Our client, Silvia Coulter from LawVision Group, recently presented a program on “Legal Industry Trends: A Data-Driven Dive on Legal Marketing and Business Development across the Industry” at the LMA New England February luncheon.
Her presentation focused on the findings from the 2015 Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute Annual Marketing and Business Development Benchmarking Survey, which was conducted in December 2014. Below are some of the key takeaways:
- The vast majority of law firms have a combined Marketing and Business Development department, however, there is a current trend towards dividing into two structurally distinct departments. 17% of the firms responding had separate departments for Marketing and Business Development compared to 7% of firms 5 years ago.
- The Marketing Department tends to be centralized in one location, while the Business Development Department tends to be dispersed to accommodate partners in different locations.
- There will be new opportunities for Business Development as the allocated budget increases. Over 63% of the firms increased the BD budget in 2015. Most significantly, about half of those firms plan to increase the BD budget by 10% or more.
- The survey respondents considered concrete, client-facing BD activities, such as client visits and relationship building, to be more effective than marketing activities, such as lawyer visibility.
- Marketing & BD staff feel that they receive a high level of support from the COO, Managing Partner, and Finance department, but feel they receive a lower level of support from the Library department, Practice Area leaders, and Information Technology. Silvia advised focusing, in particular, on building stronger relationships with Practice Area leaders to avoid segmenting the marketing budget.
- Firm culture/lawyer engagement is one of the greatest challenges for both Marketing and BD. As expected, the survey respondents identified “increasing collaboration” as the best way to become more effective. Silvia emphasized that marketing and BD professionals need to hold themselves accountable for reaching out and cultivating relationships with key stakeholders to increase collaboration and engagement.
- The second greatest challenge for BD currently is lack of resources, but this appears to be in the process of changing.
- The measurements of marketing and BD effectiveness and ROI are simplistic or non-existent. Only 25% of the firms responding explicitly measure ROI.
- There is a shift towards developing client-focused teams. 44% of the firms that participated have client-focused teams and 32% of firms plan to implement them.
- Marketing and BD departments are not just tasked with communicating their firm’s competitive advantage, but are often required to help to define it. Most firms rely on their industry expertise, practice area specialization, attorney-client relationships, and firm-wide service strategy to differentiate. Silvia advises moving away from using those terms as primary differentiators, because they are not truly unique. Instead, Silva suggests building and leveraging a strong firm brand to differentiate. Only 37% of the firms who responded are currently using their brand as a differentiating factor.