“To me, job titles don’t matter. Everyone is in sales. It’s the only way we stay in business.” This from famous Minneapolis businessman and author, Harvey Mackay.

Last week the law firm of Quinn Emanuel notified its associates that completing a marketing project was a prerequisite to getting a bonus this year.

To my surprise, legal commentators, lawyers and marketing professionals were critical of the firm’s approach. From Joe Patrice at Above The Law:

Encouraging young lawyers to participate in the growth of the business is good. Forcing every associate to take time out of their busy schedules to do PR work (which is, you know, not their actual job) on threat of robbing them of their bonus is not. This is one of those times where positive incentives would be far more appropriate. “Do a marketing project and we’ll kick in an extra grand.”

I met with law students in Minneapolis this last week who wanted to learn how they could “sell themselves” through blogging and social media. They saw the opportunities the Internet provided them in building a name for themselves and building relationships before they ever get out of law school. I met mostly 1 L’s.

These kids got it (everyone is a kid at my age). We talked about one student using Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogging to get known by and build relationships with business leaders in her hometown. We talked about her meeting people face to face when she is home over holidays and the summer, people with whom she will have met online.

If anyone is going to get a job as a lawyer in her hometown in two years, it will be her. Heck, she’ll be better known than most lawyers in town. Law firms are going to want to hire her, in part, because of her business development spunk and know how.

I received a comment to one of my blog posts a couple weeks ago from a young lawyer who was upset that he was not making more money than people with whom he went to college who do not go on to get a graduate degree.

His point was that if he spent all this money on law school and was out of the work force for three years, he was entitled to earn more than those with just a college degree. Yes, entitled.

There’s no right or wrong way to motivate people, all approaches have plusses and minuses. And at some level, people need to motivate themselves. Even lawyers.

I see Quinn Emanuel’s approach as a sound one. They’re just saying a law firm cannot sustain itself without landing business. Landing business requires marketing and sales — by everyone.

Writing blog posts, contributing to a prospective client presentation, doing some industry research, among other things, as an associate in large law, gets lawyers at least contributing and developing a marketing mindset. It also teaches lawyers that they are not entitled to legal work and a high salary, it will take work.

I’m with law business consultant, Ed Poll (@lawbiz) who replied to the criticism of Quinn Emanuel that just telling associates to “do good work” is not enough in today’s competitive environment.

While the law is a “profession” and good work is required, the law is also a “business” and marketing/selling is the first step to attaining new clients and increased revenue. “Making a better mousetrap” is no longer sufficient in a competitive world. Even a quality law firm must get its message to its prospective client base.

Rather than jumping on Quinn Emanuel for having the wrong approach in motivating lawyers to help on the marketing front, why not learn from them? Why not see them as a leader in the need for developing a marketing and sales environment across an organization of professionals?