Business Development for Lawyers – The interesting bits?

Posted on: December 9, 2010

Earlier this week I provided an intensive one day introduction to marketing and business development for a group of UK and European lawyers. At the end of the day I asked what they had found to be the most interesting and valuable ideas. I am always intrigued to see what – from the huge array of strategic planning, market analysis, service development, promotional and selling ideas – people latch onto. Here are their thoughts:

Listening to clients

Empathy is a key skill in both marketing and selling and most felt that they should devote more time to listening to what their clients said – to learn more about how they perceive the legal marketplace and the various providers and services on offer, to gain insight into buying processes and to understand more fully where clients receive most value from their professional advisers and how they would like services or relationships to change.

SMART objectives

Whilst I thought that this was a commonly understood tool – (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time-specific) more than one of the delegates said that they had found it a great tool to help them understand their fellow partners’ expectations of what they hoped to achieve, a way in which to ensure that activities were measurable and a useful way to filter which strategies and activities were most likely to ensure that objectives were achieved.

Profitability

Shifting attention away from fees to the profitability of different markets, clients, types of legal work and transactions generated some enthusiastic debate.

Focus

When there is so little time available for marketing and business development for busy lawyers, it is important to have focus. I had suggested that rather than having a list of 827 good ideas and achieving nothing, it might be better to select two or three really good ones and to make them work well. Obviously, we talked about the tools and techniques to help you focus on the right ideas. Delegates from larger firms found the discussion about building plans at the firm wide level, for specific offices, for particular markets and/or for specific services and areas of legal expertise helpful.

Developing new services and markets

Now that many firms are facing threats and major changes to their existing markets, more are starting to embrace the idea that they may need to put in place structured processes to identify and develop new opportunities for market and service development in order to secure future profit streams. This led to an interesting discussion about the future role of innovation management in law firms.

Involving all lawyers

Many delegates had indicated that getting others in their practices to participate more in the business development process was a key challenge. Whilst we discussed a number of ways to achieve this, the idea that some liked best was producing (as part of a marketing plan) a list of “bite sized tasks” – indicating what needed to be done and how much time it was likely to take – so that others could use this “shopping list” of tasks as a “menu”.

Google

Again, I wrongly assumed that everyone used Google Analytics to monitor and measure traffic to their web site and to identify which sources and content were of most value. A number found the idea of using simple tools such as Google Alerts to follow key clients valuable. Less surprising, most were interested in the shift to inbound marketing and the basic introduction to search engine optimisation provided and took away a number of actions.

Budgeting time

During the discussion on marketing and business development budgets I mentioned that while most firms will consider their cash spend in a lot of detail, many failed to consider the time investment of their lawyers in implementing their marketing and business development strategy. This lead to an interesting discussion when many revealed that although they asked lawyers to record time invested in business development, few monitored this data, linked it to business or marketing plans or lawyer appraisals and reward mechanisms.

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