Wherever you turn today when reading about trends in the legal profession – you can’t avoid reading about challenges to law firm revenue and new legal services business models taking market share from traditional law firms.  A recent blogpost by Australia’s George Beaton attracted some of the most well-known personalities in the legal business world to a debate about BigLaw versus NewLaw.  These are debates about real things like which law firms will be the new winners in a future legal profession.  All managing partners and individual legal practitioners ought to be paying attention to these debates as they have a direct and profound impact on you and your law firms future ability to stay in business profitably.

And arguably the prime reason why law firms are failing to generate the revenue they hope for – is a lack of adequate knowledge about everything required to achieve it.  Imprecise “networking” or undisciplined use of social media – are all well-intentioned yet more often than not – unproductive attempts at generating new business.

As US law firm CMO Eric Fletcher has outlined, effective legal marketing “require[s] direction and discipline.”

What really works?

The bottom line is:  Law is a business.  And lawyers in business – ought to treat the identification, pursuit and capture of new business – as if their livelihood depended on it – because it does.  That means serious study and learning about what works.  And a well informed business development and marketing effort begins with – market research.

What is market research and why is it important?

Business-focused legal clients are much less interested in the quality of the legal work they hope to secure (they demand it and will always do so).  No, what clients want is the value add.  And what’s the value add?  It’s the business-focused lawyer or law firm that perfects the ability to analyze the marketplace, identify commercial opportunities for clients and prospective clients – and takes those opportunities to clients with an aim to beginning a discussion around how you the lawyer might help the client achieve their commercial objectives.

If there was a single thing I’d say lawyers and law firms need to pay much, much more attention to (if they’re doing it at all) – it’s market research.  Because market research is the tip of the spear when it comes to how best to identify, pursue and secure new clients.  Without well-informed, timely, effective, thorough and properly utilized market research – any legal marketing and business development effort will not succeed as well as it might.

Jettison the general and strive for informed specificity

What good market research is for law firms and individual lawyers can be summed up by saying it’s the identification of instant, actionable commercial or other objectives that will be of interest to clients or potential clients.  It takes time, patience, dedication, a willingness to be flexible and learn, hard but smart work – and most importantly, the commitment to undertake the task.

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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