Cross-selling de rigueur at Weil

Barry Wolf

Weil Gotshal & Manges is preparing to take a new broom to its global practice areas in an attempt to foster greater cross-­selling between groups and ­international offices.

Newly installed executive ­partner Barry Wolf will also seek to lessen Weil’s reliance on its ­highest-profile departments, such as bankruptcy and private equity.

Wolf took up the reins as ­executive partner on 1 January, tasked with responsibility for the formulation, coordination and implementation of the US firm’s strategic and business initiatives. Firmwide chairman Steve Dannhauser will continue in his role as well as being a member of Weil’s management committee.

As for Wolf, one month in and he is preparing to unveil a plan aimed at promoting cross-selling across the entire partnership.

“While we’re continuing to maintain and enhance some of our top-tier practices, such as private equity, patent litigation and ­bankruptcy,” Wolf says, “the idea is to encourage more of our ­corporate clients to use a wider range of our services across ­different offices and practice areas.”

The business development push coincides with a similar initiative being launched by a group of Weil’s female partners.

The 21 women partners elected since 2005 – which includes lawyers in most of Weil’s US offices plus London, Paris, Frankfurt and Shanghai – have formed a group specifically to promote business development.

“The idea isn’t for this to be a social get-together or a support group focused on women’s issues, but for us to understand what other partners are doing better,” says ­London-based pensions partner Joanne Etherton. “After all, that’s the meaning of partnership – ­people should be working together; we’re not sole practitioners.”

Joanne Etherton

Etherton says the idea was first put forward around a year ago by a small group of women partners in the US, including technology ­partner Charan Sandhu and ­litigation partner Randi Singer. It came to fruition in December 2009 when the group ran the idea past the firm’s management ­committee at its annual meeting in New York.

The group is distinct from the ‘Women at Weil’ group, which formed in 2003 to focus on ­mentoring, recruiting and pro bono as well as networking and business development.
The new women’s group is much closer in concept to Wolf’s cross-selling initiative.

“Sometimes people are frightened of cross-selling or by the ­concept of it,” Etherton contends. “Maybe because they’re getting on okay with their own clients, or they’re concerned about introducing their clients to others, or they’re even concerned about ­coming across as too much of a salesman. But it’s just about ­working together.”

Etherton adds that many cross-selling or business development initiatives, such as sporting events, are often more focused on men.

“We’re looking at various ideas we could introduce, but it’s at the early stages,” she adds.

As for the global cross-selling push, this is thought to have already been given the green light by the management committee, although the detail of how it will work in practice and what it will mean for individual line partners has yet to be revealed.

Wolf, however, is confident that his 25-year track record at Weil will stand him in good stead for gaining approval.

“I’ve co-led the global corporate group and I’ve been a management committee member for a number of years – people are ­pretty well acquainted with my views, style and approach to ­management,” he emphasises.

It will not hurt that Weil, which has played key roles on some of the world’s biggest bankruptcies over the past year such as General Motors’ and Lehman Brothers’, is likely to post healthy results for 2009. Not all firms can say the same.