Traditionally a barristers’ business development has been squarely focused on winning new cases. Obviously, the type of work is pretty much set by your and/or the specialisms of your chambers. However, intricacies like where the work is coming from and, more crucially, the quality of the work is sometimes side-lined in the quest for volume.
Another factor to consider is whether the work being won is actually the type of work you genuinely want to do.
While of course there are short term revenue and earning pressures to assuage, one of the greatest benefits of being self-employed is surely the ability to do the work you want to do with the people you want to work with?
I’m not going to hide away from the fact that the ongoing pandemic has hit the bar hard. The reasons are myriad and while there is no need to go through them again, there is a prevailing opinion that with less work around and less money available to fund that work, barristers should be prepared to take whatever is on offer until things improve.
There is of course not only a truth but a necessity in this. The good news is that as a business development agency who work with both law firms and barristers’ chambers, we are starting to see a positive shift in the legal market. There is good work out there and people are willing to pay for it.
As a result, a lot of the work we are currently doing with both solicitors and barristers is focused on looking at what is required to put yourself in the best possible position to win that good work, to win more of the work you want to do and to get as close as you can to the types of firms you would like to work with on an ongoing basis.
We’d like to share the 6-step model we’ve developed over the last 18 months that will help you achieve these objectives.
The start point: What are your overarching BD objectives?
When it comes to winning better work, there are 3 overarching objectives you need to set yourself. These will dictate your tactics and give you the framework you’ll need to knit your personal business development plan together so your BD produces the results you need it to in return for the time, effort and budget you invest in its implementation.
However, these are not meant to be restrictive guidelines. In fact, it’s the opposite. Working towards these objectives will make the whole process easier and more effective:
- Use a mix of all the available channels, face-to-face, virtual, and social media
- Match your BD activities to your personality, to your interests and to what you are most comfortable doing
- Commit to the specific BD initiatives you set out, don’t drop in and out and don’t get distracted by unrelated opportunities that pop up along the way
The 6-step process that will help you win more and better cases
If you are ready to follow these 3 objectives, it is time to start refresh your personal business development plan and these are the 6 steps we have found create a more focused, more structured approach for barristers at any stage of their career:
- Define your ‘product’
It is impossible to sell anything effectively if you are not 100% sure what it is you are selling. You need to be able to clearly articulate who you are, what you offer and, most crucially, why what you offer a) will benefit the solicitors/lay clients you are speaking to and b) is better than what other barristers offer.
We’d suggest this stage splits into two parts:
– Creating your own compelling client value proposition (or as some refer to it, your personal brand). How does what you do and the way you do it deliver additional value for your clients?
– Highlighting the niches (or two) you really want to pursue and packaging your experience so it maps to your value proposition and will have real impact on the types of solicitors/lay clients you want to work with.
- Who do you want to talk to?
Successful BD isn’t about the gift of the gab, it’s about relationships. Before you do any actual BD, work out:
- Who you know
- Who you want to know
- Who you have worked with in the past and want to work with again
Once you have this shortlist you can start to work on the tactical side of your plan. For example:
Can you reconnect with the people you worked with in the past over coffee or lunch?
Can you do more with you’re the solicitors who instruct you most frequently on either a social (1on1) basis or on an educational (team) basis?
Who can you ask to introduce you to the people you want to meet?
Or are their events you can attend or speak at that will allow you to meet these contacts organically?
- Position yourself as the ‘go to’ barrister
‘Thought leadership’ may be one of those dreadful Americanisms that crop up all too often in marketing conversations, but it does work. Given your value proposition, your CV, and the areas you would most like to win work in, how can you position yourself as a ‘go to’ barrister so you win more work and more of the work you really want?
You may want to pursue editorial opportunities in the national or legal press. You may want to win speaking slots at the events (whether these are virtual or physical) your target audience attend. You may want to self-publish your own blogs, articles and/or white papers. You may need to do a bit of all of these.
- How will you use social media?
While social media will never be all you need to increase your audiences and win new work, it is a highly effective (and free) way to maintain your profile, share your thoughts and stay visible to the people you already know.
As with all business development, the tools you use will depend on the objectives you have set but as a general rule of thumb we would suggest LinkedIn should probably be your primary tool and Twitter your second.
- How will you manage your follow up?
Whichever BD tactics you choose to pursue, you will soon find out they will only produce new work if you follow up with the people you meet.
As a busy lawyer, this is often the hardest piece of the puzzle. You will need a system that fits in with your caseload and with the time you have available. This system will need to provide reminders as to what you need to do next (and when) and you’ll need to be able to find a reason for getting back in touch when these reminders pop up.
And follow up is just as important for your contacts (perhaps those who have invited you to speak at events or host webinars or those who have asked you to write for their publications or blog) as it is for your clients and prospects. These contacts also need to be added to your system.
6 . How will you improve your presentation skills?
I know I’ve said that BD activities should always be matched to personal skills and preferences but for barristers, the willingness to present (and ability to present well) to an audience of potential clients is a hugely effective BD tool.
It allows you to underline your technical abilities whilst showing a little of your personality and the way you work. It also allows you to do this in front of a good number of people at once which is always going to be more time- and cost-effective, particularly with the number of virtual events being run at the moment.
However, to maximise the results from presenting requires you to know how to present with impact and influence, how to structure your talks, how to insert automatic follow up opportunities at the end of your talks and how to squeeze even more opportunities to speak to even more audiences once you’ve prepared your materials.
Douglas McPherson, Director, Size 10½ Boots