The legal profession has a long history and some members of the profession can remember the days (somewhat fondly) before advertising, marketing and business development were words associated with a professional service. Work came from existing clients and people they told.
Today, the challenges facing the profession, and individual lawyers – including globalisation, specialisation, the number of practising lawyers competing for work – mean that marketing and business development are skills that must be learnt.
Marketing and Business Development for lawyers and law firms is increasingly important in what can only be described as a very competitive market – for the service you give your clients needs to be coupled with a strategic approach to building your own and your firm’s profile, and what you can do for clients, and actually develop existing clients and bring in new clients as well.
What’s the difference?
Business development and marketing are not interchangeable terms and they have quite distinct responsibilities in a legal environment.
Marketing is about the promotion of the services you offer and establishing within your target market what your point of differentiation will be. Marketing involves things like advertising, website content, blogs, brochures, and public relations activities.
Business Development on the other hand is a strategic activity that focuses, on particular clients or industries. It is about networking, building connections and referral networks, strengthening existing relationships and cross referrals.
More and more, lawyers need to be very strategic about obtaining and retaining clients. Work doesn’t just come in the door, or over the phone. Even if you are currently very busy, you will need a ‘pipeline’ of work down the track to keep being busy and to maintain profitability.
Your clients are not buying a transaction from you, or your expertise. They are paying you to solve a problem or make something happen for them. Thinking about what you do to solve your clients’ problems will be integral to how you market yourself and develop business – because it is actually not about you, but your clients.
Most lawyers, unless they have done so as part of another degree, will not have studied anything to do with marketing or business development, and may be tempted to think that this is the responsibility of someone else. The truth however is that regardless of the size of the firm for whom you work, or your level of expertise, you have a responsibility for business development. It is a skill that can and should be learned.