Successful Business Development in the Changing Legal Industry
January 28, 2021

For law firms, how we bring in new business continues to change and evolve. While COVID-19 adds additional considerations and even challenges, it certainly wasn’t the catalyst for the changes that have been taking place in our industry’s business development processes. There’s increased competition, new channels for marketing, easier access to reviews, and the ability to make much more informed decisions, thanks to a worldwide web of information at our fingertips.

Because of this, more and more firms are recognizing the value of planning and tracking their marketing and business development efforts:

  • 59% are investing more into business development
  • 66% of firms say marketing and business development leaders are becoming a strategic part of the firm’s operations
  • 80% have defined a business development process
  • 85% are using a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to help them understand, analyze, and leverage relationships across their firm

While a high percentage of law firms recognize the value, only 43% of firms identify their business development efforts as successful. This disconnect highlights why it’s essential for firms to identify where and how their business development strategies, operations, and processes can be improved. To help law firms improve the success of their efforts and bring in more new business, LexisNexis® InterAction® developed the Maturity Model.

Understanding the LexisNexis InterAction Maturity Model

Our Business Development Maturity Model not only reveals where your firm is on an efficacy scale, but it also provides a tangible roadmap for achieving greater returns and value from your marketing and business development activities. Using pre-set benchmarks, your organization’s methods and processes are assigned one of the six “maturity levels”. Firms with operations and processes that measure higher on the Maturity Model scale are more likely to gain the greatest returns on their business development investments.

The Maturity Model Levels

  1. Ad Hoc – Needs organization and formalized business development
  2. Reactive – Reactive; inconsistent; tactical not strategic
  3. Developing – Some formalized business development; inconsistent usage
  4. Managed (Efficiency) – Formalized business development used throughout most of firm; beginning to use trends and data
  5. Optimized (Quantifiable, Actionable, Integrated) – Standard business development process adhered to by all of firm; process documented and measured; use quantifiable data; CMO/CBDO play strategic role
  6. Differentiated (Predictive, Proactive) – Standard business development process consistently monitored, refined, and improved; uses quantifiable data as well as predictive or automated technology; CMO/CBDO empowered to innovate and drive strategic outcomes

To determine your firm’s maturity level, benchmarks are categorized by seven dimensions that are standard throughout all businesses.

The Maturity Model Dimensions (Benchmarks)

  1. Organization – Leadership, staff, culture
  2. Process – Methodology, policies, documentation
  3. Relationships & Client Experience – Process, outcomes, client satisfaction
  4. Enablement – Skills, coaching, tools
  5. Focus – Targeting, qualifying, strategy
  6. Oversight & Accountability – Goals, KPIs, tracking
  7. Analytics & Intelligence – Benchmarking, effectiveness, insights

Finding Where Your Firm Falls on the Maturity Model

Most legal professionals estimate that their firms fall into the Optimized category with developed processes, measured results, and well-formed and well-supported strategies. But the reality is, most law firms actually fall somewhere between Reactive and Managed where some business development processes are in place, but adherence is inconsistent and plans are more tactical than strategic.

Industry trends show that law firms are enlisting the help of marketing and business development professionals and defining processes. But they have been slow to combine those initiatives with data and relationship intelligence for a holistic approach to business development.

Larger professional service firms are embracing this more holistic approach with improvements and cohesive business development models that engage all of the dimensions listed above. In these cases, the higher-performing firms are able to reach the Optimized level, which shows significant maturity in business development and the ability to bring in new business using processes that are strategic, proactive, and successful.

Taking Your Firm to the Next Level

Reaching a higher level on the Maturity Scale goes beyond “leveling up,” because it means your firm is implementing and following processes and strategies that lead to successful business development practices. That means increasing business as well as increasing your firm’s bottom line.

Most firms recognize the importance of, and have started to improve, the organization, process, and relationship dimensions listed above. But where we see more advanced firms differentiate themselves is in these dimensions: enablement, focus, oversight and accountability, and analytics and intelligence. What does it take to reach the next level in each of these dimensions?


High-performing (Optimized) firms invest in the right skillsets, tools, and technology to empower their sales teams with everything they need to succeed.

To get to the Optimized level, you’ll want to implement a sales methodology that is customized and coincides with your firm’s processes. Reinforce your sales methodology by providing coaching and training for your sales teams to help ensure practices are understood and followed consistently.

Part of coaching and training should also include the adoption of technology and how to use it as a tool for business development. One survey showed that three of the 10 challenges to successful marketing were related to the use and deployment of technology.


Optimized firms have a clear, targeted, and segmented strategy so that sales teams plan their marketing activities using reliable industry and customer intelligence instead of being restricted to reactive or tactical approaches.

Optimize your firm’s focus by implementing processes that connect firm goals to the targeting and qualification criteria. By consistently following these processes, you’ll reinforce the importance of strategic business development with better success rates and higher ROIs versus tactical methods which are less effective and less cost-effective.

A well-rounded understanding of your technology and how to make the most of its functionality will also help you here. Use the functionalities in your CRM to help you mine data to identify areas of potential growth: opportunities won within industries, relationship strength with clients, variety of work projects with clients, etc. With the information you collect, you’ll know where to target and segment your business development efforts.

Oversight & Accountability

Firms that score high on the Maturity Scale for this dimension use a top down approach when it comes to planning, and all activities are tracked and measured.

Once your firm’s objectives are set, base your business development and sales objectives on the goals that your firm is trying to achieve. This, along with tying your pipeline and opportunities back to the overall objectives, will ensure that strategies stay aligned throughout the year and lead to the most optimized results possible.

Track the progress and results of all of your initiatives with CRM data, business development KPIs, and financial reporting. Tracking allows you to make adjustments throughout the fiscal year or use the end results for planning next year’s initiatives.

Analytics & Intelligence

After tracking technology is in place for Oversight & Accountability, advanced firms collect and analyze the data for planning, and measure results against standards for ROI, client lifetime value, and referral rates.

Make sure the right technology is in place to track, collect, and report on data from your firm’s objectives and business development initiatives. Interpret your data and discover insights by looking for trends and comparing current performance against historical benchmarks.

Share as many of the results as possible and communicate successes, making any necessary adjustments to plans. With transparency, teams will understand what is happening and why, driving efficiency and consistency with activities that are working and course corrections as needed.

Build a Path to Greater Maturity (Business Development Success)

While implementing the processes discussed above will help improve your business development, the best place to start is by taking the Maturity Model assessment. Find out your firm’s maturity level for each of the seven dimensions, learn how your firm compares to your peers and competition, and map out the best path for bringing in new business. This is your way to make business development a smooth-running, proactive, and efficient process for your firm.

Meghan Frank

Meghan Frank

Meghan Frank is the Global Director of Marketing for Software Solutions at LexisNexis Legal & Professional, which includes the InterAction Customer Relationship Management, CounselLink Enterprise Legal Management, and Juris Financial Management solutions. She has an extensive background in leading marketing for enterprise technology solutions, focusing on legal technology for most of her career. Meghan holds an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern ...

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