As 2021 and the second year of the pandemic draws to a close no one needs to be reminded that we’re living and working through extraordinary and turbulent times.

One tempting response to the tough business climate wrought by the pandemic is to become excessively risk-averse and tighten controls to a point where they stifle business development  –  another is to go on a “risk binge”.

Right now, among legal practices, we see both these responses in play.

Realistically identifying and assessing market risks, followed by informed choices about business development, is the right way to move forward in these tricky times.

These tips may help frame your thinking:

  1. Think carefully before you act. Be sure that your clients, staff, and competitors take cues from what you do.
  2. Take a fresh look at your value proposition  –  this time, most definitely from the client perspective. The time is ripe to re-craft your messages to ensure you are selling what clients want to buy right now:  results, certainty, ease of doing business, as well as all the lovely “feel-good” factors.
  3. Nebulous, general marketing and branding is low risk but usually also low return. Well-conceived and targeted business development is also a low risk (and more work to get right) but with better prospects of healthy returns.
  4. Right now, you can safely assume clients apply microscopic scrutiny to value for money. This is not the time to nickel and dime clients, nor is it smart to pad out timesheets and bills to improve your current month figures.
  5. Now is the time to shower extra attention on clients loyal to you in the past. Reduce the risk of a competitor luring your clients away by stepping up the service and value.
  6. Encourage (in appropriate ways) clients to maintain or increase their spend with you on services that produce for them the greatest measurable value in the shortest timeframe. Estimate (yes, quantify and then articulate) the business impact on them of your proposal. Promote your services around measurable results and meaningful value ahead of “soft” benefits.
  7. Make you and your firm a fit for the client rather than asking clients to do contortions to fit you. Don’t let your rules and regulations, procedures, and administrative requirements stand in the way of getting good clients to do good business with you  –  lest they be enticed away by another law firm that is a whole lot less bureaucratic and one who has pivoted to remote service delivery more seamlessly.
  8. Accept that many of your clients are under more pressure than ever  –  and not just financial pressure. Business is simply harder than before. Don’t add to their stress and nudge them to an “I’m over that law firm  –  lots of others would really like my business” statement.
  9. Be flexible. We have all learned (virtually overnight) there are other ways to do things (especially remotely) and now might be a good time not to rigidly follow the pattern of your past.
  10. Recognise team members that generate and pursue business development initiatives and people who take measured risks to get results. Be prepared to resource and doubly reward successes.
  11. Choose external consultants and advisers carefully. Check that they have in-depth insights into your target markets and a track record of succeeding in the face of challenges like those you face. Take a hard look at any grandiose ideas and panaceas they offer and be especially wary of “one size fits all” solutions.
  12. Accept that developing a business is not risk-free. It’s not a ‘one and done’ activity but a consistent, and deliberate process and mix of activities that leads to results. Even then, only rarely are results ‘guaranteed’.
  13. No business development, however, guarantees results. A big fat zero.

With light at the end of the tunnel in terms of lockdowns for much of Australia from mid-October – what business development activities will your firm do to maximise the last few months of 2021?

About the author:

Amy Burton-Bradley is an experienced bidder, business developer, marketer, and copy-writer who has worked with more law firms than she cares to remember! She is a Partner and Consulting Director at Julian Midwinter & Associates, a business development consultancy whose team has helped law firms attract, win, grow, and retain new clients and business since 1993. For more law firm business development tips check out JMA’s blog at julianmidwinter.com.au.