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Business Development Industry Trends

The changing nature of law firm business development

By Olivia Watson on April, 25 2017

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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.

Collaboration is the Key to Business Development

As competition grows more intense in the legal market, firms of all sizes are attempting to identify ways to stand out from the crowd and provide a unique value proposition. Meanwhile, law firm demand has been flat for years and realizations are declining. More and more firms are recognizing business development as a solution to these industry problems, but comparatively few firms are going about it effectively.


Law firms need to find innovative ways to support lawyer business development in order to be competitive.

Knowledge is king


When deciding whether to hire outside counsel, GCs favor lawyers who are knowledgeable about their business beyond their immediate legal needs. An effective lawyer is one who takes on the mindset of a business partner by identifying potential problems and helping their client prepare for it.

Learning the nuances of each prospective client’s business and industry is a demanding process—more than many lawyers have time for. This is where marketing and business development departments can help.

Collaboration leads to more information


Finding relevant data to prompt business development interactions used to be a manual endeavor. It required scouring news articles and social media feeds to identify new developments in a client’s business or industry, and Team Work on the Mechanism of Metal Cogwheels..jpeglawyers simply don’t have time for that. Automation and collaboration are the solutions to this problem, and marketers can change the way lawyers do business development using these tools.


The legal industry is still behind the curve when it comes to sophisticated client intelligence, in spite of software like Manzama and Monitor Suite or effective strategies like this one from Mark T. Greene, PhD:


“I’ve been using algorithms to predict client needs for years. An an example, we had a thing called ‘lit-spotting,’ where we could say that if you had a certain number of predictors - for instance, if a client has issued a restatement of earnings and had two board members changed recently (and a couple of other triggers) - their shareholders are likely to file a class action lawsuit. In the past, these might be considered rocket science CI tools, and they needed to be done manually, client-by-client. But now with the type of predictive algorithm capabilities of AI, marketers will be able to conduct such monitoring automatically across many companies, thus helping transform the way law firms sell services.”


When a firm uses CI to identify a lead, they track the opportunity with CRM, but CRM has almost non-existent utilization from lawyers. So how can a firm make use of business intelligence when their sales force (the lawyers) won’t engage in the administrative busywork necessary to track and follow through?


To bridge the gap between client intelligence and BD productivity, marketers can implement regular pipeline management meetings with their lawyers. During these meetings, marketers should bring a fact sheet on the latest news from the client, and help lawyers identify follow-up steps that demonstrate expertise to their prospects and provide bespoke, relevant value.



CRM is for Marketing, Pipeline Management is for Business Development


Technology is a pillar for good business development strategies, but law firms don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. While many other industries manage to use CRM both for marketing and sales, law firms have been unsuccessful in getting lawyers to use CRM for business development. That’s why marketers should focus on mining CRM data for actionable client data, while lawyers should focus their efforts on business development using a pipeline management tool.

Practice Pipeline is one such tool. Its simple interface requires minimal data entry, it integrates directly with CRM and Outlook so marketers can have a hands-on overview of their lawyers’ pursuits, and it has a 75% adoption rate - much higher than traditional CRM.

For more information on how to create a business development strategy that works, download our guide on business development strategies for forward-thinking law firms. If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.B

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