Most law firm marketing and business development professionals believe law firm growth prospects are more promising this year than last, although competition is the top barrier to growth, according to a new survey. The study was published by LexisNexis provides peer perspective on the state of legal marketing – and more importantly benchmarks for improving overall business development strategy. Key statistics and trends on how law firms are tackling evolving challenges stemming from the survey include: More than half of those surveyed (57%) are sanguine about law firm growth this year, while about one-third expect growth to remain flat. Just 5% expressed pessimism; Competition was the single largest challenge to law firm growth according to 52% of respondents; Upwards of 90% believe there is a fairly clear distinction between “law firm marketing” and “law firm business development.”
Law Firms in Business Development Transition
A survey of 400+ US legal marketers and business development
professionals on the challenges and opportunities
Legal marketing is sanguine about growth. Most law firm marketing and business development professionals
believe law firm growth prospects are more promising this year than last (57%). About one-third said growth would be
flat and just 5% reported the outlook is worse.
Law firm competition is fierce. Competition was the single largest challenge to law firm growth according to 52% of
respondents. The next highest challenge cited was obtaining attorney participation (39%) and rounding out the top five
included 3) pricing, 4) no long-term strategy and 5) no accountability. Open-ended comments such as “Many people
courting same potential client with no respective plan in place” illustrated the data.
Law firm marketing strategies are in transition. 85% agreed or strongly agreed that the strategy and activities
required to win new law firm business have shifted in the last several years. Upwards of 90% believe there is a fairly
clear distinction between “law firm marketing” and “law firm business development.” When asked how these are
different, more than 320 participants offered open-ended comments. One respondent quipped, “One spends money,
the other makes it.”
Law firm marketing and BD structures vary greatly. Precisely how law firms have structured marketing and
business development to meet evolving requirements varies greatly – almost into even fourths. For example, about
one-quarter of respondents said their law firm did not have a business development department, while 29% indicated
marketing reports to business development. Just about one-fourth of law firms say they have a chief business
development officer (CBDO) and of those, 81% said the CMO fills both roles.
Law firms eye thought leadership? The top five activities in which law firms are investing to drive growth are 1)
thought leadership (63%); 2) analytics (58%); 3) blogging and content marketing (57%); 4) social media marketing
(55%); and technology such as CRM (51%). As a percentage of revenue, 13% said their firm invests between 1-2% on
marketing or business development, while 32% said 2-5%.
ROI the perennial challenge. Calculating the ROI on the activities in which a law firm invests for growth, continues to
be a challenge. The largest group of respondents (43%) indicated they do not have quantifiable data. About one-third
said they did (33%) with another 23% stating they were unsure. The #1 activity tracked among law firms is the win/loss
Sanguine about Growth
Most law firm marketing and business development
professionals are upbeat about growth. A majority, 57%,
say law firm growth this year is more promising than last
year. One-third of respondents thought growth would be
flat, while 5% suggest 2015 will be dismal. (N = 463)
Law Firm Competition is Fierce
In terms of winning new business, the a majority cited
competition as the single largest challenge. The top five are
depicted in the chart on the left below. The entire list is
shown on the right and demonstrates law firms face a litany
of obstacles of near-equal challenge. (N = 434).
Open-ended comments add color to the numbers:
• Thin bench strength of attorneys in certain practices;
• Lack of follow-up on proposals from attorneys;
• Potential clients usually go with current counsel;
• Many people courting same potential client with no
respective plan in place;
• Corporate counsel keeping more cases in-house;
• Too much focus on what the law firm can do instead of
what the client really needs;
• Compensation structures which discourage cross-practice
• Too many lawyers, not enough work. Competition is
Law Firm Marketing Strategies in Transition
There is a tremendous amount of discussion in the industry,
and while there are indications of improvement, the legal
market will never return to pre-2008 levels. How customers
buy legal services has change, and legal marketers seem to
agree that also requires a shift in how such services are
positioned, marketed and sold. (N = 430)
Law Firm Marketing Does Not Equal Business Development
And overwhelming majority – more than 90% – believe
marketing and business development are different functions
requiring different skillsets. Marketing and business
development professionals are extremely passionate about
the topic. Those that answered “yes” were asked a follow
up question and logged more than 320 answers to an open-
ended question about how these are different. A
representative sample is listed on the next page. (N = 430)
15 Ways Marketing and Business Development are Different
The following is a representative sample of answers survey-
takers provided describing how law firm marketing is different
than business development. The wide range of views are
reflective of variance in roles and responsibilities across law
firms. (N: 323)
1. Marketing establishes the brand by making an impression.
Business development builds on the brand by confirming
the reputation and turning connections into a relationship
2. Marketing is the brand, the message, and the umbrella
over business development. Business development is
growing a network of people who will refer clients.
3. The marketing function develops the tools and technology
needed to support the BD efforts.
4. Marketing is more of an art form, whereas BD is about
5. Marketing is about the product, placement, price,
promotion and profit. It's numbers based and easy to
analyze, it does not account for the touchy-feely aspect in
business development. Biz dev is about creating and
maintaining client relationships and is very individualized
and doesn't have a number tied to each activity, it's longer
6. Lawyers are not good a selling or marketing themselves,
you need professionals for that. They need to focus on
7. One spends money, the other makes it.
8. Marketing is making the strategic decision about where
opportunities lie. Business Development is the process of
trying to maximize those opportunities.
9. Marketing requires someone to go to specified public
groups and make a pitch to people you do not know.
Business development usually requires going to people
you are familiar with (and may already represent) and
convince them to send more business. Both skill sets are
completely different from what it takes to practice law.
10.Business development requires more precise analysis,
and long-term and sophisticated attention.
11.I view "marketing" as mostly synonymous with visibility.
Marketing is the earliest stage of the business
development process and mostly involves making clients
aware of who you are, what you do, etc. When I think of
business development, I view that as being further along
in the process. It relates more to a smaller, select group of
clients or prospects and the focus is on relationship-
building and follow-up. It is less about visibility and name
recognition and more about developing genuine
connections and trusted relationships.
12.Marketing is brand image. BD is relationships.
13.Marketing is focused on collateral, PR and advertising.
Business Development is focused on developing and
maintaining relationships that lead to new clients and work
for the firm.
14.Marketing supports business development efforts.
15.BD has generally been responding to RFPs, preparing
pitches, and partaking in some training. Marketing is
generally everything else - content, PR, web, etc.
Law Firm Marketing and BD Structures Vary Greatly
The relationship between marketing and business
development falls in a near equal distribution of fourths
across the industry. Among the themes that stand out, albeit
by slight margins, marketing is more likely to either report to
business development, or is maintained as a separate
function. (N = 412)
Chief Marketing Officer or Chief Business Development Officer?
Most law firms do not employ a chief business development
officer (CBDO) – just about a quarter of respondents said
their firm did (right). Given the overall sense that strategies
are in a period of transition, respondents were provided
separate follow up questions:
• Answered “yes.” These respondents were asked to
describe how the CBDO roll was filled: 81% said the chief
marketing officer (CMO) filled both roles; 9% said the
CBDO and CMO were unique and separate roles; 10%
indicated these were separate roles working in close
• Answered “no” or “unsure.” These respondents were
asked: Do you believe your firm should create a separate
role for a CBDO? The margins shrank noticeably (left).
N = 412 N = 310
Law Firms Eye Thought Leadership
The investments identified by legal marketers and business
development personnel center on technology and new media
marketing. The top 10 areas law firms that said they plan to
“increase” or “increase significantly” are:
1. Thought leadership (63%)
2. Analytics (58%)
3. Blogging and content marketing (57%)
4. Social media Marketing (55%)
5. Technology (i.e. CRM) (51%)
6. Client events (48%)
7. Lead development (44%)
8. Business development calls (41%)
9. Public relations (40%)
10. Digital Marketing (35%)
Return on Investment (ROI): the Perennial Challenge
Calculating the ROI on the activities in which a law firm
invests for growth, continues to be a challenge. Most
respondents (43%) indicated they do not have quantifiable
data. About one-third said they did (33%) with another 23%
stating they were unsure.
By way of analysis, if a firm is unsure as to whether or not it
has strong data on ROI, it probably does not.
A follow up question drilled down into what metrics are
tracked. This may provide context to the sentiment
expressed by respondents previously that many firms do not
have a unified marketing and business development plan.
Win/loss was the most common metric tracked and was
followed by practice and individual goals.
N = 385 N = 214
23 Changes Legal Marketers Would Make to Drive Growth
The final question of the survey was open-ended: The single
most valuable thing my firm could do for marketing or
business development would be __________.
A representative sample follows below. (N: 163)
1. Invest more in helping lawyers to understand and focus on
2. Have a greater buy-in and an increase in data for analysis.
3. Revitalize CRM.
4. Hire more sales people who are attorneys, but focused
solely on business development.
5. More client-focused activities.
6. Get attorneys to work together so that client sees a united
front and attorneys that get their issues across the board.
7. The firm should expand it's reach into new practice areas
that may be helpful for business development. They need
to be competitive with similar sized firms.
8. To have 100% participation of all people within the firm.
9. Keep the marketing and business development
department more in the loop of new business initiatives.
10.Invest in client feedback interviews and figure out ways to
automate some marketing processes.
11.Track ROI from start to finish.
12.Have better data in our CRM and in our pitch and RFP
tracking to improve our metrics.
13.Better train, equip, and reward attorneys for business
development rather than a single-minded focus on the
billable hour only.
14.Change their hiring practices; we are approved to expand
headcount and get the right people in the right places, but
HR takes FOREVER to fill positions.
15.To eliminate origination credit and replace it with financial
incentives for cross-selling across offices and practices.
16.Implement a CRM.
17.Establish concrete guidelines that focus solely on strategic
initiatives, and eliminate using resources on initiatives that
have little to no ROI (e.g., rankings and making pitches to
prospective clients that do not have any relationships
within the firm).
18.Focus more on the strategic business development plans
that are written each year by attorneys, and really figuring
out how to leverage that.
19.Fix our compensation system for attorneys so that
attorneys would be compensated to work together to build
an existing client's revenue base and to bring in new
20.Increase number of business development professionals.
21.Leadership communicating about need to engage in
business development actively, rewarding those who do,
and doing something about those who are unproductive.
22.Create a firm-wide business development strategy and
implement/track on the individual attorney level.
23.Create a real strategic plan, rather than focus on tactical
plans, and embark on a change management campaign to
affect cultural shifts needed to do things different and
obtain a different outcome.
Are you peeking behind the curtain?
There’s nothing here!
Survey Methodology and Demographics
Survey Demographics and Methodology
Respondents to this survey were solicited in two ways. First through the membership of a legal marketing association and
second through the readership of a 3rd party legal technology trade publication we believe to have a strong subscription
base among legal IT and law firm marketers. The survey was open from July 6, 2015 to July 27, 2015.
More than 400 participants responded and report being predominately employed as marketers or business development
professionals working for law firms in the US. Nearly half of all respondents said they worked for law firms with more than
200 attorneys. Geographical distribution was spread among 45 states or US territories. The states with the greatest
participation are those known to have a large concentration of law firms including: New York, California, Washington, DC,
Texas, and Illinois.
Respondents were offered an incentive to be entered to win one of three gift cards, worth a) $250 b) $100 and c) $50.
Winners were selected at random.
• 87% reported employment in law firm marketing or business development
• Other roles reported included attorney, IT, paralegal and research librarian
• Law firm size:
• 28% work at firms with 501 or more attorneys
• 24% work at firms with between 201-500 attorneys
• 30% work at firms with between 51-200 attorneys
• 18% work at firms with between 1-50 attorneys
Demographics as a Percent of Revenue Invested in Marketing
Webinar and Formal Survey Report in PDF Format
Complimentary Webinar: Law Firms in BD Transition - Survey Results
When: October 27, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. (EST)
Cost: Complimentary with registration: http://bit.ly/Law-Firm-BD-Webinar
Formal Survey Report: Law Firms in Transition: Marketing, Business
Development and the Quest for Growth (PDF)
Cost: Complimentary with registration: http://bit.ly/law-firm-BD-report
Also see addition resources on the next slide!
Additional Resources on Law Firm Marketing and Business Development
• Visit the LexisNexis® InterAction® Resources Page
• Legaltech News: LexisNexis Unveils Law-Targeted Business Development Module for InterAction
• LawMarketing.com: 10 Best Practices to Implement CRM Effectively in Your Law Firm
• LawMarketing.com: 6 Steps to Transform Business Development Action into Real Results
• Business of Law Blog: 7 Creative Ideas to Kick Start Collaborative Legal Conversations
• Business of Law Blog: The Best Kept Secret to Getting More Work: Stuff Envelopes
• Business of Law Blog: LexisNexis InterAction Unveils Law Firm BD Module
• Business of Law Blog: InterAction Adds Passive Data Management to Law Firm CRM
• Business of Law Blog: Raindance: 5 Takeaways on Client Teams from #LSSO
• Business of Law Blog: 4 Easy Tips for Law Firm Client Team Programs
• Business of Law Blog: A Cheat Sheet for 5 Recent Legal Industry Studies
• Business of Law Blog: How Law Firms Can Successfully Implement a CRM System
• Business of Law Blog: 9 Creative CRM Tips for Getting Lawyers to Share Data
• Business of Law Blog: How to Get Attorneys to Use Law Firm CRM
• Social Media:
• Blog: Business of Law Blog (subscribe by email via RSS)
• LinkedIn: InterAction CRM Group
• Twitter: @Business_of_Law
• Facebook: LexisNexis Business of Law
• Google+: +businessoflawblog
• LexisNexis Software and Technology Press Releases (subscribe via RSS)