A new report from LexisNexis explores some of the best methods of organic growth employed by leading UK law firms, from enhanced talent acquisition to successful deployment of legal technology. One of the strategies we looked at was business development, specifically considering where this responsibility should lie within a firm.
Larger firms will often have multiple business development managers (BDMs), each of whom is responsible for growth in specific practice areas, supported by a wider marketing team.
However, for small and medium sized firms, it will usually fall to the partners to drive business growth. Occasionally there will be a specific partner who will take it upon themselves to handle marketing functions, including development of client relations and “soft sales” of new legal services to the existing client base. These partners can benefit from certain types of training to help them with this role, including:
Sales and business development techniques
Event organisation (eg how to arrange a roundtable event)
Content production (eg writing or commissioning thought leadership articles and blogging for their website and other marketing channels)
Commenting on the benefits of allowing partners to take the reins of business growth strategies, Rosalind Connor, Managing Partner at Arc Pensions, says: “The BD really needs to be done by the people who understand the market the best, and that is generally the partners.”
Some of the larger firms are also trying to get their junior lawyers involved with business development functions. Whilst small firms only encourage around 20% of their junior lawyers to undertake business development, large firms seem more willing to delegate these responsibilities to their more junior practitioners.
It may be that the partners in smaller firms prefer to retain more control over all aspects of their practice, ensuring that they can set the tone. But there are some benefits of allowing more junior staff to provide input to business growth strategies. For example, Millennial and Generation Z lawyers, who grew up surrounded by digital technology, will often be more familiar with online marketing techniques compared to their older colleagues.
Peter Jackson, Chief Executive at international commercial law firm Hill Dickinson, argues that it’s just as crucial for junior lawyers as partners to attract the attention of clients, in order to stand out in an increasingly competitive legal marketplace: “And that means writing articles in trade magazines, that means being quoted in the press. That means speaking at seminars or webinars to provide that peg that a client can hook something on to establish credibility. That’s important for juniors as well as partners.”
Big Law invests heavily in Business Development Managers and marketing professionals with an eye on the long term advantages of organic growth. Some firms doubled down on this investment over the pandemic, whilst others decided to cut marketing costs in order to shore up their capital or divert spend to other areas such as IT.
Smaller firms often tend to either task their staff with business development functions, or will turn to marketing agencies and consultants. Litigation firms have also tapped into business growth opportunities from referrals via accountants, barristers and third-party funders.
For more information on the importance of putting the right people in place to promote business development in your firm, see our full report.
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