Lawyers, COOs, CFOs, Managing Partners, outside consultants, and law firm marketers continue to debate what works best to develop business. Sure, some of business development is common sense, opinions, and good ideas, but we now have science! Increasingly, law firms are taking a more scientific approach to business development.
Science is defined as a body of knowledge that has been systematically organized, studied, statistically (and as appropriate) financially analyzed through experience, surveys, studies, modeling, experiments, practical application, and observation. This article describes a few scientific disciplines that interrelate and impact the success and return on investment of business development efforts for law firms and lawyers.
The Science of Law – About the time civilization began forming, rules of law were also developed. The rule of law has been around for thousands of years, continues to evolve, and is part science (statutes, precedents, procedures, etc.) and part art (how the law applies in each specific situation). All law is based on one major premise – to govern people and their behavior. Generally, the rule of law consists of codified common (and not so common) sense and is a body of knowledge and information organized to govern civilization – i.e., law can be considered a science. Key figures in the development of the rule(s) of law include Hammurabi, Flavius, Justinian, and Napoleon, among many others.
The Science of Business Development for Lawyers and Law Firms – Over the last 40 years since the Bates decision – Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977), a SCOTUS case that upheld the right of lawyers to advertise their services – a body of knowledge (or science) on the subject of business development for lawyers and law firms has been (and continues to be) systematically studied, analyzed, compiled, organized, and updated.
Just as one example, for 30 years my company and I have been engaged in the disciplined study and analysis of the science of business development and we teach, train, coach and advise on the specific tools, techniques, and communications that are proven to work best to develop new business and relationships (see my select bibliography). Below is a list of a few of the categories of related science (all of which also require a significant element of “art” to successfully implement). This science (or body of knowledge) includes (but is not limited to):
· What works best to develop business for lawyers and law firms by type of practice
· What clients want and look for in their lawyers
· What constitutes excellence in client service for lawyers and law firms
· Where the highest ROI can be attained from business development investments
· Best practices and proven techniques for lawyers and law firms in such sub-topics as:
- Targeting an industry or market
- Making a presentation or pitch that will develop new business
- Having productive conversations that result in new legal work
- Use of social media
- Many others related to marketing and business development for lawyers and law firms
A few notable scientists in these fields include (in alphabetical order) Patrick McKenna, NancyMyrland, Michael Rynowecer, and me – Julie Savarino – among many other professionals and resources.
The Science of Marketing and Marketing Professional Services – Both are bona fide, disciplined sciences for which master’s degrees and PhDs can be earned. There are thousands of books, studies, surveys, and other empirical data on these subjects. To earn an MBA, I was and others are required to study and master numerous related topics on the subject. The most notable marketing scientist – or guru – is Dr. Philip Kotler; there are many others.
The Science of Communicating with People and Relationship Development – Skills used in communications with people – i.e., “people skills” – are often considered “soft skills.” Soft skills are a combination of interpersonal (people) skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes, personal style, habitual behaviors, and other factors. People skills have been studied and analyzed by behavioral scientists for many years now. Notable scientists in these fields include Dr. Deborah Tannen; Dr. Jay Conger; Dr. Gary Orren; other professors at Harvard, Georgetown, and other colleges and universities; and Dr. LarryRichard, to name a few.
The Science of Process and Project Management – This science is used worldwide by many companies and organizations and increasingly by lawyers and law firms. It was pioneered as Total Quality Management (TQM) over 40 years ago by the legendary Dr. Peter Drucker, who personally wrote more than 50 books on related subjects (and by whom the author of this article was trained). Recent variants of TQM include ISO 9000, Lean, and Six Sigma. Both process and project management play large roles in producing and delivering efficient and cost-effective legal work and law firm business development support services. Only recently have law firms begun embracing these disciplines. Catherine MacDonagh is one leader in applying this science to legal work.
Several other disciplines (that also consist of part science and part art) impact the success of law firm business development including: strategy; financial, cost, and profitability analysis; human resource acquisition and retention; leadership and organizational development.
About the Author: Julie Savarino is an attorney who holds an MBA in finance and marketing and is a certified white belt in Lean Legal Six Sigma and Project Management. For 30 years, she has been engaged in and studies the science of business development. She helps the world’s leading and most profitable law firms, and lawyers and law firm marketers and business developers create and implement cost-effective and revenue-generating new business development programs, events, projects, and departments. Julie@BusDevInc.com.