The top 10 business development mistakes made by lawyers

The top 10 business development mistakes made by lawyers


The pandemic has changed the way lawyers must do business development (BD); digital is much more important, face-to-face events and meetings have been severely curtailed, and virtual is the name of the game.

But although the way they must interact with prospects has changed, lawyers are still guilty of a number of mistakes when it comes to BD.

  1. Going for pitches that you/your firm will never realistically win. The time and money wasted pursuing these could be more usefully spent going after other more winnable opportunities.
  2. No follow up. You run a seminar or meet a decision-maker at a conference and yet, when you get back to the office, you do not follow up this lead. You expect the prospect to ring you if they need advice.
  3. Having no BD strategy. Rather than thinking about the expertise that you/your practice area has and aligning this with those businesses which might benefit from this, you bounce around the market in a random fashion pursing targets and initiatives without a game plan.
  4. You treat BD activity like a tap: ‘off’ when you are busy on a matter and ‘on’ when you have no work on your desk. You have no sense that leads usually take months or years to come to fruition, and that a constant ‘drip, drip’ of regular BD activity is required to make this happen.
  5. Before meeting a decision-maker you undertake little or no research into their background, their business, and their likely advisory needs. So, you go into a sales meeting blind with no idea of how your/your firm’s expertise might be able to help them with the issues that they are facing.
  6. You have a BD strategy but you flit from target to target. You have no sense of the sales pipeline for selling legal services and when you do not get instant results you move on to another target.
  7. No ‘next step’ at the end of a meeting. At the end of every sales meeting you need to agree the ‘next step’: the action that you can take to keep the lead live. “Let’s stay in touch” will not suffice.
  8. Failure to focus on the firm’s existing clients. These are the best leads available to you, as they already know and trust the firm and one of your colleagues should be able to open doors for you. This means that you do not have to go in cold.
  9. Having no value proposition. You are unable to relate the advice that you are providing (and the cost of this) to the value being created for the client. This puts you at a great disadvantage when justifying your fees or pushing back against the client’s desire for a fee discount.
  10. You do not have Thought Leadership collateral to open doors. If you have documented insights, preferably backed up by research, which are valuable to your target in helping them to benchmark their business practices, you stand a much greater chance of getting an audience with them to discuss how you/your firm might be able to help.


So, which of these mistakes are your firm’s lawyers most guilty of? If you would like advice on how to address this to improve the effectiveness of your lawyers’ BD, please contact me at 

Kevin Wheeler is a BD consultant and coach working in the PSF sector. He has been advising firms for more than 30 years.


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About the author:

Kevin Wheeler has been advising professional services firms on all aspects of marketing and business development for more than 30 years. As a consultant he helps firms to manage and grow their key clients as well as to win new ones. As a Meyler Campbell qualified coach he works with partners and those approaching partnership to improve their BD skills.