Many law firms employ in-house marketing/business development support professionals or have an entire in-house marketing/business development department. The current industry-wide ratio of lawyers to law firm marketers/business developers is around 25 to 1, but in many firms the ratio is much higher, up to around 50-75 to 1.
Most in-house marketing/business development support professionals are still generalists who are expected to oversee and implement all marketing and business development efforts. But increasingly, specialists are being hired for one specific marketing function, such as events, RFPs and proposals, pricing analysts, business and competitive intelligence researchers, and/or client-facing executives tasked with developing leads and manage a pipeline.
A recent study of large law firm chief marketing officers found that at least 50% of their law firm marketing departments are understaffed, overworked and mainly reactive in fulfilling lawyers’ requests. And as a result, most do not have the time or the bandwidth to proactively address important strategic initiatives and projects in this incredibly competitive market.
Many contributing factors are creating this road to burnout, one of which is the current organizational structure of a firm’s marketing/business development department. To improve ROI, various firms are:
- Separating the marketing department operations/management role into a separate position.
- Centralizing all marketing support staff into a shared services model, often in a low-cost location, and/or,
- Hiring sales executives and specialists to work with certain key practice and industry groups.
- MARKETING - The marketing department’s purpose is to generate awareness about the firm and its lawyers, position the lawyers, and generate new leads/interest/opportunities/inquiries. This department will oversee and handle all the most common awareness-generating and positioning tools used by law firms and lawyers, such as events, advertising, promotions, sponsorships, a CRM system and list creation.
- SALES - The sales department’s purpose is to maintain, enhance and expand key relationships. This department will handle all client-facing activities such as RFPs and proposal response and generation; client teams, reviews and interviews; business and competitive intelligence; pricing; referral and alumni programs; and trade show participation.
- COMMUNICATIONS - The communications department will oversee and handle all internal and external communications, public relations, media, etc. It will also house the firm’s online presence management function, including website maintenance and social media.
- Both marketing and sales rely on and use communications constantly, so how will overlap and/or redundancy be streamlined and/or avoided?
- Where will graphics/graphic design be housed? Each of the three departments above use graphics and graphic design routinely.
- What about technology and leveraging data? Again, these increasingly critical functions impact and are used by each of the three departments above.
- The #1 greatest source of new business for most law firms over the past few years is growth by acquisition/merger. But these important revenue drivers do not seem to be classified by this firm as “business development” or housed in one of the three new departments.
- Although only lawyers (usually only partners) can review and clear conflicts, it is important that the firm’s sales team have direct and formal working relationship with the firm’s conflicts department so that sales team members can make requests for conflicts reports to be run and sent to certain lawyers.
To learn more about assessing the effectiveness of your firm’s current business development organizational structure and how doing so may benefit your firm’s bottom line, please contact the author, Julie Savarino.
More Resources –
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