Private client leaders balance operational and strategic management

At the May MBL workshop on “Managing and Growing your Private Client Practice”, private client leaders from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland considered how to balance their day-to-day operational and longer term strategic management responsibilities. This post supplements the learning resources shared at the session. Private client leaders balance operational and strategic management.

Leadership balances operational and strategic management

Delegates considered the range of leadership qualities required by private client leaders:

  • Inspires, encourages and motivates
  • Builds confidence
  • Supports others
  • Leads by example
  • Is authentic
  • Takes responsibility
  • Looks forward
  • Creates a compelling vision
  • Plans ahead

They observed that too often their time was filled with completing client work (due to capacity constraints) and managing day-to-day operations. This left little “heads up” time to consider how to strategically develop their practice in the longer term.

We explored a variety of operational and strategic leadership roles:

Operational management challenges

During exercises, delegates discussed some of their most pressing operational management challenges and considered solutions:

  • Cash flow management
    • Policy and procedures
    • Monies on account
    • Lawyer targets
    • Payment terms
    • Monthly or quarterly fees
    • Credit control processes
    • Benchmarking
  • Recruitment
    • Review of vision, values and mission
    • Enhancing the firm’s culture
    • Flexible working and benefit choices
    • Researching employment expectations
    • Retention of trainees and qualified staff
    • Greater staff engagement and communications
    • Stressing the benefits of working locally
    • Aligning development and progression expectations and opportunities
    • Improving progression opportunities 
  • Technology adoption
    • Deployment of case management systems
    • Enhancing the remote working experience
    • Using AI to increase efficiency

Strategic business development

Delegates considered various marketing approaches to generate new business and develop existing client and referrer relationships. Some commented on the challenge of competitor analysis ( see Pitching, differentiation and competitor analysis (, whilst others discussed pricing trends.

Amongst the effective approaches discussed were prompting those who have moved house to create or review their Will within two weeks – generating 3-5% response rate. Suggestions to improve this included following up six-nine months after completion, extending prompts to review Wills periodically (“keep in touch” programmes) and prompting action using a key life events model:

  • Starting work
  • New home
  • Marriage
  • Children’s birth
  • Starting a business
  • Divorce
  • Financial and wealth planning and management
  • Investments
  • Kids leaving home
  • Selling a business
  • Moving overseas
  • Inheritance from older relatives
  • Care of older relatives
  • Retirement
  • Elder care
  • Bereavement

This relied on excellent data and CRM systems which had data, technology, behaviour, implementation and adoption challenges.

There was also discussion about the importance of managing internal (cross-selling) and external referral sources (referral management). Both benefited from a focused, strategic approach. See:

This recent article overviews a strategic approach to marketing and business development for private client teams A three-tier approach to private client marketing (

Delegate aims, takeaways and poll results

Delegates find it useful to compare their responses with their peers 

Delegate Aims:

  • Grow the department
  • Grow the department within a largely commercial firm
  • Grow private client and residential conveyancing teams
  • Develop a business plan for private client
  • Obtain fresh ideas to drive department forward
  • Develop consistent new work sources
  • Manage inherited backlog of work while managing growth
  • Develop support to free up my time for business development
  • Introduce new private client services
  • Streamline processes

Delegate takeaways and actions

  • Strategic
    • Develop a vision for the team
    • Conduct competitor analysis
    • Investigate financial benchmarks
    • Review structure of the department
    • Agree the strategic direction and priorities
    • Focus on a few key strategies
    • Identify appropriate niches (develop personas of target client groups)
    • Introduce a more rigorous client segmentation process
    • Raise brand awareness
    • Write a business plan after analysis and consulting the team
  • Operational
    • Reduce leader time on administration
    • Align digital content with key needs, services and topical events
    • Organise more creative local events
    • Develop relationships with allied advisers
    • Measure effectiveness of marketing and business development activities
    • Review client onboarding and ongoing contact processes
    • Review and improve client enquiry management processes

Delegate poll results

How many partners in your private client team?

  • 75% 1
  • 25% 2 – 5 partners

Which private client services do you provide?

  • 100% Wills
  • 100% Trusts
  • 100% Probate
  • 75%    Tax and Estate planning
  • 75%    Elderly support
  • 75%    Court of Protection

Topic of most interest to you today?

  • 25% Operational management
  • 25% Developing a business plan
  • 25% Strategic marketing
  • 25% Marketing communications and promotion

Is your business/marketing planning based on:

  • 25% Departments
  • Markets (sectors and niches)
  • 75% Mixture of both (matrix)

Do you have a business plan for private client? Why do you need a business plan? 10 reasons why (

  • 50% Yes
  • 50% No

Do you have a marketing or business development plan for private client? A three-tier approach to private client marketing (

  • 75% Yes
  • 25% No

What professional marketing/BD support do you have?

  • 75% Inhouse marketing/business development team for the firm
  • 25% None – we do it all ourselves

Is your strategy:

  • 0% Mostly generating new clients
  • 25% Mostly developing existing clients
  • 75% A combination

Which area of business development requires most attention at your firm?

  • 25% Client relationship management (developing existing clients)
  • 75% Referrer management (developing referrers)

Do you have plans to develop or introduce new private client services?

  • 25% Yes
  • 75% No

Do you have plans to enter or develop new markets?

  • 50% Yes
  • 50% No

Niches identified by delegates: family business owners, bereavement groups, philanthropy, pet owners, those with overseas assets, agricultural/farmers, subgroups of high net worth

Related private client posts

A three-tier approach to private client marketing ( May 2024

Private client commercial conversations ( March 2024

Private client management and marketing: Business plans ( November 2023

Manage and grow your private client practice – Recruitment, Performance ( February 2023 

Eight management questions from private client lawyers ( April 2022

Strategies for developing a private client practice – Business development ( September 2021

Managing and growing your private client practice (January 2021) ( January 2021

Key takeaways from “How to manage and grow your private client practice” ( December 2020

developing more private client work ( December 2019

developing a private client practice ( June 2016

marketing professional services to high net worth clients ( August 2010