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The Key 2022 Trends for Law Firm Business Development
Jan. 25, 2022

In our virtual event, Mo Bunnell, creator of the GrowBIG® business development (BD) system and trainer of 15,000 seller-experts, joined us to share his tips and advice on effective BD as well as which trends are proving most effective for law firm BD in 2022. Bunnell was joined by Elena Cutri, Director, Education Services at LexisNexis® InterAction®, who is an expert at building effective educational and development programs with more than 20 years of experience.

According to a 2022 report, almost half of all firms struggle getting users to adopt new behavior, especially around business development. In 80% of those firms struggling with user adoption, there is little-to-no accountability for driving users to adopt new technology. As a business development professional or someone who needs to achieve business development goals, your role is to influence the behavior of others, so why is it hard to influence user adoption within your organization?

Mo Bunnell, CEO of the Bunnell Group, shared how business development leaders can overcome user adoption challenges with three trends that are standing out in 2022. By following these three effective trends, you and firm business development teams can overcome any lack of accountability and any lack of momentum. These trends are effective practices that work for any professional services firm, not just law firms. Accountants, architects, engineers—anybody with one foot in the delivery of a complex expertise and one foot into finding a client to say “yes” to your services can benefit.

The Bunnell Group has held hundreds of sessions already this year with high-end professionals, but they don’t refer to these sessions as training or go in with notions of what BD teams need. Instead, according to Mo, they “flip the script” and start by asking leaders, “What kind of business development support do you need? Let me help you accomplish your goals.” This leads us into our first trend for 2022—the campaign approach.

The Key 2022 Trends for Law Firm Business Development

Trend 1: Use a Campaign Approach and Work Backwards

With the campaign approach, you actually start from the end and work your way backwards. Hence, asking what your end goal is or what challenge you are trying to solve. As we work backwards, we use a solution that combines business development and marketing practices in an all-in-one process.

For example: If your firm has a successful office in Silicon Valley and New York, but you’d like to open a patent firm in Austin, then we start with the end goal in mind. Increase patent work in our new Austin office. Still working backwards, we’d want to create something on our dime (analysis of your prospect’s patent portfolio) that proves, not just tells, our potential client the kind of work our firm is capable of. That is tailored to a very specific potential client, so now we’d want to create content, such as a webinar, local event, or article that reaches more of the masses.

If you design your campaign with the end goal as the starting point and map out the rest of your campaign from there, you get excited, or your leaders and managers get excited. And then they start asking questions about how to accomplish certain tasks or reach milestones within the campaign. Then you’re training in an advisory role and getting user adoption organically instead of through a forced one-time course that doesn’t reflect actual firm processes, and is less likely to lead to user adoption.  

Trend 2: Implement the Client Team/Client Attorney Method

The second trend that the Bunnell Group is seeing success with is the Client team method. If your firm doesn’t have Client teams, then start with the nexus of a client and Client Attorney relationship that you want to continue working with. Follow these steps:

  • Give the Client team a common playbook of how they can grow
  • Facilitate a Client Teams planning session (refer to Chapter 9: Strategic Client Planning and Chapter 10: Creating Momentum in Teams in the Bunnell Snowball System)
  • Implement agile sprints for business development, just as they do for IT

For the Client team method, keep in mind that you must keep the Client team looking through the windshield, never in the rear-view. The fastest way to destroy the Client team method is when everyone gets around the table and talks about how things used to be. For this method to be successful, you have to keep focus on what’s coming next. The agile sprints are set up to help with that. For example, if each sprint is set up for a month, then determine what’s coming the next month, and so on.

Trend 3: Provide and Participate in Customized Coaching at Scale

Instead of coaching one-on-one and having each person work independently with inconsistent levels of success within the team, the Bunnell Group is finding that customized coaching at scale leads to overall group success. Work with the managing partner, regional leader, or practice leader, and find his or her team’s number-one concern: What is the biggest worry when it comes to business development? It helps to break down process elements and look at how marketing is handled, how does he/she foster new relationships, create demand, talk about money and fees, overcome objections, retain business, and continue to grow. Showing that all of these elements are part of a holistic approach that combines marketing and business development helps BD leaders and teams see how everything works together. Then ask what they (leaders) need help with, specifically their top issue. Then you provide coaching to the entire team to overcome that top challenge and everyone gets excited about breaking down the process and getting to choose what will help them achieve more success. 

Connecting Lawyers to 2022’s Three Biggest Trends

Elena Cutri, Director of Client Education with LexisNexis, has spoken at industry conferences about how to train the most common personality type of lawyers. Attorneys, being rational and analytical by nature, often questions the validity of a situation, “but why would I/you/we/they do this?” Unless they accept the why, they will not advance to learning how or what. Interestingly, each of the three trends listed for 2022 directly relates to effectively communicating with this type of personality.

  • They need to understand why something matters. This directly correlates to using a campaign approach where you start with the objective/goal (the why) and work your way backwards. Throughout that entire process, your work is all based on the why.
  • They need to understand how to look forward. After you explain why it’s important, then you need to explain how we are going to get there/achieve the goal. This directly correlates to the Client team method where you facilitate a planning session and always look forward to what’s next.
  • They need to know what the risk is. Lawyers want to mitigate risk and avoid damaging their reputation. This correlates directly with customized coaching at scale, because you’re addressing lawyers’ biggest concerns.

Take a Proactive Approach with Lawyers

Instead of waiting for lawyers to approach you or others on the business development team, reach out to the lawyers in your firms. Have business development suggestions ready and then suggest taking a campaign approach. This opens the door to a more organic approach where you’re guiding lawyers in an advisory role, leading them to adopting new business development practices. As you’re working with lawyers, you can also help them identify holes or weaknesses in their processes by asking them how things are going or what would they need to be successful in the next year. From here, you can begin to advise them on planning and implementing an agile structure or customized coaching at scale.

Digital Marketing is Here to Stay

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, for law firms and professional services firms, digital marketing is the present and the future. Email marketing/advertising is especially powerful for B2B, more so than social media in some instances. Mo Bunnell commented that one of his contacts discovered that an email subscriber is 60 to 70 times more powerful than a social media follower. Email marketing is low cost; if you're adding value for your recipients, then you can impact people at a large scale in the thousands or even tens of thousands.

Contact your InterAction Professional Services team to guide you in planning your BD strategies in 2022.

Elena Cutri
Elena Cutri

Elena is a lifelong learner at heart and an educator by trade. To her, learning is a direct route for people to live intelligent and informed lives. As Director of Education Services for LexisNexis, she partners with clients around the world to guide their software adoption strategy. Elena has spoken at industry events on change management, end user adoption and professional development. She leads a team of professional trainers who create effective and engaging learning for today’s Modern Learner. Outside of work, Elena is an adjunct professor at a Chicago college teaching public speaking and group communication skills. She volunteers as Chair of a 3,000-parent network for a Special Education Resource Group in her community. She leads a Girl Scout troop and teaches work-readiness classes for adults with special needs. She learns the most, though, from her husband and 3 children. Elena holds her MA in Corporate Communications from Northern Illinois University and a MBA in Marketing Management from Loyola University.

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