Business Development Is Your Responsibility

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.Business-Development

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.

7 Ways To Truly Develop Your Career

Career Planning 101!

We have written before about what ‘the best’ do in developing their careers (read that article here).

This time we are talking about some of these things in more detail.

Internal RelationshipsDevelop your Career 2

Good professional and personal relationships within your immediate team are important – but so are relationships with others in the firm.  If you want your career to progress you will need others to back you, not just your immediate supervisor.  Developing these relationships can also expose you to new work, clients and opportunities, crucial to career development.

Develop these by friendly greetings and asking people’s names when you meet them. Remembering names is also useful!  Participate in firm social activities and educational programs, and get involved in firm committees.

Industry involvement

Get to know the industry in which your clients work in detail.  Become a member of relevant industry associations and read relevant industry magazines and newspaper articles.  Know who the centres of influence are in the relevant industry and follow those people on LinkedIn, as well as other thought leaders.

If you are considering memberships, make sure the membership of those organisations are made up of people across a broad professional group.

Business Development

Understand that you are never too young to be involved in developing client relationships and looking for ways to add value to those relationships. You can do this by attending industry events, writing articles, attending and participating in external as well as internal client seminars.  Most importantly, stay in touch – the friends you make at University and in the early days of your career may one day be clients or potential clients.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses – honestly

Be honest with yourself about what you do well and what you can improve.  Don’t like public speaking?  Learn to love it and practice every presentation.  Good at creative writing?  Consider writing a regular column or article for an industry magazine.  Accept constructive feedback and act on it.

An honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses is necessary in order to truly develop.

If you have not already done so, undertake one or more of the behavioural assessments which will not only give you an insight into your own behavioural preferences, but will enable you to gain insight into others.

On the Job training

Every matter you conduct, or are involved in will teach you something, whether it be new technical skills, client skills, drafting, negotiation, or a myriad of other skills. If you find, however, that you are continuing to have the same sort of work delegated to you, you should be prepared to speak up and ask for more challenging work. Which leads us to…

Stretch Assignments and secondments

Stretch assignments are those matters that you may not think you have the capability to do, really would like to do but which will stretch you and your ability, and potentially your confidence.  You will learn more from putting your hand up for stretch assignments than in doing anything else.  Don’t make the mistake of fearing them – they are challenges, but worthy ones.

Similarly, client secondments are career development opportunities that you should embrace. You will learn about how clients use legal services, what clients expect, and how clients perceive lawyers and their advice.

Track your progress

Decide what you want your career to look like, track your progress, and you will get to where you want to go faster.

Happy Career Planning!


Don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions?  Fair enough. Here are 15 things you can just DO for your career in 2015.Goals 2015

Set goals

Setting realistic and achievable goals, and working towards them will bring you great satisfaction at the end of the year as your reflect on your achievements.  Goals, turned into action items, are achievable.

Know your worth

Find out what the going rate is for your level and area of expertise.   If you have exceeded your budget, ask questions, based on what you know about the market.

Learn the art of a difficult conversation

Avoiding difficult conversations just makes the problem worse.  There are some fantastic articles and blogs on the internet that provide guidance.

Prepare for your appraisal properly

Your performance appraisal, if annual, is about your performance over the last 12 months, not 12 days.  Keep a notebook and make notes of things that have gone well, things that did not go so well, things you want to learn, or courses you want to attend.  Keep a copy of compliments from senior lawyers and clients.  Keep a record of presentations done (including internal) and articles published, and other contributions to the firm.  If you are expecting constructive criticism, prepare for it, take it on board and act on it.

Find a mentor

If someone is acting as a mentor to you, keep the relationship going.  If you need a mentor, let a relationship develop into a mentoring one, or ask a trusted senior colleague if they would be prepared to mentor you.

Be a mentor

Even if you have just finished your graduate year, you have the capacity to be a mentor to someone more junior.  Make yourself available, answer questions and give advice.

Master presentations

If you hate public speaking, learn to love it, or at least not dislike it.  The worst thing you can do is avoid speaking opportunities.  Look for them and practice the craft and you will soon be owning the room.

Write articles

Look for opportunities to write about your area of expertise – even if it for internal use only.  Once you get into the habit, it will become easier.  A wise person at a writing conference once said “Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block.  They just do their job.  There is no such thing as writer’s block”

Business Development

Whatever your level or experience you can play a role in business development.  Think about ways to add value to clients – we have previously written about that here:

Exercise for mental health not to lose weight

The benefits of exercise for a healthy mind don’t need to be explained.  Forget about losing weight for the moment.  Get regular exercise, even in 10 minute bursts to get your heart rate up, and you will feel better for it.

Plan for breaks

Make plans for holidays – it will give you something to look forward to and allow you to have a break from the office.  Closing your eyes and taking yourself off on a little ‘mind break’ by imagining yourself somewhere peaceful while breathing slowly will give you more energy for the next task.

Ask questions for clarity

If you are unsure of what is required of you, always ask questions for clarity.  It will save a lot of time and frustration.

Volunteer in the firm

Get yourself known outside your own practice group by volunteering on committees.  Your promotion will depend on the opinion of people other than your supervising partner.

Cross marketing

Look for opportunities to introduce clients to other people and services in the firm.  If your client is a property developer, introduce her or him to someone in finance, or litigation, should they ever need those services.

Accept responsibility; give credit

Make sure you don’t become defensive or blame others when something goes wrong.  Accept responsibility if it is yours (and sometimes it might not be but you should accept responsibility anyway) and give credit when it is due.  For example, a timely advice may not have just depended on you – your secretary and the person who helped with the research deserve credit too.

There are probably many other things that didn’t make our list of 15 things to do in 2015 for your career.  What are you going to do?