Law firm business development is everyone’s responsibility. Whether you’re a solo-practitioner or you work within a big firm, it’s up to you to help build and develop a client base. But not everyone knows where to start.
You’re an up-and-coming lawyer. You’re itching to get to the real stuff—the nitty-gritty of client schmoozing, boozing and development—but you have no practice, clients to schmooze and business to develop yet. Where do you start?
When it comes down to it, you can’t start at the top. You need to build up your business development skills just like anything else. Knowing where to start and what to focus on is key to becoming a business development badass. If you’re itching to get started, we’ve got some law firm business development ideas for you.
What is law firm business development?
Law firm business development is a term used to describe the process of generating new clients. It involves strategies to increase visibility, build relationships, provide valuable content, and create opportunities for growth.
This highly specialized area of marketing is usually done by a specific marketing team within large law firms alongside senior lawyers. But in smaller firms, it’s often done by the individual lawyers themselves. It requires an understanding of both legal fundamentals and creative tactics that can bring desired results — but I swear it’s not that hard to crack!
When you engage in business development activities, your focus is on building trust with potential clients. This can be done in a number of ways from public speaking engagements to attending networking events (hello, holiday parties!).
By utilizing these techniques and engaging potential customers in relevant conversations, law firms can establish themselves as experts in their field while also creating tangible opportunities for growth within the organization.
Business development vs. marketing
Both business development and marketing are essential components of law firm growth, but they are NOT the same thing. Understanding the differences between these two terms, as well as how they work together, is essential for building and growing a successful legal practice.
Business development focuses on building relationships with individuals and organizations to generate new business opportunities that will increase revenues. It involves identifying potential clients, targeting them through various channels, making contact and nurturing those relationships. You work on growing those client relationships with the ultimate goal of making more money for the firm.
Marketing takes a broader approach by creating awareness about the law firm’s services in order to differentiate it from its competitors and build an audience of interested potential clients. It involves activities such as search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, social media campaigns and email newsletters. When used together effectively, business development and marketing can produce powerful results for any law firm by helping to attract more clients while also strengthening its reputation in the legal industry.
Law firm business development ideas
There’s no time like today to start your business development activity. Whether you’re brand new to the business development game or just need a reboot, these six ideas are perfect to develop your skills, one step at a time.
1. Start now, not later
Not all lawyer business development requires a $1,000 bar tab, tickets to the next hockey game or the newest gift. Most of your best business development activity will take place in those handfuls of moments you actually take the time to get to know someone.
So make that phone call, send that message and say good morning to a new work pal. Fifty-two weeks a year, if you do three business development activities per week, you could have 150 new meaningful interactions. Now that’s professional business development!
2. Update your LinkedIn account
Much of the world happens online today, and your LinkedIn profile is a hub for your future business development activity. But using LinkedIn as a tool means you need to build a strong profile.
If you’re looking to improve your personal lawyer business development, building, updating and maintaining your LinkedIn page should sit on the top of your list. Interacting on LinkedIn can be a powerful business development tool. But to be it’s most effective, you need to fill out your profile.
What does a good LinkedIn profile have?
- A professional profile
- A descriptive headline
- Accurate work history, education and community involvement
- A descriptive but personalized bio
Once your profile is updated, it’s time to start interacting on LinkedIn and making connections.
There are a ton of ways to interact on LinkedIn, and to be most effective you should aim to check-in daily for 10 to 15 minutes. What should you be doing on LinkedIn?
- Answer any messages you may have
- Add contacts that you know from the “People You May Know” section
- Comment on articles and posts by your connections
- Join relevant groups
- Share content (written by you or others) that you think is relevant to your audience
Connecting people with people on an online platform can allow you to “stay in touch” without really staying in touch—it can also help you keep updated on the who’s who in your business world.
3. Create a personal business development strategy
If you’re looking to up your lawyer business development game, one of the most effective ways is to create a plan.
Every lawyer should have a personal business development strategy set out to help drive their future activity. These plans talk about your goals and objectives, along with your strategies and activities.
Having a business development plan not only helps guide your business development activities, it also helps ensure your activity is proactive and that you are holding yourself accountable.
Creating a solo strategy should be a yearly activity. Make sure to actually write it down. And if you have a mentor, firm business development specialist or manager or another advisor, it’s helpful to show it to them and get feedback—they can also likely help you achieve some of those goals!
4. Network inside the firm
If you work for a law firm then business development starts inside the firm. With that in mind, one of the great lawyer business development ideas is to network internally.
Pick a partner, senior lawyer or even an assistant or gatekeeper to someone who can help you further your business development plans and connect with them. Bring them a coffee, stop by their cubicle and ask how their weekend was, or if you’re uncomfortable getting a little personal, ask them a meaningful work-related question.
Your business development focus shouldn’t be all external. Your internal relationships are just as, if not more, important than your external ones. You never know who will have the next big internal scoop, an opportunity they have to pass off or handy little tip to share.
5. Start networking within your community
Not everyone has a firm where you can develop relationships with other legal professionals, but networking is important all the same. So where should you start your networking journey? Within the legal community!
Many solopractitioners grow their client bases from referrals. While these referrals come from previous and current clients, a ton of them also come from other lawyers in the industry. So start taking numbers and shaking some hands.
There are a ton of great ways to connect with lawyers within your local (or larger) industry:
- Attend local bar association events
- Get connected on LinkedIn
- Reach out to former colleagues
- Get involved in your community
Not all of your lawyer business development activities have to be planning or within the four walls of your current firm—get out there and make some friends!
6. Get out there and connect
Identifying target clients (or potential clients) really should be part of your business development strategy. But if you’re in the habit of making yearly plans then you’ll need to widdle those down to those that you can focus on now and those that need some work before you can connect.
Choose one or two “now” names and make time for them. Book a coffee, lunch or even simply pick up the phone and say hi. But make sure these activities focus on building relationships, not picking up more work.
The best long-term clients are those that you’ve built legitimate relationships with. If people like working with you and you’re good at what you do, then you’re much more likely to build long-term relationships, get more work and even some great referrals!
So, drop the dollar signs, pick up the phone and graciously bestow 15 to 20 minutes of your time onto someone else this week. Seriously, make the call right now.
7. Attend events
Attending events and networking with clients, potential business partners, and other professionals is key to finding new business opportunities. Events provide the perfect atmosphere for making connections and building relationships that can help take your law firm to the next level.
Attending events can bring valuable insight into trends in your industry, as well as give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with those who may have an interest in working with your law firm. It’s important to be prepared when attending these events by doing research on potential contacts so you know what topics are likely to generate conversation.
When meeting people at these events, it’s essential to maintain professionalism while also being friendly enough to make a good impression. Don’t forget to bring your business cards!
8. Provide educational resources
Providing educational resources is one way that law firms can stand out from the competition, while also providing a valuable service to clients and potential clients. By investing in the development of educational materials, law firms can provide insight into complex legal matters, as well as demonstrate their expertise in specific practice areas.
Educational resources can come in many forms, such as seminars or webinars on relevant topics, guides on navigating the legal system, or even digital content that provides general information about various issues. Law firms should take advantage of these opportunities to differentiate themselves by presenting unique perspectives on common legal issues that help educate readers and build trust with potential customers.
9. Clean up your CRM system (or implement one)
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are an essential tool for any law firm looking to increase its business development potential. CRM systems provide a comprehensive, streamlined approach to managing customer relationships, while also helping firms keep track of their customer interactions and sales data. Implementing a CRM system can be beneficial in many ways, from increasing efficiency in the workplace to providing better customer service.
When implementing a CRM system at a law firm, there are several important considerations to take into account. First and foremost, it is critical that the chosen software is tailored specifically for legal professionals, so that all features reflect the needs of the industry. Additionally, it’s important to select a system that provides robust tracking capabilities in order to ensure accuracy and consistency when maintaining records of client interactions.
10. Cultivate your current client relationships
Having a successful law firm means having loyal clients. With the increasing competition in the legal market, it is important to ensure that current clients remain satisfied and continue to come back for more services. Business development for attorneys should focus on building strong relationships with their existing clientele in order to increase case loads from those who are already happy with the quality of service they have received.
A good way to cultivate these client relationships is by engaging them through thoughtful communication, such as sending birthday cards or thank you notes. This will show them that you appreciate their business and value them as customers. Additionally, providing helpful advice and resources can be beneficial in creating a strong bond between your firm and its clients. Offering free consultations or discounts may also be attractive ways to keep current customers engaged while enticing new ones at the same time.
11. Develop a case study
Creating a case study as part of your law firm business development is an effective strategy for gaining new clients and showcasing the expertise of your team. A well-developed case study demonstrates that you have the experience and success to back up your claims, helping to build trust with prospective clients. Additionally, they provide evidence of how you’ve solved similar problems faced by other companies in the past.
When creating a case study, consider focusing on one or two specific areas or topics where your law firm excels. This will help draw attention to those particular services and demonstrate why potential clients should choose you over other firms for their legal needs. Be sure to include relevant details about the client’s situation including background information, goals, strategies used, results achieved and lessons learned from the process.
12. Solicit reviews
As any successful law firm knows, client reviews are a key factor in building business. Clients can provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of services, as well as tips that can help to improve results in the future. By soliciting reviews from happy clients, your law firm can build a solid foundation for continued success and growth.
Solicitation of reviews should be done thoughtfully and with respect for each client’s time. When asking for feedback, emphasize how much their opinion matters to you and your team. Explain that their input will help shape the future of your services and inspire new ideas for improvement. Additionally, make sure to thank them for taking the time out of their day to review your services – this will show them that you value their opinion and appreciate their business.
13. Get speaking engagements
Speaking engagements are becoming an increasingly popular way for lawyers to develop their business. By providing legal insights, advice and expertise in a public setting, lawyers can demonstrate their competency and potentially become a thought leader in the industry. For law firms looking to build their clientele through speaking engagements, there are several steps they can take to maximize their impact and reach the right audience.
First, decide on the type of engagement that makes sense for your firm’s goals. If you’re launching a new service line or entering a new market, consider hosting a webinar or seminar with experts in that field. Asking potential clients what topics they would like to hear about will help ensure you hit the mark with your content. Additionally, adding an interactive component such as polls or Q&A sessions encourages further engagement with your audience.
Tools to help with law firm business development
Developing a successful and sustainable business plan can be tricky, but there are a range of tools available to help. While this isn’t a complete list, the following tools can help you get off the ground:
TidyCal to book appointments
Booking professional coffee dates and get-to-know-you chats can be complex if you’re constantly having to go back and forth on a time. Email and phone tag only works so long before both sides are tuckered out and give up — but not with TidyCal.
What I love about TidyCal isn’t what it does (though I do LOVE what it does), it’s the fact that it comes with a lifetime membership. That is, you pay once (yes ONE TIME) and use it for however long you want, no monthly fees (yes, please)!
TidyCal is handy booking software that allows you to set up a calendar and send the link to clients and associates. They can then book a time that works for them using pre-approved slots for you. No more back-and-forth, just simple calendar booking.
Typeform to collect client feedback
Client reviews often get overlooked as a form of business development, but personal referrals and client testimonials are two of THE MOST effective forms of marketing. Seriously, they simply cannot be undervalued.
Typeform is a simple software that allows you to set up a form or questionnaire that you can send to clients. It gives you an opportunity for you to collect reviews from them that you can use in your marketing and business development materials (make sure you ask first!), and also allows them to tell you what else you could/can do to help them out.
This kind of feedback is invaluable and goes way beyond just business development. It can help you shape your overall firm from one of the crowd to a stand out client-beloved option. We recommend sending out these forms on a frequent basis — annually or even twice per year. Not everyone will respond, but when they do you’ll have something awesome to work with.
Lawmatics to manage your client relationships
Your client projects need to be properly managed — and while here at the Legal Rebel we like to use HoneyBook, your law firm probably needs something a little more tailored to the field. That’s where Lawmatics comes in.
Lawmatics helps you take care of:
- Client intake
- Legal client relationship management
- Marketing automation (it may be able to replace systems like Flodesk, mentioned below)
- Time and billing
- Reporting and insights
… and it does ALL of this in one software.
The modern law firm needs modern organization solutions, and Lawmatics is that.
We admit that CRM systems tend to be a bit of an upfront expense not everyone wants to bear, but starting on the right foot is really worth it. You can get started organized so that when you’re up and running full-speed, you’re not tripping over your shoelaces.
Flodesk to send marketing emails
We LOVE Flodesk at the Legal Rebel. While it’s not built specifically for marketing (honestly, fashion and retail comes to mind) it’s easy enough to use that anyone can pick it up right from the get-go.
Flodesk doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some of the bigger email marketing platforms has, but we love that it doesn’t cost you more to build your list. Instead of charging you by your list size, there’s just one flat rate. Which is why we use it for all of our properties.
Email lists give you a direct line to people who are interested in hearing from you, and are the way a lot of modern businesses build trust and ultimately grow their client list. Don’t sleep on starting an email list, you’ll regret it down the road.
Keysearch to beef up your SEO
Search engine optimization (or SEO) is how us marketers get clients to your website. It’s a way of creating content that not only speaks to your reader, but gets found on Google. If you’re planning on starting a legal marketing blog to help you connect with and educate your clients, SEO is going to be crucial. And Keysearch is our favorite affordable option to do that.
Not only does it help you brainstorm content Ideas, but using it properly helps those final pieces get found by the right people who are actually looking for them. We admit that this is a bigger part of marketing than it is business development, but it can be a great way to pull in new people looking for your services that haven’t found you any other way. Once they get on your email list, you can start nurturing them or even reach out to them directly.
Law firm business development FAQs
What are the four pillars of business development?
There are four pillars in business development that you’ll want to know:
But you don’t have to worry about them right from the get-go. If you’re just starting out, our best advice is to start now!
Do solo practioners need to do business development?
Yes, ALL lawyers need to do business development — especially solo practices that have limited support. Without business development, you’ll find growing to be a tough game.
Do associate lawyers need to do business development?
You can start business development at ANY stage in your law career… even if you’re a junior associate. If you start now, by the time you’re ready to move up you’ll already have a solid base.
Final thoughts: law firm business development ideas
Law firm business development is an important and necessary part of a lawyer’s career. Taking the initiative to explore new ideas, avenues, and resources can help to ensure success and build the reputation of your law firm.
Start taking steps today to find the best business development solution for you. You may be surprised at what you can learn from the process. While it may seem daunting at first, with a bit of experimentation and research, lawyers can find options that work for them.