Murphy & King raises the bar for young associate development

Issue July 2012 By Nora Lockwood Tooher

Wining and dining potential clients every night is a tough job, but someone had to do it -- at least to win Murphy & King's recent "Raising the Bar" contest.

The friendly competition between nine associates at the law firm's Boston office was aimed at nurturing associates' business development skills.

Points were scored for collecting business cards, scheduling one-on-one meetings with potential clients, attending professional events and bringing in new business. Results were posted each week in the employee lunchroom.

First-prize winner Daniel Navisky met with at least one potential client every business day during the three-month contest.

"I set out in the very beginning to do very well in this competition," Navisky said. "My goal was to find a meeting [every day] or reconnect with as many people as I could."

Navisky, 37, an associate with Murphy & King for three years, previously was an associate at Foley Hoag in Boston. He graduated from Boston College Law School in 2007, after working for several years in the government and public policy arena.

During the contest, he shared lunches and dinners with old friends, former classmates and colleagues, scheduled drinks with acquaintances and introduced himself to strangers at events.

"It gets you acclimated to the idea of every interaction as a business opportunity," he said. "Everybody is a potential business client."

Secret Identities

Each associate was paired with a senior partner at the firm to provide guidance and support throughout the contest. Then, each team was assigned a secret identity - all named after popular Boston watering holes.

Navisky and firm shareholder Theodore J. Folkman teamed up as "Black Rose."

Folkman said his main piece of advice to Navisky was to leave the office.

"We wanted them to get out and meet people," Folkman explained.

Business development is often overlooked as a critical skill for an attorney, he noted, especially at small- and mid-sized firms, such as Murphy & King. Associates were encouraged to ask themselves: "How can I develop all the skills I'm going to need to use as a lawyer?"

No Small Cases

At the end of the contest, the nine associates had collected a total of 223 business cards, attended 42 events and brought six new clients into the firm, representing nine new cases. The size of the cases was not important.

"No one expected anyone to come in with significant, new matters," Folkman explained, "but there's no harm in starting by bringing in smaller matters that may develop later [into more significant business]."

As first-place winner, Navisky was awarded a weekend getaway (which he'll be taking this summer in Camden, Maine). Second-place winner Jonathan O'Brien (aka "McFadden's") scored Red Sox tickets. And third-place winner Amanda Rettig ("Purple Shamrock") received a gift card.

This is the second year that the Boston office has held a networking contest (the firm's Washington and New York did not participate).

Although the contest is over, Navisky continues his efforts to cultivate clients and cases.

"The goal is to meet with people and plant a seed," he said.