6 Law Firm Business Development Strategies to Implement Now

When you think of law firm business development, what comes to mind? Raising rates, running ads? There’s a better way of getting new business.

While marketing tactics like running print ads in prestigious newspapers or magazines, social media campaigns and Google Ads work for a variety of industries, social media and digital advertising came up as 18th and 22nd respectively in the 2018 study, Business Development Trends Across Firm Demographics.

So as far as effective law firm business development goes, what comes out on top? If not digital advertising, what is the best method for obtaining new business?

We’re glad you asked.

Here are a few of the top revenue-generating law firm business development strategies curated from that 2018 study and best practices, which you can begin implementing now:

1) Set a business development and marketing budget
2) Invest in sales coaching for firm lawyers
3) Educate clients and establish relationships with them
4) Ask for referrals
5) Network and cross-sell internally
6) Attend trade shows and conferences
7) Be a thought leader

1) Set a business development and marketing budget

When it comes to setting a budget for law firm business development, marketing and advertising, you’ll commonly see a suggested figure between two and five percent of your gross annual income – while most firms just allocate between 2.4 and 2.8 percent toward marketing. However, it’s important to keep a few things in mind when determining your own budget:

  • The type of law you practice will affect your budget. For example, law firms with a personal injury or family law focus will need to spend more than those that deal in corporate law. This is because there’s a high level of competition in the personal injury and family law fields, and so more must be spent to generate enough leads, whereas those practicing B2B law won’t need the same focus on reach alone to generate enough business.
  • Don’t forget your geographical location or competition. A law firm in New York will need to spend more on business development than one in Oklahoma City, simply because of the amount of competition in the area. Set a competitive budget to see results.
  • Your law firm’s average sale amount. It’ll take more convincing to get a client on-board with spending several thousand a month than it will of your average ticket is a few hundred.
  • How you want to allocate it. Throughout this guide, we’ll breakdown several law firm business development strategies you can use for your own practice. Some of them will cost more to implement than others, so think about which practices will be the most valuable for your law firm as you read on.

2) Invest in sales coaching for firm lawyers

The number one finding from that aforementioned study was law firms that invested in sales training for their team saw increased revenue. Lawyers do not go to law school to be salespeople, but they need to be able to sell if they’re going to effectively improve business development methods. 

Often, business development is considered the same as sales: how your law firm can reach more clients and increase profits. While it is connected to sales, business development – at its core – is the practice of identifying and understanding how to attract and capture new clients.

In this way, it is more closely linked to marketing than it is to sales. It’s an understanding of how your law firm and ideal client connect.

This isn’t something the average lawyer simple understands, which is where the coaching becomes valuable. Bringing in sales experts to help your firm’s lawyers learn how to pitch themselves and their knowledge base can drastically increase overall law firm revenue.

Check out these resources for more information on effective sales coaching and training for law firms.

3) Educate clients and establish relationships with them

By serving clients with education in the form of seminars, trainings, client panels and other methods you increase the value of your firm to them. This is especially the case as clients hire firms because of the expertise they provide. 

When you actively help clients understand legalese, new concepts and other aspects of law, it builds trust and an unwillingness to leave your firm from their end.

Taking time to educate clients plays well into the trust-driven business model, a method of doing business that places your client’s trust in your law firm above all else. The trust-driven law firm gets more clients, has higher retention rates and charges higher rates – all at a lower marketing cost.

This is highly valuable in today’s consumer society, where there are so many options for clients to pick from. By establishing trust, you make it easier for clients to come back to you or recommend you to others.

For the trust cycle to take effect, potential clients must first know your law firm exists, then like it, then trust it, and finally, share it with others. Typically, this happens through word-of-mouth or by posting an online review. Once they’ve shared, others know about your business, and the cycle continues.

4) Ask for referrals

Asking clients for referrals is something you can be more confident in when you know that you are adding value by actively educating and building relationships with them.

One of the easiest ways to ask for referrals is by requesting clients to leave online reviews of your law firm. Ninety-five percent of consumers check reviews before hiring a lawyer, so it’s not difficult to see that consumers place a high level of trust in online reviews. 

If having your law firm listed online makes you nervous, you can learn how to respond to negative reviews of your law firm and put a preemptive plan in place for when they occur. We’ll also discuss how to minimize – if not eliminate – the number of negative reviews you get further down in this article.

Here are the top review platforms you can add your information to for optimal law firm business development:

Google My Business

Google My Business is at the top of the pack when it comes to reviews for local businesses, including law firms. It’s a highly trusted review platform by consumers, and being on it can also boost your firm’s local SEO, making it easier for potential clients to find you. Claim and optimize your Google My Business profile for best results; it’s easy to do and free. It’s also valuable to know how to get Google reviews specifically, which can be very effective in capturing new business.

Yelp

Boasting over 162 million unique visitors every month, Yelp is another review platform that can’t – and shouldn’t – go ignored, especially as you’re seeking to improve your law firm’s business development strategy. Develop a strong Yelp profile by adding in-depth information, photos, and responding to reviews of your law firm in an appropriate way. Once your Yelp profile is set up, learn how to get Yelp reviews that will work for your law firm.

Avvo

Avvo is an online review and rating platform specifically developed for attorneys. Avvo ratings for lawyers are calculated on a scale of 1 (Use Extreme Caution) to 10 (Superb). All lawyers listed on Avvo are ranked against the same set of standards, and ratings cannot be purchased, so consumers can trust the information posted on the platform.

How to get more positive reviews (and fewer negative ones)

Getting positive client reviews from those who trust your law firm can make all the difference on your Google My Business, Yelp and Avvo profiles. Here’s how your law firm can get them ethically:

Ask for honest feedback

Send an email to your client asking for honest feedback before you send them online to leave a review. This shows you care about their experience in a more private, one-on-one setting. If they’ve provided positive feedback, direct them to an online review platform to share their experience. If they’ve provided negative feedback, use it to improve your processes and repair that client relationship. Wait until that client is satisfied before sending them online and you’ll avoid more negative reviews.

Send review requests frequently

Send a new batch of review request emails every week, if not every day, so clients can provide feedback while their experience with you is still fresh in their minds.

Follow-up with clients who don’t initially respond

Sometimes, clients will intend to provide you with feedback, but forget. You can double the number of reviews you receive just by following-up.

Automate the process

This can be a time-intensive process if you set out to do it manually. Check out our free trial, which follows all of the above best practices to help you get quality reviews of your law firm online, which lead to improved business development, and ultimately, more clients.

5) Network and cross-sell internally

The trust-driven business model doesn’t just work when it comes to client relationships. It can also help you build better relationships with your firm’s partners, which can bring you more business in the long-term.

Here are some actionable steps you can take to begin networking and cross-selling within your law firm:

  • Identify partners who are willing to form a mutually beneficial relationship. To begin, identify a handful of partners you want to build better relationships with. It may be the type of law they practice or their client base that draws you to them. Most valuably, you want to focus on partners who are willing to cross-sell services.
  • Educate those partners about what you do. Your partners need to know about you – and you need to know about them. You may assume that because you work at the same law firm, that your partners already have an understanding of the law you practice. However, this isn’t always the case. Educate them about your areas of expertise – and that you do it well.
  • Get on the same page. Once you’ve established a relationship, and those partners like you and trust that what you offer is an asset to them, be clear about what you want. If you see an opportunity for cross-sales, discuss it with them.
  • Be clear about how they can benefit from it. Do you have a client who could benefit from their services? Are you going to split the billing credit if the sale is made? Will this drastically benefit their client relationship? Be clear about the benefit from their end. Then, they’ll be at the point where they can share your information with their client base. 

6) Attend trade shows and conferences

In-person interaction plays an enormous role in being successful with law firm business development.

By being present at events like trade shows and conferences in your area, your law firm establishes itself as an industry expert that values one-on-one client relationships. Getting up from behind your desk and showing up in your city or community puts you ahead of the pack.

Research trade shows and conferences in your area before selecting one you want to invest in. It’s important to pick one where your target market will be, and one that enough people will attend for it to be worthwhile. 

Here are some specific steps your firm could take to benefit from events like trade shows and conferences:

  • Give away tickets to key clients. At an event, you have an opportunity to educate and build client relationships outside of the office. This allows you establish the value you place in that relationship, which builds trust.
  • Actively reach out to clients beforehand. Ask if they are planning to attend and arrange to meet up with them while you are there. Now, instead of just attending, you have one-on-one meetings planned to build relationships and network.
  • Set up an exhibit. If it makes sense for you to rent a booth or ask to present, do that.

7) Be a thought leader

One of the top marketing tactics law firms are investing in is content marketing, writing and blogging.

This is because 96 percent of individuals seeking legal advice use a search engine, and 38 percent of people looking for a lawyer use the internet to do so. People are online looking for information, and if you can give it to them, you initiate the trust cycle. They’ll know you by reading something valuable you’ve written, which eases into liking and trusting you because of your willingness to serve them with beneficial information.

You can become a thought leader by writing articles relevant to the areas of law you practice. Not sure what to write about? Consider these questions and ideas as you brainstorm topics:

  • What are frequently asked questions you get from clients? Write a series of pieces answering these.
  • What are topics or areas clients seem to regularly misunderstand? Is there a way you can clarify that it for them?
  • Write articles that more specifically address common subsections of the field of law you practice. For example, if you are a personal injury lawyer, perhaps write an article regarding why someone who has been in a semi crash should hire a lawyer.
  • Search for “[insert your field of law] lawyer in [enter your city].” For example, “Personal injury lawyer in Kansas City, MO.” Use that research to write an article that is significantly better than what is already out there.

Other ways of positioning yourself as a thought leader include public speaking and being interviewed for or quoted in other written works. 

When you take steps like these, you bring potential clients closer to clicking that “Contact Us” button, subscribing to your email list, downloading your eBook, or otherwise turning from browsers to prospective leads you can nurture.