Communication is the key for business development. To ensure that law firm’s internal communication is consistent with its external communication a synergy between its business development team and the lawyers is required. This also enhances the firm’s reach and its brand value.
If you are in a business development role at a law firm, you must ask yourself:
- Do we stay reactive or become pro-active in our approach towards business development and marketing?
- Does brand perception matter? How can brand perception be harmonised with the business development and marketing strategies?
The senior leadership bases their market insights on their interactions with the clients. However, like most other businesses, business development strategies and marketing insights are analysis-led and not restricted to a service-led approach. When I use the term “business development”, I do not mean targeting new clients but also ensuring that the existing ones stay and continue to look at you as a valuable advisor (farm them and seed them well!). Business development needs an outward approach where you understand the clients’ requirements as opposed to relying on what you think the client would require. A simple method to farm your existing clients is to have an effective feedback mechanism and a targeted continuous engagement.
Law firm leadership needs to realise that if lawyers are focused only on fee earning, they will not strategise or innovate. The key is to make business development a part of their DNA just like fee earning is. Firms need to ensure that as an attribute, business development should be a part of the performance review system from the associate level (the degree will definitely vary). This needs to be complemented through training (internal or external) which would also provide firms with a chance to identify the hungry rainmakers early on and then invest in them.
A few tips for the associates:
- Develop your listening skills- learn to understand and absorb
- Network and build relationships- designation does not matter, focus on relationship building (internal and external) at every level
- Get out of your comfort zone- challenge yourself and try to learn the art of rainmaking from the start
Firms often undermine the importance of relationship building internally and channelize all their efforts and energy on building external relationships. One should always remember that people working at the firm are one of the important components that shape the brand perception. Clients interact on a transactional basis, unlike the people who work with you. So take out some time to train them and appreciate them for their efforts from time to time.
Your brand is the differentiator and not your legal expertise. And why is brand so important? The answer is because your brand reflects your core values. The core values determine the work culture and the hiring strategy. These core values are imbibed by every single hire of the firm (irrespective of designation and job profile). A greater buy-in for the brand, culture, values will ensure that only the best stay on. All of this put together helps build sustainability and consistency. Needless to say that everything will evolve constantly.