Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Latest Re: Business and Client Development in Australian Law Firms©

Julie Savarino of Business Development Inc. @juliesavarino with Andrew Barnes of Sladen Legal/Harwood Andrews and current President of ALMPA @AndrewBarnes_AU in Melbourne Australia

Almost fifty managing partners, practice group leaders and law firm marketers from Australian law firms attended the workshop I presented yesterday, “Mastering the Client Development (aka Sales) Process for Lawyers and Law Firms™,” at the ALPMA Annual Summit in Melbourne, Australia. Most attendees were from mid-tier and smaller law firms, and a handful were from major global law firms. Prior to and during the workshop, I polled the attendees on key issues, and some of the findings are summarized below.

§       In terms of effective client development/selling - Australian law firms are ahead of their United States counterparts in a few key ways:
o   They populate their firms’ CRM databases completely with all Outlook contacts. There is no opt-in option; it is a requirement upon arrival at the firm;
o   They pre-clear conflicts - both explicit legal conflicts and potential business conflicts - more thoroughly before engaging in outreach/communications with clients and/or potential clients for new work; and
o   They do not receive nor send/forward case alerts to let parties know they have been sued and to ask them for the business (which clients undoubtedly appreciate, since in most cases they already know they have been sued and have a short list of outside counsel already in mind, and not sending/forwarding these “you have been sued” alerts also saves the Australian law firms from the common and unknowing embarrassment of having numerous firm lawyers send/forward the same case alert to the same client repeatedly and redundantly - which is an almost daily occurrence in the United States).
§       While about half of attendees indicated their law firms have coordinated, firm-wide Strategic Development Plans in place, most of these plans still focus mainly on activities, mistaking activities (doing seminars, writing articles/blogs, attending conferences) for productivity (i.e., actual measurable new business), and do not have much coordination and/or ties to their remuneration/compensation and/or planning processes.
§       Only about half of the Australian law firms in attendance conduct an Annual Firm-Wide Strategic Assessment, and only half require and use Annual Business/Business Development Plans for all firm lawyers.
§       None of the Australian law firms in attendance have a formal, firm-wide Sales/Client Development Process or Pipeline in place within their firms. The majority of client development/sales activity is still conducted individually by Partners, although about a third use, organize and track basic sales pipelines at the practice/industry group level. The problem, however, is that these activities are still mistaken for productivity (actual new business) because the majority of attendees indicated that their lawyers are not converting enough networking opportunities/contacts into actual new clients/cases/matters.
§       Only the major global law firms in attendance have an organized, formal, firm-wide, ongoing Sales/Client Development Training and Coaching curricula in place for all lawyers by years of practice, level of interest and/or practice group. Instead, most Australian law firms - like their counterparts in the United States - offer only one-off sales training/coaching sessions periodically - most of which are not tied to actual new revenue results.
§       Very few Australian law firms have a formal, ongoing Client Review program and/or process in place, even though numerous studies show that client satisfaction and service ratings and changes over time are the main drivers of profitability and also leading indicators of potential demise.
§       Although Australia now allows ABSs (Alternative Business Structures), including non-lawyer ownership of law firms, very few law firms have adopted them as business development strategies. The main hurdle is the cost of insuring these structures. The major accounting firms and new alternative law firms are the main firms taking advantage of these new structures and are taking/absorbing significant client and market share from traditional law firms.
§       Misaligned and/or unrealistic expectations remain a major hurdle to effective and efficient business/client development for Australian law firms. For example, the majority of law firm leaders still expect all partners in their firms to develop new business from external sources, and as a result, most internal law firm marketing/bus dev support staff spend the majority of their time responding to a myriad of activity-/task-based requests from any/every lawyer, with little time for tracking or proactive strategic support.

For more information, please contact the author, Julie Savarino, at

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