Business grows out of knowledge, both technical and industry-specific.
Accounts need to be managed. At the start of every assignment, firms ask clients for specific expectations. At the end of every assignment, firms ask clients for assessments. More work will follow.
Some firms have embraced these ideas. Others are frustrated by a combination of unrealistic expectations coupled with inadequate efforts.
To Faure, it doesn't have to be this way. He says that clients really want just four things from firms: 1. An understanding of their company and industry; 2. The ability to anticipate problems and suggest answers; 3. Quality execution, including after-action assessments; and 4. Cost-efficiency. Knowing that, what might a law firm do when, say, the United Kingdom adopts a new and imprecise statute on extraterritorial bribery? How does that become a business development opportunity?
Four steps: First, the firm would examine the law and come to some conclusions about what it might mean. Second, the firm would review the publicly available codes of corporate conduct of firm clients and potential clients. Third, after both reviews were complete, the firm's lead expert would tailor a letter to each general counsel showing specific implementation options rather than issuing a generic, one-solution-fits-all legal bulletin. Then comes patience: The firm waits to be invited to discuss the substance of its message and perhaps a formal assignment.
There are dozens of ways, in Faure's terms, for firms to show prescience and execution. As best as I can tell, that's the easy part. What's harder is getting serious about BD. But without that commitment, even smart law firms will be Dumb Business Developers.
This article originally appeared in The American Lawyer under the headline “Now, a "Smarter" BD Model.”
Aric Press, ALM's editor-in-chief, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.