Since the start of the new year, law firms and their client development strategists have had time to reflect on last year and assess what worked and where the opportunities exist for improvement. And the need to find these opportunities is clearly there — about 77% of standout lawyers said their firms experienced challenges with business development last year, according to Thomson Reuters Acritas 2020 Stellar Performance report.
Law firm business and client development leaders have encouraged attorneys to find new ways to connect with clients proactively, even amid the pandemic. Lawyers responded by developing a new sense of urgency around being armed with insights that they can analyze, interpret, and share — and that most importantly, gives them a valid, actionable reason for getting in touch with their clients. This exchange helps keep attorneys top-of-mind when their clients need their counsel.
In the past year, client and business development teams have been sharing even more market data with firm attorneys to illustrate what’s going on in the legal market as it relates to practice area, technology, and talent trends. “What is critically important is being able to see around the corner and there’s corners of corners,” says Kimberly Rennick of Allen & Overy. Such efforts help attorneys maintain better client relationships and further establish internal business and client development teams as the “go-to” leads for delivering high-impact strategic value to partners and ultimately, to clients.
Caroline Rhys Jones, Global Director of Clients at Norton Rose Fulbright, says her team has been focused on “trying to find ways to push [this information] out to the business in a more constructive way, so that the partners and the lawyers have that insight into what our clients are looking for, what their needs are, and [the lawyers] can actually have useful conversations that are going to assist the clients.”
Forming global client communication strategies
Firms are also eager to create multi-layered global client content communication strategies. More and more, clients expect outside counsel to provide personalized and timely alerts around clients’ business practices and other relevant areas. Client portals with bespoke data and business information have become vital assets for many law firms. Firms align these client portals with their client’s industry and market segments, demonstrating the firm’s own subject matter expertise.
Firms then can use these client portals track and analyze this engagement data to better inform their own online strategies. In fact, Deborah Ruffins, Chief Marketing Officer at Perkins Coie, explains that the firm is using this tracking engagement data to better understand what sorts of conversations their clients want to have and where the firm can see potential growth opportunities.
Norton Rose’s Rhys Jones agrees, adding that with client portals, the firm can personalize newsletters and emails, and ensure that clients have access to “a bespoke kind of view into the insights and the thought leadership that we have.”
As firms and their clients continue to work remotely, it’s become more important than ever for firms to showcase their own internal values and establish human connections with clients using virtual and social channels. “There is an opportunity for that person to connect with me in a way that is more meaningful now in a virtual environment,” Tom Kim, Chief Legal Officer at Thomson Reuters, remarked at a recent panel. “I understand that these are the principles that are important to that law firm and it makes me interested.” Specifically, Kim said he has become more active in virtual communities that advocate for social issues important to him, such as the Law Firm Anti-Racism Alliance where he’s developed new relationships that share his same values.
As the legal industry enters the second year of virtual working, law firms will be expected to continue to refine their approach to business development. Generally, the legal industry lags the broader economy, however, this can provide business development leaders the opportunity to observe and analyze what’s happening in the market to better prepare and pivot attorneys so that they can translate these macro-economic trends to their clients.
The ultimate goal is to help lawyers see around the corners by turning general insights into actionable ones that can help them empower their clients to identify risk, become more proactive, and enable strategic growth to their internal stakeholders.
You can download a copy of the Thomson Reuters Acritas 2020 Stellar Performance report here.