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Effective Business Development for Law Firms — Five Hot Trends in the New Normal©

1) Increasing staff sophistication and specialization — Many law firms are evolving beyond primary reliance on the top three traditional marketing/business development tools used by lawyers to develop new business: speaking, writing and attending conferences. These three tools still work to create awareness and generate leads when used in a focused, targeted, strategic and consistent manner, but alone they are no longer enough to maintain competitiveness. So in order to increase results, efficiencies, quality of service and deliverables while at the same time reducing duplication and redundancies, law firms are moving away from hiring marketing/business development support generalists and are now increasingly hiring specialists. Specialists are defined as staff members who spend over 75% of their total professional time on one tool or practice/industry group or other area. Examples include RFPs, events, CRM, and client intelligence managers/coordinators. Practice/industry group specialists can include business development managers for the litigation, intellectual property, life sciences, tax litigation or other practice/industry groups. The other two most popular specialist positions being hired by law firms in recent years are:
  1. Chiefs, directors or managers of client/business development/sales. These three terms are still used interchangeably but most often refer to the one-to-one "sales" or "selling" process. Sales, or client development, staff members are usually dedicated to supporting the entire sales lead process (i.e., they help identify and qualify opportunities; once an opportunity is identified, they help prepare for, execute and follow up on that opportunity to develop actual new work and track results). In addition, they may have responsibility for providing one-on-one, internal coaching to help lawyers attain the new business development objectives listed on their annual plans.
  2. Pricing chiefs, directors and/or managers. Pricing is another popular "specialist" position that many leading law firms have recently created and filled. With the proliferation of AFAs (alternative fee arrangements), pricing professionals are dedicated to creating, maintaining and helping lawyers use price/profitability-oriented databases, software, and metrics and to assisting in crafting AFA options needed to pitch and win new business in this highly competitive market.

2) Increased turnover in high-level staff positions — Over the past three years, approximately 40% of AmLaw 100 law firms' incumbent chief marketing officers, chief business development officers and chief strategy officers have turned over. Some left due to retirement, others for life-style reasons, and others due to top management transitions and other reasons. The majority of open positions are being filled by professionals with a proven track record of direct business-to-business sales or client development and management experience, such as from financial institutions, investment entities, accounting firms, other legal service-related entities and/or other professional service firms.

3) Increased strategic focus on what works — The days of being "all things to all people" either externally for clients or internally for lawyers no longer works for the majority of law firms or for law firms' marketing/business development support departments. Law firm leaders' expectations are evolving, and priorities are being increasingly decided upon and communicated internally. For example, in some law firms each and every partner is no longer expected to become a "rainmaker" in the traditional sense of the word, and as a result, annual plans and performance expectations are being tailored to maximize individual strengths. As a result, internal marketing/business development departments are no longer expected to service all partners equally. Instead, progressive law firms are assessing and analyzing where the sources of existing and new business come from by lawyer, activity/effort, investment, etc., and they are focusing support and investments of time and money accordingly. The roles of service quality, efficiencies and service features are also being prioritized.

4) Increased use of packaging — As the legal industry continues to mature, another viable strategy being used both internally and externally is packaging. Internally law firms are "packaging up" the sales/business development process in various ways designed to increase opportunities, motivation and strategic results. Two examples are "Speed Dating" and "Trade Fair" programs being implemented at firm partner or lawyer retreats, which leave participants with a greater understanding of what fellow firm lawyers do and how to raise the issue (i.e., work to cross-sell/service other firm lawyers' services with appropriate clients or contacts). Several other law firms have created and implemented various "strategic business development challenges" or other gaming-type programs, which appeal to lawyers' competitive instincts and fuel peer involvement. These types of challenges or games are launched during a retreat or at the beginning of the year and are tied to a formal "sales pipeline," which is tracked and followed-up on, with efforts and results being highlighted and rewarded periodically by firm leaders (my company has assisted with many of these programs). Externally law firms are packaging up services beyond simple industry definitions. A recent example is the hot issue of data privacy — a number of law firm services are required to handle, manage and resolve data privacy issues and cases (cutting across traditionally defined practice groups). Resolving data privacy issues/cases often requires that other outside forensic, forensic accounting and/or data management services be included in the package offered/presented and/or pitched to clients and prospects. As a result, law firms are packaging up legal services along with formally partnering with relevant outside services to offer a complete package of services.

5) Increasingly sophisticated technology — Content aggregators at both the law firm-generated content level and the business/client intelligence level are continuing to refine their offerings. In past years, posting relevant lawyer/firm-generated content to multiple social and Internet sites required more time than it does today because of advancing technologies. It is the same with business/client intelligence content. In the past, gathering this information required an entire checklist of sites and sources be searched. Increasingly, proprietary content owners are partnering so that less sources need to be searched to find everything. There is still no one-stop shop, but it is improving. Finally, apps created exclusively for lawyers and law firms are proliferating, and the next wave will likely be the consolidation and partnering of the most useful and viable.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Julie Savarino is a lawyer with over 25 years' hands-on, highly rated and proven business development experience assisting lawyers, law firms and other professional service firms in developing measurable new business. For more information, please visit www.BusDevInc.com, email Julie at Julie@BusDevInc.com or click here to register for an upcoming webinar.

NEED PROVEN, QUALIFIED ASSISTANCE? Our nationally renowned audits/assessments, consulting and other outsourced solutions and programs are commissioned privately by firms themselves. If you or your firm would like any professional assistance, training, coaching or other support, please consider our significant qualifications and track record. Please visit What Law Firms and In-House Counsel Say About Us for more information and/or contact Julie Savarino, telephone (734) 668-7008, or by email : Julie@BusDevInc.com.





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Questions? Please contact Julie Savarino by email Julie@BusDevInc.com, or by phone (734) 668-7008.

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