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LexisNexis runs regular primary research studies with legal professionals. In our recent research survey in association with the Bar Council, we discovered that a key issue affecting barristers was in developing good business development skills, which is something we hear from many of the lawyers we work with.
Despite the challenges confronting the Bar - the wellbeing of barristers, new regulation and fixed fees - the outlook remained positive:
Nearly three quarters of barristers surveyed, reported that their practice is either stable or growing, compared to three years ago, as reported our ‘A Brave New Bar’ report.
Interestingly, while more than two thirds of the barristers felt their practice would remain stable or grow in the coming years, 46% felt that they lacked the support they needed to grow and 57% said they needed help marketing themselves.
One respondent noted that business development was a key issue in developing client relationships: “years spent building up good working relationships with individual solicitors can collapse if they move to another firm or practice area. The effort to maintain these relationships is significant and time consuming.”
There are clearly challenges in this area, which is something we have heard frequently from all of our clients, whether they are barristers, or lawyers.
Does this resonate with you? Business development and networking do not come easily to most people.
To give you a helping hand, here are our top business development tips for legal professionals:
It might sound simple, and it is! By far the quickest and easiest way to both build your network, and gain new clients, is to ask your current clients to refer you. This way, you come with the ‘tried and tested’ status of a lawyer who gets the job done, piggybacking off the trusted relationship they have already developed.
When you are speaking with your client and are confident of the relationship you have built, simply ask whether they know of anyone who needs legal representation. There is nothing untoward about asking: “I’m looking to expand my client base at the moment – do you know of anyone who might need my services?” If you don’t ask, they won’t think to refer you. And the truth is, they probably won’t mind either.
When you are referred, always follow up efficiently – people do business with people. The way you manage your initial interactions with the contact will speak volumes for your professional relationship as their potential lawyer.
Business development and networking events can bring huge benefits to your practice and work as a lawyer. Namely, that a large number of people are in the same room at any one time, meaning you can target several suitable clients in one go. Also, as everyone is there for the same purpose, it ensures you reach your high value target audience in an intelligent way that builds your personal network.
If you are not a natural networker, rehearse your elevator pitch in advance so you have a quick 10 second intro to help you start a conversation confidently. Try attending legal and general business events – particularly if you are a direct access barrister.
Do your research regarding who is attending, make a list of people you want to talk to and do your research on them.
For many lawyers, using technology to build your network seems like an arduous, time-consuming task.
Use social media to your advantage by adding contacts frequently, and if you can, ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on things they post. Ensure you post articles you have read, or updates on your latest wins, thereby building your personal brand and creating engagement with your contacts or followers. LinkedIn and Twitter are growing in usage among professionals and are certainly no flash in the pan. Also, if you move Chambers, you can easily stay in touch with the networks that you have built.
Lastly, stay positive. Remember that your work and your business is you, and therefore you are the best person to promote it. Try a few business development strategies and work out what works best for you.
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Amy is an established writer and researcher, having contributed to publications, such as The Law Society, LPM, City A.M. and Financial IT. Her role at LexisNexis UK involved leading content and thought leadership, as well as writing research reports, including "The Bellwether Report 2020, Covid-19: The next chapter" and "Are medium-sized firms the change-makers in legal?"
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