The opportunity

“Many [BigLaw partners], perhaps half, could earn more than they do now and more easily in their own boutique law firm” according to George Beaton, Australia-based legal sector consultant, in a recent blogpost he authored. I cited Beaton’s analysis in a recent article I wrote entitled: Should you leave BigLaw for a boutique?where I cited some of the challenges one boutique managing partner explained she’d faced when she began running her own firm.

The challenge

A comment to that blogpost by Mike O’Horo, Founder of RainmakerVT, a legal sector business development consultancy, highlights what is arguably the central question any lawyer considering opening a boutique must face head-on before doing so: How do I generate new revenue?

As O’Horo wrote: “How many BigLaw partners have any idea what it’s like to be self-financed, where the reality is that, unless you sell something, there’s no cash. There’s no “somebody else” to magically bring in enough revenue to make the biweekly checks good[?] Most lawyers have spent their career avoiding business development. Suddenly, they’re ready to jump into an environment where it’s Job One? There’s a difference between building a sustainable business and building your own job.” O’Horo continued. “Few people, not just lawyers, understand what it takes to be in business for yourself. If it was easy, all the un- or underemployed in the world would be doing it.” 

Three core solutions

There are three fundamental means by which lawyers can market legal services. What most of us are familiar with is marketing via generating repeat referral business. What is also used, often by firms of various sizes – from solos to BigLaw firms – is social media – to one degree or another. And there is a third – outbound business development or “sales” as it is more often referred to in the business world – a rarity in BigLaw and even more rare in boutiques.

These three core initiatives form the backbone of what can be deployed – to varying degrees of sophistication – to generate new revenue for a boutique law firm.

What are best practices in all three of these? Well – anyone currently operating a boutique or contemplating it – can begin by focusing on what are the best examples of each form of marketing I’ve just outlined above – then making the decision about which – or all – or some – you may wish to emulate.

  1. In the case of traditional networking – which most of us are most familiar with, proper use of focused market research combined with the utilization of customer relationship management software (CRM) – will permit a boutique to organize it’s networking efforts around attracting and retaining an ideal client base with no wasted time.
  2. In the case of social media, a boutique law firm can and should maintain a blog. But in a competitive legal landscape – that blog needs to be refined and specific. One of the leading boutique social media initiatives anywhere in the world in my opinion isChina Law Blog, authored by Seattle-based boutique Harris & Moure pllc.
  3. In the case of outbound business development – Baker & McKenzie’s “sales pipeline” business development practices were awarded The Lawyer magazine’s best BD initiative in 2013. Any boutique law firm can emulate this initiative, customizing it to the unique needs of their practice.

A boutique can succeed spectacularly

I believe a boutique law firm can succeed spectacularly. But in order to do so – it must deploy the best business development effort it can. Here I’ve outlined what I believe are the best three initiatives to guide anyone currently operating or considering establishing a boutique practice. I hope they’re helpful in your decision-making about whether to open a boutique, or market the boutique you’re already operating.


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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