Lawyers fall behind on business development

By Lara Bullock|09 November 2015
Andrew Barnes, ALPMA

The results of a recent survey have shown that Australasian law firms are not maximising their business development opportunities.

The 2015 ALPMA/JMA: Winning Work in A Digital World report by the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and Julian Midwinter & Associates revealed that lawyers are failing to keep pace with business development techniques.

ALPMA president Andrew Barnes (pictured) said: “It is clear that few Australasian law firms are firing on all cylinders from a business development perspective. They have lost sight of the need to refine and improve their lawyers’ baseline skills and their firm’s performance in this area.”

He continued: “Despite all the changes that are happening, it’s still a very traditional profession where they still think that the personal relationships, personal introductions and referral networks count for something.”


Of the 153 law firms across Australia and New Zealand that responded to the survey, 47 per cent rated their firm’s business development and marketing capability as ‘under-developed’.

A total of 56 per cent said they don’t provide marketing and business development training for their lawyers, 58 per cent don’t have a systematic approach to tracking and managing prospective client data and 44 per cent don’t have a firm-wide marketing and business development plan.

“Despite openly acknowledging their weaknesses in this area, most law firms continue to resist building the overall marketing and business development capability of their lawyers and firms,” Mr Barnes said.

“Those that have challenged the old ways are starting to make waves in the profession, but there are still so many who are getting by without having to do much different, so until they're forced to change, change is slow.”

The research found that most firms still focus their energy on traditional business generation techniques.


The most effective forms of generating new business enquiries were referral networks and personal relationships for 70 per cent of Australasian law firms, followed by client relationship management strategies (34 per cent) and firm seminars (30 per cent).

“I suspect these ratings reflect a legacy view. Potential clients for generations have preferred to buy legal services from people they know or firms that are recommended to them by people they trust,” Mr Barnes said.

“As the generations of purchasers or buyers of legal services change, they don’t necessarily rely on referrals through somebody that they know, they'll take a good reference online from somebody they don’t know.”

Julian Midwinter & Associates partner Amy Burton-Bradley said firms need to work on their digital presence to generate more new business.

“Law firms wanting to generate leads online and reassure potential clients who are shopping around that they are a great choice, should focus on improving their website content and amplifying that content through social media,” Ms Burton-Bradley said.

“By having a content-rich website, with regularly updated material, you can stay top of legal consumers’ minds in what is a long and complex sales cycle.”

Ms Burton-Bradley said because so few Australasian firms are doing well online, those that do can use it as a way to differentiate themselves from the rest of the competition.

Lawyers fall behind on business development
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