo is an authority on intellectual property issues. He is the author of The Corporate Insider’s Guide to U.S. Patent Practice and a frequent contributor to The Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice, IP Law 360 and other publications. In this interview, Mr. Macedo offered his insight and suggestions about passion and business development.  
  • Can you describe some of the things that have shaped your career?
CM: It helps that I love what I do. My job marries together all my interests: science, law, history and even science fiction/science fact. I often get to work on projects that would have been science fiction years ago, that are now science fact … and I get paid for it.
Pursuing something that was important to me personally helped develop my professional career. I was able to work on both my legal and business development skills.
The Changing Face of Business Development
  • There’s been increasing talk about the role of business development in law firms. How has it changed?
CM: When I first graduated law school in the 1980s, I was repeatedly told that while bringing in business is helpful, being a good lawyer and having the right people like you was more important. I think that was the old law firm model. However, as the “practice of law” has become more a “business of law,” I think that this has changed. The new economics of the law firm has made bringing in business much more important. The mergers and dissolutions of many long-standing firms and the increased portability of partners and their business have made bringing in business much more important.
Quality of work, diligence and people skills are still crucial, but business development is much more important today than it was 20 years ago. Personally, I believe that success in business development has helped the progress of my career.
  • What do you see as the biggest challenges of new business development?
CM: I think over the past decade, the legal market has become more and more competitive. I think the tough economy has caused many organizations to be more cost-conscious and driven many firms to emphasize getting business.
As a result, I understand from my in-house counsel friends that they often will get a lot of pitches. I have heard them joke, complain and lament that every time their company gets sued they will immediately receive 10 to 15 emails from outside counsel—some they know and some they don’t—advising them of the lawsuit and asking for the business. This means that it’s important to be smart and careful, knowing that these events occur and how and when to approach them.
  • How does that affect how you approach new business development?
CM: It’s important to hear about new lawsuits involving important clients or prospective clients, but it’s also important to learn of the new patent cases filed in important jurisdictions. To do that, we use CourtLink® Alerts, which gives us an opportunity to proactively reach out to clients or prospects. Of course, it’s important to make sure that we act quickly, but also to reach out in a smart and constructive manner. Sending a bad email to in-house counsel can be worse than sending no email at all—that’s why it’s important to do your research immediately and get the right information from the right tools. By sending appropriate and targeted pitches early, we have gotten new business that we may not have otherwise, or simply improved the success and speed of securing business from our existing clients.
  • How do you approach business development with existing clients?
CM: The best business development for existing clients is providing excellent service and great results. But to deliver, it’s clear that knowledge is power, and the tools for research and case strategy development are an important part of that. For example, many patent cases are brought in the Eastern District of Texas. Keeping track of how the judges in that court treat certain kinds of motions can save your clients a lot of time and expense in preparing litigation strategies. Tracking dockets and decisions is a great tool to achieve that.
We also use tools like CourtLink Track to monitor changes to ongoing cases. This allows us to provide much better client service. It is so helpful to be able to track decisions in cases involving the same judge or opposing counsel or client or opponent. I once had a trial scheduled in a case with a new judge—we wanted to know more about what the judge was doing, so we created a CourtLink Track to update us on any decision by that judge in the months leading up to trial. We read every case, and were able to see decisions that helped us develop a better litigation strategy, pursuing some motions and avoiding others.
Development Tips for a Changing Industry
  • How much time do you spend on new business development and how do you focus your effort?
CM: I like to work hard. I bill about 2,100 hours a year and spend another 200 to 300 hours a year on new business development. Most of the latter time is spent on weekends, writing my book or articles, preparing presentations, and posting my most recent publications and speaking engagements on social media. During the week, business development includes giving either live lectures or Webinars, participating in Bar Association activities, and speaking with prospective and existing clients.
It’s important to understand what type of business you are seeking, and likely to get, and how to get it. One way of getting new business is simply doing a good job for existing clients, and they will send you more work and recommend you to others. This is certainly a good thing to do and important, but it is not necessarily enough, especially as a young attorney without connections. So getting to meet and know those potential new clients can be a real challenge.

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