Marketing & Business Development (BD) in the legal industry has always been a line of work that is fascinating to the rest of the marketing industry. It has a unique setup that works behind the scenes of Partners and fee earners, no other industry has the same unique way of operation as a law firm. Being in such a niche industry, it is vitally important to be aware of any recent movements and potential career paths you can take.
When partners are thinking about generating revenue, the first thing will be to increase the marketing and business development activities – this makes Marketing & BD the vital organ of a law firm. However, it is still seen as the ‘support’ function and the team’s productivity is based on the partners’ demands and requests. This belief sometimes has a negative effect on Marketing & BD departments and creates a misconception of their value to the firm, making employees feel like an outsider or merely a support function. A lot of employees feel their capacity for personal development is limited and unclear, which subsequently has been one of the most common reasons why Marketing & BD employees start to look outside of the legal industry.
While it makes perfect sense that law firms measure their triumph on billable hours, client success, and revenue, a large portion of the work fee earners receive, are in fact created from the efforts of the Marketing & BD department. In fact, it is fair to say lawyers were not trained to be a revenue generator during law school, and that Marketing & BD teams should also be considered to be one of the key contributors to revenue and client success. There is often a stigma that the most successful business developer is defined as a rainmaker. Business development success should be measured on an individual level and not compared to the firm as a whole or measured against any other fee earners' business development contribution. There are too many factors for each person and their experiences and circumstances to label only the rainmaker as successful.
The good news is that many senior Marketing & BD managers have recognised these challenges within the law firm environment. There is a lot of evidence showing that most firms are now fighting for changes to recognising the work of the Marketing & BD role function a lot more.
‘Getting closer to clients’ is the new mantra echoing around Australia’s largest law firms especially during this current time of a Global Pandemic. Our home-grown firms are up there with the world’s best, they have the client list, billings, and intellect to prove it. When it comes to self-promotion, our leading law firms’ focus has traditionally been on outward appearances.
Around seven or eight years ago, re-branding became the goal for major Australian firms. They went to a lot of trouble to differentiate themselves from the competition by refining their position and followed this with new marketing materials and corporate identities.
Australian firms are responding to this perceived lack of difference. The realisation that standing out from the crowd in a difficult market requires strong, strategic client relationships has come slowly, but professional service firms are getting the message.
Proactive strategies such as ‘Best Client Programs’ and Client Lead Partners are more common, and client teams, comprising lawyers, marketers, and client relationship partners, have become more important.
Key points for Marketing & BD departments in Law firms during the global pandemic.
- focus on providing Partners and other lawyers in the firm with client data and industry intelligence
- invest in business development and marketing talent
- view this as an important time to engage with clients proactively to better anticipate and meet their needs.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Marketing and Business Development roles in the Legal sector or hiring Marketing or Business Development professionals, please get in touch with me.