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Business Development Lawyer Engagement

Culture Shock: How to Energize Business Development Engagement in Law Firms

By Olivia Watson on July, 16 2019

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Olivia Watson

Olivia C. Watson is the Marketing and Business Development Manager at Ackert Inc. She has experience in diverse industry settings including environmental non-profits, financial services, fashion and SaaS. She is a versatile, creative marketer and B2B business developer with a talent for developing original content and initiatives that drive business growth.Olivia C. Watson is the Marketing and Business Development Manager at Ackert Inc. She has experience in diverse industry settings including environmental non-profits, financial services, fashion and SaaS. She leads the marketing efforts at Ackert Inc. and contributes significantly to the company’s business development. Her written work has been featured/quoted by various publications including Strategies Magazine, JD Supra, PM Magazine, and the American Bar Association.

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With increased competition and a growing number of market disruptors, law firm business development is more important than ever.

Many firms recognize that they cannot afford to remain complacent about business growth. In a survey of over 400 legal marketers and business development professionals, 85% of respondents believed strategies to win new business have shifted considerably in the last few years.

Today’s business development emphasizes tools, processes, and systems that attract new clients and drive growth. Many law firms have responded to the changing legal landscape by hiring more in-house staff, rolling out firm-wide CRM initiatives, and creating formalized training programs.

Despite recognizing the need for these systems, law firms face a number of cultural challenges that stunt their efforts.

The State of Business Development in Law Firms

  • There Aren’t Enough Rainmakers

Rainmakers comprise a small percentage of lawyers at most firms, and many are nearing retirement age. While a handful of up-and-comers may have an appetite for business growth, the majority have no time, interest, or motivation to participate. Although firms funnel resources into CRM and coaching programs, lawyer engagement remains low.

  • Marketing Departments are Spread Thin

Marketing departments are pressured by firm leadership to generate ROI with their business development initiatives, but find it difficult to demonstrate positive results when under-staffed and outnumbered by reluctant lawyers. Most marketers don’t have time to meet with lawyers in a coaching capacity more than a few times per year, and despite their best efforts to get lawyers to use CRM, marketers shoulder most of this burden themselves. Given lawyers’ critical roles in the legal sales process, they cannot delegate pipeline management to support staff.

  • CRM for Law Firms Have Low Utilization Rates

Many law firm CRM initiatives start with good intentions but suffer from poor execution. Despite the fact that 70% of law firms have invested in CRM, lawyer utilization rates are often as low as 5%.

The reasons behind CRM utilization are that lawyers face little accountability, they are not technologically proficient, CRM systems are complex and require excessive data entry, and lawyers are busy people. They simply don’t have an incentive to spend time using complicated CRM systems.

Given these challenges, how can law firms improve the success of their business development initiatives?

Cultivating The Culture

Law firms need to adopt a culture of business development or risk falling behind. Adopting this mindset isn’t easy, but it's possible.

  • Give in to Peer Pressure

While marketers have a hard time holding lawyers accountable for their pursuits, lawyers respond well to peer pressure. Group coaching sessions can promote a competitive atmosphere, hold junior lawyers accountable, and encourage them to learn from senior rainmakers. However, marketers need to be selective about who they include in coaching meetings; there’s little point in training lawyers who wish to focus solely on practicing law. Leadership should promote buy-in by acknowledging participants and offering a year-end bonus to those who perform well.

  • Make it Easier to Engage 

Firms should remove any obstacles that make acquiring new clients unnecessarily difficult or time-intensive for lawyers. While CRM platforms are necessary for many marketing functions, they are not effective for pipeline management. Provide lawyers with a simple pipeline management tool that allows them to nurture their key relationships easily, rather than fussing with data entry and overly complicated CRM interfaces.

Practice Pipeline is one such tool. With our management report features, marketers can easily track progress and hold lawyers accountable for their growth targets.

For more information on business development for law firms and how to create a strategy that works, download our free playbook.



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