“How to achieve growth in practice?” – is a question most lawyers are keen to discuss. Firms have increasingly devised practice plans and growth strategies that are driven by global economic trends and broken down into finer nuances of market intelligence and action plans in terms of reaching out to prospects, identifying practice areas and industry sectors to be explored, building market perception, etc. Most of the stakeholders in the legal industry agree that the strategy required to grow legal practice has shifted in the last few years. New-age law firms, with driven and agile partners, are looking forward to unconventional and interactive ways to connect with prospective clients. Informal and authentic interactions with prospective clients have proven to generate more traction towards converting a lead or a prospect into a client. In this article, we discuss a few ways in which business development has paved way for relationship building and innovative interactions by law firm partners in the last few years.
Data analysis and expert insights are useful in contributing to the evolution of a subject matter. Law firms are desirous of leveraging their experience in servicing diverse industry sectors into building a credible repertoire or body of work. Firms focused on growth are taking steps to build communities of diverse professionals, who are as passionate about giving back to the legal profession as law firms are. Through these niche communities or ‘Think Tank’ of industry experts and thought leaders, law firms are connecting with some of the best minds from diverse walks of life, different disciplines, and various areas of commercial and legal expertise.
By bringing academicians, policy-makers, retired members of the judiciary, senior advocates, and industry experts to a common platform, law firms are not only facilitating knowledge exchange and allowing different dimensions of a subject matter to be deliberated upon but are also establishing their thought leadership and contribution to the evolution of various practice areas and industry sectors.
These niche groups or members of the ‘Think Tank’ guide the law firms and their partners with vital insights to grow their practices. Law firm partners also get exclusive opportunities to first-hand gain from the enriching experience and knowledge of these experts, thereby not only increasing the overall quality of their work output but also widening the base of their relationships and reach to potential clients.
In the age where most of the information is available at the click of a button, law firms are dealing with clients who are well-informed, aware, and have access to information. The only way a firm can get its foot in the door on the basis of merit is through demonstrating its value proposition. Most clients seek value for the money they spend and they wouldn’t mind paying the right professional fee for availing the services of an expert lawyer. But how many lawyers are seriously committed to conveying their expertise to a prospective client? Are lawyers extensively disseminating knowledge and sharing insights about areas they practice in? In a developing economy like ours, where the regulatory environment is often in a state of flux, are lawyers proactively briefing their prospective clients about the commercial impact of notifications, circulars, etc. on their businesses? How many lawyers are taking it as a personal target to decode macro factors affecting the industry, say, policymaking? How many lawyers are actively engaging with relevant industry forums and professional bodies pertaining to their area practices?
As you ponder over these questions, several law firms are innovating their blogs and social media pages to disseminate content that is a source of infotainment - information plus entertainment. Today, it is not uncommon to see some out-of-the-box and unconventional initiatives including infographics, knowledge bytes & short videos by law firm partners and participating in debates, roundtables and fire side chats with peers. Cutting-edge tools to enhance outreach, which lawyers shied away from at one point, are today being embraced wholeheartedly. While the law firm websites have become a sort of knowledge bank of articles, thought papers, news updates, legal commentaries, expert opinions, etc., law firm partners can be actively seen shedding inhibitions to face the camera or live audience. Several law firms have also embraced creative ascendancies like podcasts, launching of a mobile app, ‘doing business in India’ guides, and sector-specific research reports, to name a few.
Lawyers’ competencies are way beyond their technical expertise. Today, lawyers are reckoned as contributors to knowledge creation and dissemination. A large number of law firms are collaborating with Universities and Law Colleges to conduct knowledge events that serve as a medium for exchanging relevant, reliable, and authentic legal and commercial information. These events, that witness participation from industry experts like General Counsels and Legal Heads, law firm partners, and educators like Professors from different Universities, facilitate discussions on contemporary and trending issues, thereby giving the law firms a chance to be the catalysts of change.
Law Firms are also engaging with prominent platforms that are well-regarded for legal journalism and knowledge sharing to disseminate legal insights for the overall benefit of the lawyers and law students. Some of these knowledge insights, market research reports, and white papers converge legal and commercial knowledge into insights that are cherished by practicing professionals and law aspirants alike.
In times where relationship building is the sine-qua-non for staying relevant and above the edge, law firms are organizing networking events as a means to provide for the convergence of the greatest legal minds, ideas, and thought leadership. With contemporary and topical insights as the theme of such events, the speaking sessions and roundtable discussions help lawyers in listening to and understanding the views of business stakeholders. These networking events not only provide an excellent medium for connecting with the targeted audience on a regular basis but also facilitate interaction towards aligning their synergies in order to create a better business environment.
Law firm partners are also conducting workshops for their clients where they impart deeper insights into legal aspects related to clients’ businesses, often helping the clients understand legal issues from the lens of business perspectives, and vice versa. Such events and workshops allow face-to-face interactions with a larger group in a shorter time span, expediting the possibility of connecting with a larger number of prospective clients for the growth of the firm’s practice. In fact, in a great display of professional-to-professional synergies, some law firms accelerated their relationship-building efforts during the pandemic by collaborating with other law firms and organizing such virtual events, webinars, and podcasts.
With the change in the economic global trends, it has become the need of the hour for lawyers and law firms to focus on building synergies. Relationship building is not just an activity that fuels the firm’s growth, it also helps in developing professional camaraderie and comradeship. We have come a long from pitch-follow up-wait cycle to practicing great listening skills and engaging in real conversations. The mantra to effective relationship building will be to ‘show up the way you want to be seen by others’ – and this will work across the board for existing clients, new clients, referral sources, networks and even collaboration partners.
Nipun K. Bhatiaa is the President – Strategic Legal Management, Mahima Sharma is the Consultant at Legal League Consulting.