Law Firm Leaders Keen to Build Real Business Development Process

Late in 2009, I wrote about the value law firm managers gain by "profiling" their clients, i.e. understanding client growth patterns and grouping those clients with common characteristics. Since that time, I've worked with several firms on client profiling exercises and spoken to countless individuals about the subject. Rarely have I seen a new approach in the legal industry met with the level of enthusiasm this idea has sparked. Based on the overwhelming feedback we've received, we've refined the process and started accumulating best practices of applications of client profiling by law firms.\

The foundation of client profiling is built by using information that a firm has readily available about the work its lawyers perform for its clients. We've built upon that by incorporating both competitive and relationship intelligence into the profiles. Now, when a firm wants to find opportunities for additional business within its client base, a process exists that factors in whether clients have legal needs in particular areas and whether strong relationships exist that can be leveraged to gain that business.

So how are business development managers applying what they learn from client profiling? One example is "peeling the onion," focusing on the second tier of clients (rather than the very largest) who traditionally haven't had client teams formed around them. Several firms have successfully identified opportunities for new business that were unknown to the firm by focusing on this group of clients. Another example comes from business development leaders who have been involved in building strategic plans for their firms. These individuals often incorporate a focus for clients in particular industries or those with particular legal needs.

The feedback from Chief Marketing Officers and others focused on establishing real processes around client development has been instrumental in refining the approach to client profiling and helping firms realize its value. We'll continue to gather feedback and results to report back to the industry.