If you provide legal services, at some point in your career you’re going to need to win more work to grow your practice and ultimately create a sustainable pipeline of clients. In good times, when the work is flowing, it may feel that investing in marketing and business development (BD) is almost unnecessary. Yet, when there is less legal work around, those firms and individuals who haven’t invested enough in these aspects will ultimately end up being the ones that struggle.
In fact, most lawyers and law firms understand the need for good BD and marketing practices and investments. Many of the larger firms have BD and marketing teams or specialists who help them with these activities.
It’s a great model, but due to the specialist nature of legal work and the desire from clients to have strong relationships with those that represent them, lawyers (particularly Partners and Directors) need to develop and nurture strong client relationships themselves.
How do Lawyers win more work?
The simple answer to this is: expertise, reputation, and an understanding of what’s important to their clients.
Lawyers can win work and attract clients through various strategies and actions aimed at enhancing this strong reputation, showcasing expertise, networking, and providing excellent service. Some of these strategies include:
1) Deliver an excellent service
Many Partners and senior lawyers have built their practices on delivering outstanding legal services and maintaining a high level of professionalism and customer service. This leads to satisfied clients who will continue to use your services for years to come.
This is a vitally important part of building a successful firm or practice for obvious reasons. However, in an increasingly competitive market, this alone will not help you maintain a healthy pipeline of work.
2) Referrals and recommendations
This is very much linked to the above. Lawyers can win work through actively encouraging satisfied clients to refer their professional network, friends, family or colleagues who may require similar legal services.
Note I said “actively encouraging.” Many firms generate a lot of work from referrals but have no idea when the next one will come, and haven’t asked their satisfied clients for a referral. Developing a comfortable and effective way of doing this is a key part of building a thriving legal firm or practice.
3) Engage in referral relationships
Very similar to the above, but less focused on the previous delivery and satisfied clients. Instead, invest in and build relationships with other professionals, such as accountants, financial advisors, or other lawyers/barristers who may refer clients to you.
Remember these professionals will also appreciate you referring work to them when appropriate, and doing so will encourage more referrals back to you.
4) Networking and relationship building
This has been a staple for building a pipeline of contacts and clients in the legal profession for many decades now. Attending legal and industry events, conferences, and seminars provide a great opportunity to meet new people and to have conversations that (with the right follow up) lead to meetings or other profitable next steps.
5) Workshops and/or webinars
It’s a good idea to organise and run educational events on legal topics in your practice area. Invite clients and potential clients to attend. If they are also in the legal profession, they will get the benefit of Continual Professional Development (CPD) credits, but they will also get the chance to network with other likeminded professionals.
As well as networking for you and your team, this forum also creates a platform to share valuable insights to demonstrate your expertise and establish trust with the audience. While in-person events are more costly, they do generally have better outcomes in terms of follow ups and networking opportunities.
However, online events allow you to reach an audience across a wider geographic split. In many cases, using both methods of delivery is the best approach to take.
6) Personal branding and building a strong online presence
Most firms will have an established website that contains profiles of the leading lawyers in the firms, and in some cases, all fee-earners. However, these are often not reviewed or updated enough. Have a look at yours now and try to remember when it was last updated.
Increasingly, lawyers are turning to LinkedIn to maintain an active and engaging social media presence that highlights their knowledge and provides insight into their practice area. In the corporate world, a LinkedIn profile needs to be regularly maintained and reviewed. That’s because, generally, it ranks higher in a Google search than a company website profile when someone looks up a lawyer’s name.
Even if clients and targets don’t actively contact you from your website or on social media – rest-assured that before calling, emailing, or meeting you – they will have researched your online profile.
7) Publish articles, blogs, and pieces of thought leadership
It is a great idea to invest in some content marketing. Many large global and national firms do this exceptionally well. The key is to write articles or blog posts on legal topics of interest, and with your intended audience in mind. Focus on the key aspects which are relevant to them and what they need to know to make their decisions.
In terms of publishing these insights, you can do it on the firm website, LinkedIn, in legal trade publications, or popular industry blogs to establish thought leadership. For additional credibility and to help enhance your reputation, it’s a great idea to get published externally. There’s some great advice on how to do that in this article.
8) Client testimonials and case studies
Social proof is an important part of how people make decisions. In the digital world, this is even more the case, as before booking holidays or purchasing items online, most consumers will look at website or Google reviews to inform their decisions.
Having demonstratable experience that you can share (if allowed of course) is a great way of illustrating the level of service and customer experience potential clients will receive from working with you.
9) Legal directories
This one is always slightly controversial. For every Partner or senior lawyer who is an advocate of these directories, there’ll be another who sees them as a waste of time. However, with most reputable ones, the level of research and client input that goes into them means that the purchaser of legal services will include them as part of their research on new clients.
Certainly, in larger global panels and tenders they are in the mix, and I have seen RFPs asking for forms and individuals to list directory and awards rankings.
If you are doing them, an advantage of investing time in these would be that you have updated client testimonials and case studies that you can now use separately to your submissions.
10) Advertise strategically
Investing in targeted online and offline advertising (such as Google Ads, social media adverts, or print media) can help lawyers to reach a broader audience. It can also mean that more of your content is seen by those people that you want to see it.
11) Pro bono, ‘doing good’, participating in ESG activities and community outreach
I don’t think lawyers and law firms should do these activities with the sole focus of winning new work or clients…However, increasingly, businesses and decisionmakers within your clients and target clients want to work with socially responsible law firms. Doing this community and pro bono work is a great idea, but lawyers shouldn’t be shy about sharing these stories more widely.
With sensible and appropriate marketing, it can enhance a firm’s profile and also have the dual benefit of further assisting those community or charitable organisations you are working with.
Conclusion: How lawyers can win work
As you can see from the above list, there are a considerable number of ways that lawyers win work. At a large law firm level, you would expect all of these activities (and maybe a few more) to be utilised.
However, at an individual level, you may find it more practical and actionable to pick 2-3 (or a handful at most) to focus on and develop in order to maintain a sustainable and healthy pipeline of work.