Business Development: What it means and why it matters

January 8, 2014

Handshake 2Like “rainmaking” and “client-centric,” “business development” is a phrase that can mean different things to different people.

Having your own definition of business development is vital because the future of your law firm may depend on it. Sweeping changes have come to the legal industry and law firms that are not prepared to meet them risk falling behind.

Regardless of how you define the phrase, business development boils down to three key things; knowing your firm’s business, knowing the market and knowing your clients.

Of course, those three things are far easier said than done.

In support of these three key things, we typically see these chief tactical components included in successful business development strategy.

  • Data mining…: Today more than ever before, law firms have data readily available that could be used to find and keep clients, influence approaches to cases and explore new areas of practice. “Big Data” includes things like catalogs of decisions, duration and types of cases and sizes of publicly disclosed settlements. Access to this data may require some investment, but increasingly, it is an investment law firms cannot afford not to make.
  • ….and synthesis: The fact that a wealth of useful information is available does not necessarily mean it is being put to its best and most effective use. Many law firms do not have a dedicated staff person whose primary responsibility is to review and analyze this data and use it to inform a plan of action. Having a professional to translate what Big Data is saying helps ensure its message does not fall on deaf ears. Also, there is an element of law firm culture that must be introduced; a nimble, responsive law firm that comprehensively embraces data, refines it to the most important and actionable parts and then delivers it to those in the firm who can act on it will have a strong competitive advantage.
  • Client service and relationship nurturing: A decade ago, most law firms felt once they landed a client, that client was there to stay. This is not always the case any longer. Increasingly, clients are comfortable trading in a measure of law-firm pedigree for cost savings. Furthermore, clients may be savvier than one expects. Clients are most likely taking advantage of Big Data themselves and if their law firm is not, they will find one that is. Client loyalty is not as strong as it once was, so fully grasping your client’s needs and expectations is of the utmost importance.

One final thing to reiterate about business development strategy is that it should be very customized to your specific situation. You know your customers, your business and your clients better than anyone else.  From this and the firm’s vision, you can design a unique business development strategy and chart where you want your firm to go.

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