Capitalizing on Client Relationships
Authors: Jane Black and Katinka Nicou
This article offers a strategic framework and effective tactics to Business Development in law firms in the context of the current business downturn and the need to respond to new client demands.
The current business downturn opens up a window to review how firms are building sustainable relationships with clients from a whole firm perspective. In equal partnerships specifically, it serves all equity owners to collaborate in client pursuits, yet few firms still do not subscribe to the most basic best practices in business development. It is our understanding from having conducted workshops with Lawyers at all levels and coached over 150 law firm Partners in 10 countries across Europe and the Americas that Business Development is largely a responsibility Senior Lawyers take on individually. This not only limits their capacity and potential to be successful in all client related activities, but it also inhibits identification of possibilities for cross-marketing.
In this market downturn, we believe there is tremendous opportunity for firms to strengthen their Business Development efforts and get ahead of their competition by reviewing the key factors that make them successful, and what expertise they need to build to meet new client demands. In making the most of their opportunities, this is the time for law firms to systematically share knowledge, experience, and best practices across practice groups. It is the time to coordinate Business Development efforts by identifying and leveraging individual Lawyers’ strengths and collaborate to identify opportunities for the firm. It is also high time to develop strong relationships with the media, as positive public recognition for newsworthy work that may result from the economic crisis is more valuable than any advertising campaign. Moreover, it is critical to ensure that marketing messages are consistent among individual lawyers and practice groups to create strong brand recognition among clients.
Tactical tools to win new business abound, but few of them are taken into consideration with overall business strategy in mind, or in a coordinated team effort. Our framework The Client Relationship Cycle offers a strategic approach to Business Development, supporting practice groups and individual lawyers in defining their unique value proposition, identifying new opportunities in current markets or emerging practice areas, capturing these opportunities, and gaining media exposure. It acts as a strategic planning guide, with very specific check points and action steps, and has been designed to ask some practical and challenging questions throughout each stage.
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