Business Development (OK, Marketing) Tips for Your Firm

Not every lawyer feels comfortable being a rainmaker, explains Kimberly Alford Rice, advisor to firms in the field of marketing. But every firm’s health depends on lawyers being savvy enough to get involved in the sometimes subtle arena of business development.

It doesn’t have to involve outright bringing in new clients, money or prestige…it can involve something as behind-the-scenes (but just as important) as tracking which activities meant to expand your business are actually leading to new prospects, and which are not.

Either way, all attorneys are a part of the solution when they’re busy being a cog in the wheel.  But they can sometimes become frustrated when their efforts at business development produce no results.  This happens because “[m]anagement [does] … little to constructively assist lawyers with learning and practicing the basics of business development, leaving coordinated initiatives to the lawyers,” says Rice.  “This long-standing management style is not sustainable…”.

Rice (pictured here), who writes for Law.com’s The Legal Intelligencer blog, notes that, in today’s economy and ever-morphing legal landscape, “there is no better time to examine and enhance how your firm is investing in its business development program.”

One step which can bring in impressive results over the long haul is to stick to one target audience or demographic—your audience, if you will—and go after it.  Rein in watered-down tactics like newsletters or hosted golf games.  If there’s no follow-up or strategic focus, new clients are not likely to materialize to read the newsletters or attend the golf games, and neither is new business.

“What profitable firms have realized is that many traditional marketing activities are not yielding the same results,” says Rice.  Such activities are a drain on a firm’s precious resources.

Something that does make sense (and cents, however) is to cultivate relationships you’ve been nurturing all your professional life.  Your position as potential rainmaker may depend on it. If you’re not yet a rainmaker (or just not that comfortable with those duties), what Rice says your firm should provide for you is support, and this comes about by setting up the lines of communications.

“Despite their size, many law firms do not provide sufficient support or assistance to their business-generating lawyers. Often… rainmakers are highly independent, very focused, and keep their assistants busy with marketing-related projects,” says Rice.  So they’re not likely to need outside assistance.

But, “(f)or the majority of firm attorneys, however, there is little support and attention paid to cohesive business development and marketing support. The reasons usually boil down to several issues: 1) Lack of communication around what resources are available…; 2) The lawyers are not clear about how they can best utilize business development support…; or 3) When business development opportunities arise,”  appropriate responses aren’t planned for.

So whether or not you’re a rainmaker, a firm should touch base with you on a regular basis to ensure you’re aware of all the resources which are at your disposal.  A good firm will even provide a coach to mentor you on the ins-and-outs of cohesive business development initiatives. For more, go to:

http://www.law.com/jsp/law/sfb/lawArticleSFB.jsp?id=1202462995938

-EM

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