Take-aways from Law Leaders Virtual Roundtable: Business Development Strategy for 2021

by | Oct 26, 2020 | Business Development for Advisories, Business planning

In last week’s virtual roundtable for law leaders, my co-host Ben Deverson and I led a discussion on law firm business development strategy for 2021.

Ben and I described what we are seeing with our law clients and offered strategies to focus on to see out the year and be ready for the challenges of the next.

Roundtable participants included business owners, directors, experienced practice managers and senior business development managers of law firms ranging from small to corporate and coming from Perth, Brisbane, Townsville, Gold Coast and Melbourne. It was interesting to have this mix talking together about what they were experiencing at their firms, what they were noticing about their clients and what they were planning in terms of change needed.

Our first discussion focus was:

What are you currently observing in client behaviour, language and needs?


What challenges and opportunities do you face in terms of business stability/growth?

Responses included:

  • Clients are asking for fixed, or at least capped, fees. Some are demanding cheaper fees and/or a move away from hourly rates.
  • Corporate transactions may be paused.
  • Not all clients and firms have yet experienced the other side of the fiscal cliff, but staff who are leaving are not being replaced.
  • Landlords are trying to hold on to tenants.
  • Clients were initially reactive but are finding some stability in a ‘new normal’.
  • Clients are looking for structure and reassurance, and are more accepting of things needing to be done from a legal perspective.

In noting observations from our own clients in law, Ben and I pointed to:

  • Limitations in traditional BD activities (networking, boardroom lunches, events and speaking).
  • Repeat/recurring revenue and referrals decreased; concern about visibility among networks.
  • A degree of complacency stemming from a government stimulus environment.
  • For some firms, realising opportunities and shifting focus or going back to the basics of what works in human relationships.
  • While technology adopted, not always leveraged.
  • Concern about how to create a strong personal brand and build rapport when online and virtual.

In our second discussion we asked:

What have you started to do differently that is working for you?

What will you need to do differently post-government stimulus?

How are you tackling strategy when it’s hard to plan ahead?

Our participants reported:

  • Firms are doing things differently in terms of work from home and flexible work environments, but this is providing some challenges in collaboration and supervision of junior lawyers.
  • An increased reliance on technology.
  • The question arises of diversification v niche. On the one hand, some firms are narrowing their target client focus; on the other, there are fewer barriers to location of clients with new technology practices, and in some cases regional travel has allowed new connections.
  • Increased attention to efficient cashflow processes; while concern that Jobkeeper is not relied on as part of the cash pool going forward.

The question of tackling strategy in an unknown environment is potentially an in-depth discussion on its own. In terms of important BD focus points going forward, Ben and I offered:

  • Know EXACTLY where your clients are coming from and ensure your messaging and strategies point to these audiences.
  • Create a plan NOW that balances and combines a proactive approach (outreach, planned conversations) with passive elements that layer brand awareness and keep you in people’s minds (content, social media, direct messaging).
  • Incorporate an approach that aims to deepen RELATIONSHIPS and strengthen COLLABORATION with clients and referral sources. Keep in close contact and ask good questions.
  • Use technology to demonstrate, deliver and amplify your expertise, e.g. webinars that are well-planned to MAXIMISE engagement before, during and afterwards.

The main take-away?

Clients in a range of legal practice areas are seeking certainty and assistance in decision-making. They are planning for the future, and an advisor who offers human connection, an understanding of needs, trusted knowledge and helpful tech solutions to assist the client’s planning process, will find opportunities to grow.