business development
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This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee and Suman Chatterjee Team LawSikho.

This is the second part of our advice on how to go about business development during COVID-19.

The first part is here.

In the previous part, we told you how there are sweet opportunities hidden amidst chaos and how you need to spot those opportunities ahead of time to benefit from them. 

We also told you that you should focus more on building rapport with your clients and establishing authority and trust in the market at this point. 

But there are a few things left unsaid still.

Like, how your approach must differ when approaching B2C and B2B clients.

Should every legal practitioner, irrespective of their constitution, size or audience follow the similar business development strategy? Or is some customization in order?

How would your approach change based on whether you are trying to land short term assignments versus trying to build a long term relationship?

In this current and last part, I would discuss some subtle points which might make or break your business development strategy if not taken care of.

So, without further ado, let’s get on with it.

Do litigation lawyers do business development?

I will tell you the biggest problem of lawyers—it’s approaching a potential client to get work. How to do it right? Once you figure this out, life appears much better.

Many litigation lawyers do not approach anyone. 

Instead, they expect clients to reach out to them. 

So, if I tell you that litigation lawyers are feeling like fish out of water at present, it would not be so wrong.

However, you would notice that law firms that do a lot of litigation work have very well defined business development practices. So does all the smart litigators of the new generation have developed sophisticated business development methodologies. 

Surely there are some senior litigators who have so much work and so much brand name and face value already, that they need no business development. But those lawyers are exceptional. Please do not expect to get there by avoiding business development.

In fact, if you are good at business development, you will get to argue more matters. And you will build that brand faster.

Young litigators need smart business development strategies more than anyone else.

Is business development equivalent to solicitation?

Business development does not have to amount to solicitation. Solicitation is asking people to give you legal work. That is illegal and also a terrible business development strategy.

Instead, you must follow ethical business development strategies.

Such as writing amazing articles that educate people and give them solutions to their problems.

Appearing on TV shows or give quotes to journalists that help them to explain a complex legal matter in a lucid and catchy way.

Even doing free seminars for law students or other lawyers can amount to smart business development. Organizing conferences or sponsoring them as well.  

Doesn’t BCI organize conferences and ask law firms to sponsor them? Don’t they put up logos of sponsoring organizations in its banner? Doesn’t it invite lawyers to speak from it’s stage? Even all of those things constitute some form of business development.

Many lawyers even attempt to get the position of an office holder in any bar association, because it would help them to get more clients!

So let’s cut the crap about business development being solicitation. If you can’t figure out how to do business development without breaking the law, then that is a problem you have. It means you need to become a better lawyer – otherwise how will you give business advice to your clients?

How to go about business development if you need to land immediate mandates?

For lawyers, landing new clients is often about meeting potential clients face to face and offering them some free consultation. Many of these potential clients come through some references. You talk about the matter, ask them some questions, suggest some potential ways to move forward. Then you send a quote. 

But now you can’t meet them! You can’t call them to your office. Maybe you can get on a call and discuss at best. Or invite them to a video conference call.

For many lawyers, this is proving to be a poor substitute for personal meetings.  

Also, with fewer referrals, they also need to start thinking about how to generate more leads. 

You see, approaching new clients is extremely easy if you accept the fact that you are living in the technology age. 

Let’s run you through some quick strategies.

Conduct webinars in collaboration with trade bodies or other organizations

Want to work with automobile dealers with some kind of legal work you think will be very relevant for them? That means you have identified a major area of problem for automobile dealers. And you have a solution on mind. 

Now if you can just reach out to those dealers, you could have lots of enquiries from potential clients.

There would be some associations or trade bodies of such dealers at the state or city or national level. 

Write a detailed mail to them about this problem and how to solve it. Then tell them you want to offer a free webinar to all the members of the association free of cost. 

There is a high chance they will agree.

If one organization does not agree to hold such a free webinar, approach a few more. Someone will agree.

I assume to get one yes I will have to hear no from 9 people. That’s good enough odds for me. In reality, you probably have much better odds. 1 in 2 or 3 will say yes.

Do not be afraid to give away insights for free. It’s not like they can steal it and do something with it. Eventually when they need a lawyer to get real work done, they have to go to a lawyer. And if they benefited from your insights, highly likely they will come to you, now or later.

If the problem is big and hairy, and very urgent, then probably they will come to you right now.

Use whatsapp and telegram groups

Alright, what if those organizations do not want you to do a webinar? What if you are dealing with individuals and not businesses? 

Another great way to build a rapport with lots of potential clients is to create a free group on whatsapp or telegram or Facebook, and then add people who will find that group relevant and useful.

One of our master access students, for example, runs many whatsapp groups where victims of false domestic violence cases support each other and gives advice to each other. The lawyer also helps them out with free advice and moral support.

Many of the group members prefer to hire him for legal representation. Guess why?

You could similarly be part of groups of venture investors or startup founders too. Or even better, you could create them and make sure the user’s get value so that they stay on.

Set up helplines

What if you ran a helpline? It could be a paid one. Or free.

I ran free and paid helplines, and they are amazing to generate leads. 

What if you set up a helpline for victims of domestic violence or data theft or corporate fraud?

What if you set up a hotline to help corporate whistleblowers or victims of sexual harassment?

Post client relevant content in LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter

If you are looking for B2B clients, LinkedIn is a great platform. While it is advisable that in the long term you should build your own law blog and publish guest posts where your clients, it is far easier to get attention in LinkedIn super fast.

While we have already written a separate email on how to properly utilize LinkedIn for marketing purposes, the trick to make it work is to offer value in the form of content. 

But do understand that the primary intent of every LinkedIn user is to find something relevant and useful for his or her career or business. 

Your little piece of content should reflect and cater to that. The more useful your posts are, the more attention they would gain from your target audience. 

Once you start doing it properly, you will see how your LinkedIn profile is getting filled with messages and networking requests. 

Where to look for individuals who may be prospective clients?

If you are looking for B2C clients, the best place to look for is Facebook.

Even on Facebook, it’s the same as on LinkedIn. It’s a social network and not an advertisement platform. So, focus on giving maximum value to your audience, while educating or entertaining them through your content. 

There are groups in Facebook regarding everything. From groups that fight against wrongful termination to RTI warriors, you will find everyone. Join them. Learn what problems people are facing. Offer content that provide solutions. You will soon be approached for help and legal assistance.

One more thing … it’s not just your target audience who will be on that platform. It might be their brother, sister, daughter or friend as well. 

So, let’s say, I know my friend is looking for a divorce lawyer. And suddenly, as I was checking out the feeds, your message pops up saying, “Going through a nasty divorce? Here’s what you need to know.” 

I would most certainly share that with my friend. My friend would, in turn, dig out your contact information from under the article, and call you up for further advice.

You get the idea, right? Good.

Anyway, please note that I am going to write a detailed email on how to promote your legal practice on Facebook very soon. Stay tuned for that.

Twitter is another amazing platform for business development for lawyers, more about that another day.

How to maintain and strengthen relationships with your existing clients at this time?

As I already said above, retaining the loyalty of your existing clientele is probably the most important of whatever else you do for marketing and business development. 

It provides you with much-needed safety and security that you aspire for during such critical times. 

But how?

Now, to be honest, a simple courtesy call and a few minutes of advice can be enough to maintain relationship with your existing clients. 

If you want to go an extra mile, send them regular updates about legal changes that will be useful to them, and share good strategies that can help them to solve some immediate issues.

For instance: does your business qualify as an essential service?

How can you renegotiate your rent agreement with your landlord?

Everyone is sort of jarred and scared right now. Whether we are talking of the newly married couple or the startup owner you are preparing AoA and memorandum for, everyone needs a shoulder to lean on.

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So, instead of thinking of this as a quick money making strategy, be there for them in their hard time. 

An email or a call, whatever suits you. All that matters is to present the “human” side of the business to your existing clients. 

Let them know that you are not in it for money only. Show them that you care. 

Your client is not just an ATM machine for you.

In my experience, the best business relationships are formed when they transverse beyond business.

And do not forget to set up an exploratory zoom meeting about where they need legal help, even if they are going to have to pay you later.

What online marketing tactics are working best for lawyers right now?

If I were to select only three online marketing tactics for you, it would be as follows:

Make sure people find good stuff when you are googled

Your clients will google you before hiring. What would they see?

Will they see a great google business listing with 30-40 amazing reviews from past clients?

Will they see your articles published in top journals and respectable industry publications?

Will they see videos made by you that provide amazing insights about the problems they have? 

Will they see a professional website that provides your credentials and track record in one place, and explain what values you bring to the table?

Will they see a detailed and active linkedin profile with many recommendations and a well followed twitter profile which shows that your ideas are appreciated by the legal fraternity?

If not so, you could change all that in the next 15 days. That investment will be worth the time and will bring you returns over next 10 years at least. 

Create a website that reflects what you do and what your USP is

For other professionals, especially those in the sales and marketing niche, creating a web page would not be my first recommendation. 

BUT … for lawyers, the biggest drawback is that a majority of them do not believe in online marketing much. Therefore a good law firm/chamber website will immediately set you apart from many others.

Many law firms and lawyers own a web page, but that looks like it was created way back before independence. Please go through the websites of some top law firms, and make sure that your website matches those standards. 

While you cannot have the same address as that of a big law firm at your budget, you can certainly have a very professional looking website at a very reasonable cost. Make sure that you invest in a good design. 

Please don’t turn your website into to a zone for boasting about your practice alone. Focus more on what kind of information your clients will be looking for with respect to your practice.  Make it easy for them to discover important facts, credentials and qualities that they may be looking for.

Avoid trying to to be everything for everyone, and focus on your ideal clients. 

Make sure that you are encouraging the visitors to interact with your website and make them sign up for future updates, newsletters, free consulting calls etc.

If a high school student, after going through your website for 5 minutes, cannot tell me what the biggest USPs of your practice are, then your website is not effective.

Run regular webinars

We are doing it too. We are running 3 or 4 different hour-long webinars daily on average and that also for free. 

Do you think we are doing it without any tangible gain out of it? 

Our readers and followers are enjoying and engaging with the webinars, and they keep asking more of these webinars on their favourite topics. 

What’s more? In a webinar, since you are interacting with your audience via a video conferencing platform, webinars establish your authority and trust on the particular subject and build business rapport like nothing else. 

Many of those who attend our webinars have been learning more about LawSikho and then buying courses.

Imagine you could do the same for your potential clients. 

Once they know how smart you are and how you an help them, they will want to hire you.

Doing daily webinars may be too much for you, but why not organise at least one every week?

Also explore if you could get yourself on webinars being organised by other organisations or even podcasts or appear in YouTube channels that have relevant audience.

Consistency matters. 

Would the strategy be different for big law firms, smaller law firms, and independent individual lawyers?

This is a no-brainer question.

The answer to this question is both a yes and a no.

To start with, every legal business, whether it is an individual lawyer or a law firm, follows the same model: establish contact with a potential client, give them some value so that they can trust us and ascertain that we are a serious law practice, and then stay on the top of their mind by repeatedly reaching out but doing so in an acceptable way that doesn’t bug them.

So, in essence, the strategy would more or less be the same for law firms, big and small, or solo practitioners.

Then, where does the ‘no’ part come in?

The difference in business development strategy hinges on two factors: one, who you are, and the other, the audience you are targeting.

For one, a firm would probably consist of multiple partners working in different practice areas with a far larger market presence than that of an individual practitioner. 

A firm would ooze that corporate vibe, sponsoring events and boasting of reputed clientele, and simply being on the news more. 

A larger law firm simply has a lot more resources.

An individual lawyer, on the other hand, would have to play the game a little differently. He would have to leverage his immense knowledge and experience and present himself more like a reliable legal friend who cares about our problems, or a thought leader who speaks little but whenever he does, he spouts out nuggets of gold! Ideally both.

But that’s not all. 

It also depends on who the target audience is. Are you trying to woo a corporate client or are you focused on men in distress with divorce cases or false rape cases hanging over their head like a guillotine?

The strategy to promote to B2B clients would be starkly different from the one used to promote to B2C customers. While one strategy involves a lot of relationship building and multiple interactions and followups to secure the deal, another would be more about getting potential clients to reach out to you at the right time (inbound leads), and being the “friend, philosopher and guide” to them. 

If you ask me, I would say that it all comes down to providing value to your target audience. Now your strategy would change according to how your target audience defines the word ‘value’ for them.

Whether it is saving money on running multiple cases against multiple respondents or absolving one of murder charge… the meaning of value can vary according to your potential clients and the circumstances they are in.

Hope you get the point.

Should there be a different strategy for short-term and long-term objectives, given that the situation could rapidly change over time?

Of course, it should be.

And particularly in the face of the current coronavirus crisis.

Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room first. 

Is the COVID thing a short-term one? Yes, no doubt about that. 

How short term?

Organisations like BCG and McKinsey are predicting anything between 6 months to 2 years.

Short term probably doesn’t mean next 2-3 months. Our governments still have no clue as to how they are going to handle this virus. 

I strongly believe that the world is not going to end like this. This panic that we are going through will be over, sooner or later. We will survive and the world will go to being the same again.

And you should think of a long-term strategy for the post-COVID world, let’s say, for the next 3-5 years or more. But that comes later after you have taken care of the short-term objectives first. 

For the next few months or perhaps even a year, you should formulate a diverse strategy that suits the needs of the times

It should be adapted to the biggest marketing limitation that you are facing right now. That you are under lockdown. 

And that many clients are suddenly out of money.

The strategy that you adopt now have to be flexible and sneaky enough to cut through the chaos and terror, and build a genuine connection with your potential clients in the right sectors where opportunities are going to increase.

Once the lockdown is over and people are heaving a sigh of relief and looking forward to making a fresh start, you would have to develop a whole new business development strategy altogether.

At that time, you could regress to doing the same things that you always did before the COVID-19 crisis happened. Or, you might go on to adopt a much more advanced business development strategy than ever before.

In fact, it would be more beneficial to compound your present-day marketing tactics to tie up into an all-round, more effective business development strategy over time. 

For instance, if you cannot go out of your house now, work on your brand using the online marketing tactics listed above. When the lockdown is finally over, you can complement these offline promotional tactics building upon the leverage you already achieved during the lockdown. And maybe then, you will organise physical events or go and deliver talks in industry events and it will help a great deal that you have built such a great online presence.

Every move you make should inevitably take you step-by-step towards your ultimate goal. Nothing is random in marketing. Every tactic should be a part of an ultimate, overall strategy maturing in the next 3-5 years.  

Should you be dropping prices or change the payment model during a crisis or recession?

I wanted to address this question specifically. 

Work seems to have almost dried up.

No new clients on the horizon.

What next?

I understand what you are feeling right now, inside your heart. 

“I don’t have any option left. I have to take a drastic step or else…”

Tell you what, this thought crossed our mind too. And without doubt, the mind of every business owner or self-employed professionals as soon as the shutdown started and darkness set in.

But did we lower our prices, dole out discount coupons or changed our payment model all of a sudden? No, we did not. 

We did not go against the core philosophy on which LawSikho is built upon. We sell based on value and not discounts.

We realized that we exist to provide value and achieve results for our students above everything else. 

Yes, we could have lowered our prices during the lockdown. But by doing so, we would not be able to provide such stellar service as we always do and as is expected for every student who enrols with us, whether it is in a 1-year Diploma course or 3-month Certificate course. 

So we stuck to our prices, and focused on increasing the value we provide. We launched courses that are more relevant. We increased our marketing and sales efforts.

And we are doing better than ever, although we are having to work 3 times harder for it.

We can’t wait for the economy to improve, because when that happens, our growth rate will shoot up as the environmental constraints are removed.

Ask yourself what you really believe in. To snatch a sale somehow or to serve your potential customers the way they deserve to be served?

That would set you apart from the cheap competition.

You should always determine your direction based on what you choose to achieve. 

As a lawyer, should you run a value-based or a sales-focused business? are you targeting volume or are you positioning yourself as a premium service?

Then ask yourself if you would be able to achieve the same by working on the price factor, directly or indirectly.

You would instantly know the answer to the above question.

However, it would not be right to miss out on one vital fact here. That is, you should always know your position in the market. To explain this, I would quote this excerpt from an HBR article:

“Know your place in the market and exactly what drives your profits. In order to navigate the trade-offs between price and volume, well-prepared companies factor in their standing as a market leader or follower. Market share leaders have an outsized influence on how the market weathers the storm, with their pricing moves prompting many followers to behave similarly. Leaders have some responsibility to maintain order and ward off indiscriminate discounting. Followers, meanwhile, should take a measured approach, accounting not only for their own strengths but also for the market leader’s behaviour. A follower may be tempted to take share by aggressively undercutting the market but doing so would risk losing a price war to the leader, thereby damaging everyone’s future earnings when the economy recovers.”

If you are a market leader, you might take the risk of cutting down prices. If you are a follower, it’s not a risk worth taking.

Instead, just true to the path you took. I am sure, your clients love you for that. That is why they chose to work with you over others.

It may be a good idea to explore whether you can offer some favourable payment terms or payment plans such as deferred payments for some of your clients who really need it. 

Do you accept credit cards for payment? It may be a great idea to set that up now. Do you accept online payments? Why not? Right now, simply by providing more convenience to your clients, you can become a preferred lawyer in many cases.

How lawyers should plan their career ahead in light of COVID-19

If there is one takeaway from this whole jumbo-sized email, it would be that there are always opportunities hidden in every crisis, howsoever large and alarming it might be. 

To utilize these opportunities to their fullest potential, one needs to keep working on their business development strategy, day in and day out. The day you stop, that’s the day your business stops too.

In the following video session, Nitin Potdar, M&A Partner of J Sagar Associates, discusses how lawyers should plan their career ahead in light of COVID-19 crisis. Notice how confident he is about how this crisis will bring forth a new wave of career possibilities for lawyers.

Spanning over one hour and fifteen minutes, this video is a must-watch before you start preparing and implementing your business development strategy.

That marks the end of it.

What do you think?

As always, only reading my emails won’t work. Sorry!

You have to come out and say what you think. About everything I write.

In regards to this present article…

Do you already have a business development strategy in place?

What are the main marketing tactics that you prefer or, in your opinion, works best for you?

If not, what are you going to do to build your business development strategy from scratch?

Or just tell me anything that comes to your mind.

I am all ears.

Waiting for your comment.

P. S. LawSikho is running hour-long webinars every day. Want to learn how to improve your learning skills? Prepare an LLM application to a foreign university? Career opportunities in new, upcoming areas of law? Don’t miss these high-quality webinars with industry and academic experts. 

Comment below stating “I want to watch webinars!” and we will personally send you the link to the webinar group on WhatsApp. From then onwards, you will receive instant webinar notifications on your mobile phone only.

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