Marketing Or Business Development For Lawyers - What Works?

By John Hogg


law firm marketing legal marketing

Marketing For Solicitors or Business Development For Lawyers - which is it?

If this particular topic ever arises between a group of erstwhile lawyers as to the various pros and cons of marketing and/ or business development for law firms expect to receive a multitude of answers.

But which one is correct?

Is marketing the junior party organising the fliers and events and business development the strategic function which brings in the business?

Alternatively, is it the other way around with business development for law firms about attending events and marketing is the strategic function instead?

To be completely honest with you, I have first-hand experience of this very topic when a previous boss of mine, the Managing Partner of a large Law Firm, would only ever refer to me as his Business Development Director, whereas in terms of my own career and coming from a marketing background I saw myself more as a Marketing Director.

So what is marketing and business development for law firms all about?

Are they mutually exclusive or different pieces of the same puzzle?

My own personal belief is that they are indeed different disciplines, and I am very happy to expound upon the merits of one versus the other, however, if you have a particular point of view as to what one is versus the other, who I am I to try and change this?

I would much rather say, great you're obviously interested in working out how we grow your business, now let's talk about what it is we need to do, than bascially argue about names and labels.

The fact that you think something sits under a different umbrella term than I do, isn't really important to me - what is important is that we bring our plans together and make sure we are on the same page, heading in the same direction and your law firm grows as a result!

Of course, I could have written about what I personally think and why I think my point of view is right and yours is wrong, but where would be the value in that?

Let's get on and actually achieve something!

Marketing For Solicitors

One of the difficulties arises due to the fact that business development has no clearly accepted definition of what it actually is, whereas marketing has all sorts of organisations, each with their own clearly laid out definitions of what they think marketing is.

The Chartered of Institute of Marketing is the one I like to use and it goes along the lines of,

"Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer’s requirements profitability"

So by this very definition marketing can be seen as a strategic function concerned with understanding a client’s requirements and delivering value in a profitable manner.

Juxtapose this with the commonly held view in a lot of Law Firms that marketing is simply the "lunches and launches" department and we can see that marketing has a bit of work to do in some people’s minds to be taken seriously and to earn some credibility.

Of course, whether this view is right or whether it is wrong, doesn’t really matter, this is all about perception versus reality at its finest!

Business Development For Lawyers

So now let’s look at business development for a minute and some lawyers' point of view that it is the harder nosed, more business minded discipline that can stand up alongside the fee earners in the room.

I suppose this isn’t difficult to comprehend as business development is very much about winning new work, managing relationships and building networks and fee earners after all, especially Partners, are concerned with finding new work and managing client relationships.

There is an obvious affinity between the two.

It is therefore understandable that business development may sometimes be seen as a more serious strategic business function which brings in the fees and marketing is where you go to get your flyers printed, the website updated or an event organised. All very important tactics in support of your Law Firms brand no matter which way you look at it!

This view does however set up marketing as the poor relation, or the Junior Partner, in this particular relationship.

A brave new world for marketing and business development for Law Firms

Whilst I personally believe that to view marketing in this manner is to do it a dis-service as you are primarily looking at only one element of marketing, namely marketing communications, I also don’t think it really matters too much as long as we get results.

Okay, marketing is in reality a strategic function looking across the entirety of your firm and the brand you are trying to project, but let’s step back a bit and look at everything in the round - let’s  make sure that no matter which point of view you subscribe to, we have an over-arching marketing and business development strategy for your legal practice.

It is for this very practical reason we developed our own marketing and business development model for professional services firms based on our own experiences of over 20 years. This model takes each element from both a marketing and a business development point of view and pulls them all together into one overall plan.

You can decided to split this up and resource it within your firm whatever way you like but as long as you consider each of the elements within it then you can be sure that you are well on your way to marketing your law firm effectively and executing a winning business development strategy - no matter what way you look at it!

Everyone On The Same Marketing & Business Development Page

As you will probably have gathered by now, we are big believers in having a plan, so no matter how you view marketing and business development make sure you have a plan which incorporates both disciplines.

Make sure you have a clearly defined vision for the future of your law firm and establish SMART objectives that all your activities, both marketing and business development, will be focused on achieving.

As always we would welcome your views on this particular topic and encourage you to add any comments you may have below. If you like this blog you may also consider sharing it with your network on social media by using the links above and if you would like to find out more about how you can develop your own plan why not download our Free Guide on how to write a plan which is designed to actually grow your legal practice.

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John Hogg Enlighten IC

John Hogg

John is managing director of Enlighten IC and has been involved in legal marketing and technology marketing for over 25 years. He is passionate about how an inbound approach to marketing can help firms to drive leads and grow their business.

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