UK’s Lawyer magazine held its inaugural Lawyer Management Awards in London on September 24th.  “The Lawyer’s editorial team, led by features editor Matt Byrne and an external panel of judges”, selected award recipients in law firm management categories ranging from marketing and technology to finance and HR.

And as the Lawyer reported: “In the Best Business Development Team category the judges were impressed by the quality displayed by the likes of Baker & McKenzie, where Julia Hayhoe’s team’s adoption of a “sales pipeline” approach has helped boost revenue in the London office.”  Indeed, Hayhoe was named The Law Firm Management Individual of the Year at the awards ceremony.

As the Lawyer underscored when it described business development and it’s role in the event and in the legal sector at large: “If ever there was an area of business support that has come into its own in recent years it is business development (BD). As firms seek to differentiate themselves in a crowded market and clients demand more for less, an innovative BD team can make all the difference.”

Law firms “sales pipelines” at the forefront

I’ve written extensively before about the need for law firms to adopt sophisticated sales divisions.  And as the Lawyer awards now demonstrate – a law firm business development department with a “sales pipeline” is the best of the best when it comes to law firm business development.  And as one of the world’s largest law firms has adopted this particular form of legal business development – other firms are sure to emulate it.

What is a law firm “sales pipeline”?

As I’ve outlined before, sales of legal services is a totally unique discipline, requiring the merger of highly sophisticated professional services sales skills with a substantive knowledge of how legal services can be uniquely packaged and articulated to sophisticated audiences.  The core components of what law firms sales specialists need to create a “sales pipeline” (ie new potential clients identified, pursued and captured) is:

  • How to comprehensively understand the domestic and global commercial context in which your law practice operates.
  • How to identify saleable services from within often complex legal practice areas.
  • How to carefully match and integrate closely — your legal services – with the commercial needs of prospective clients.
  • How to identify where your law firm will secure new revenue from advancing the commercial objectives of clients.
  • How to perform sophisticated market research sufficient to generate a substantial pipeline of new clients in both domestic and international markets.
  • How to most effectively initiate, manage and drive forward the entire business development process from the identification of ideal potential new clients to securing new client engagements.
  • How to create legal transactions around those ideal commercial opportunities you’ve already identified while working in concert with subject matter practitioners and prospective clients.
  • How to write semi-scholarly content on topics of highly specific relevance to ideal potential clients, for strategic dissemination on and off digital platforms.
  • The ability to successfully identify and persuasively communicate vital messages to audiences ranging from CEO’s of global corporations to the heads of foreign sovereign governments.

When I first published this outline, Steve Bell, Chief Client Development Office for AmLaw 100 law firm Womble Carlyle responded to it by writing in The New Legal Normal Blog: “John Grimley has hit the nail on the head.  I love the skills list.  He speaks the truth, so much so that this blog post is just a reposting of what HE said.  Everything about his blog post is 100% on target.”

How you can establish a “sales pipeline” business development department

The Lawyer magazine recognition of the Baker & McKenzie business development division headed by Julia Hayhoe demonstrates what law firms can aspire to when seeking answers as to how to generate new revenue.  My outline of what skills a head of such a department should possess should provide any law firm leadership team with a guidepost for whose services to retain when seeking to establish a state-of-the-art business development department to rival Baker & McKenzie’s London team.

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal. An independent writer & editor, he's the author of: A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets (Ark Group 2014).

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