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Business development: Planning for competition in the new year

Their View

By Jim Grandone | Dec 16, 2016

What is your business plan for 2017? How do you plan to attract or push new clients to your firm? If you are like many firms, you have no formal plan. You rely on referrals and word-of-mouth recommendations because, after all, you’re good at what you do. Right?

I do not need to explain how competitive the field of law has become in recent years. Competition from other firms – to be expected. Competition from client in-house counsel is a return to the Great Recession era practice. That is estimated at approximately $1 billion this year over last according to BTI Consulting Group. Is that just a Big Law issue? What about small and mid-size firms?

According to Thompson Reuters, no it is not. In fact, a recent study by TR states that, 71 percent of law firms with 7 – 10 lawyers said that they are experiencing stiff competition from Big Law firms. In addition, 60 percent of firms with 11-29 attorneys also said they faced competitive pressures from bigger law firms. On the other hand, only 36 percent of solo attorneys experienced such competitive challenges.


So, as the saying goes, if you want to run with the big dogs, you can’t pee like a puppy.

What does your law firm’s budget have dedicated to marketing and business development? Do you assign those tasks to junior associates or senior partners? The answer determines your commitment to the matter.

I worked with a Clayton law firm that had an excellent system. The marketing committee consisted of a senior partner and a promising associate, along with the legal administrator and other interested attorneys. We met every two weeks either in person or by phone for no more than one hour to review all activities I had going for them and to add whatever opportunities that had recently emerged. That arrangement worked well for everyone and, while several times it had to be rescheduled, it kept everyone focused on marketing and business development. A report from the committee was presented at the executive committee by the senior partner, ensuring everyone was aware that attention was being paid to that critical part of the firm’s future.

As you look at 2017 as an opportunity/challenge, do you have a marketing/business development plan in place? Do you need one? What would it include? Several of my previous columns have discussed, in depth, the areas where law firms can focus their marketing/business development energies. They include public radio news and program sponsorship, media relations, social media, blogs, referral source appreciation events, serving on not-for-profit and advisory boards, networking, and establishing yourself as an expert in your field of law. They are available on this publication’s Web site under my name.

This coming year you will find yourself in a more competitive world with lots of changes coming from the federal and other levels of government affecting your clients. Will you have a marketing/business development plan to guide you through the year? I can guarantee you that Big Law will.

Are you ready?

Jim Grandone is president of Grandone Media Strategies. (618) 692-1892 On Linkedin Jim is a current member of the Chicago Bar Association and the American Bar Association.

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