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By Kevin Wheeler
When today’s lawyers entered the legal profession, especially the older generation, most probably envisaged that they would spend their days advising clients on important business or personal matters, achieving a high degree of respect that comes from a career in the professions, and earning a good living; few, I suspect, recognised that they would have to become skilled at business development. However, in today’s highly competitive legal markets, developing business development skills – the ability to manage and grow existing clients, as well as bring in new ones – is essential if lawyers want to be successful. In fact, today’s lawyers will never make partner in their firm unless they are good at business development, regardless of how technically brilliant they are as a lawyer.
In the past, when the legal market was booming, work came flooding into the firm or was brought in by a few “rainmakers”. Clients, who had instructed the firm for years, were handed down from the senior partners to their junior colleagues as the former approached retirement. Most lawyers in the firm never had to worry about where the next instruction was coming from, only how to get all the work done given the constraints of a 24-hour day.
Today, and for the foreseeable future, the legal market has changed out of all recognition. With most of the western world in recession or exhibiting low economic growth, and companies lacking the confidence to invest, the level of corporate activity, especially M&A deals, is much lower than before the credit crunch. As a consequence, there is insufficient work to keep all the corporate lawyers occupied. On top of this, clients now have considerable buying power and are demanding better service at lower cost from their law firms. As a result, loyalty has gone out of the window as general counsel shop around to get the best deal for their companies.
The pressure on partners to keep the flow of work coming into their firms has never be
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Kevin Wheeler has been advising professional services firms on all
aspects of marketing and business development for nearly 30 years. As a
consultant he helps firms to manage and grow their key clients as well
as to win new ones. As a certified coach with WABC he works with
partners and those approaching partnership to improve their BD skills.
0330 161 1234