A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

The 2015 Marketing and Business Development Report Card for Australasian Law Firms

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

By Amy Burton-Bradley, Partner at Julian Midwinter & Associates

Click here to download research

The newly-released 2015 ALPMA/JMA Winning Work in a Digital World research reveals that not a lot has changed for firms on the marketing and BD front since our 2014 study.

Firms are still grappling with the same big external and internal challenges:
  • competition for clients in a mature and saturated market – rated the single biggest challenge (21% of respondents)
  • firm differentiation (17%)
  • finding new sources of work (16%)
  • keeping up with online, digital, and social media (11%).
When asked about other challenges their firm faces, respondents reported a mix of internal issues around culture, strategy, and lack of resources, as well as external factors.

So where should firms focus to meet these challenges and thrive in a digital world?

Firm report card

The 2015 Marketing & Business Development Report Card for Australasian Law Firms (below), based on research results, highlights several critical success areas firms can focus on to improve results - and I have put together an action plan and some homework to help you address these issues at your firm.

1. Translate aspiration into action

“The major challenge is getting it all humming along in one meaningful, strategic direction. Saying no. Not being waylaid by Partner demands. Having enough hands on deck.” 

With competition for new work fierce in a mature and saturated legal market, it’s reassuring that 84% of respondents say marketing and BD is important to their firm. However, only 50% of firms have an overarching marketing and BD plan and only 32% agree their firm is strategic and disciplined in its approach to marketing and BD activities.

“[Our challenge is] coming up with a firm strategy and ensuring we adhere to it.”


Firms need to develop – and communicate – a clear marketing and BD plan. Communicating the plan will help with staff engagement and motivation. Remember to monitor the plan for effectiveness, and don’t be afraid to stop activities that are not working. For some simple tips on getting a plan together and sticking to it, click here.

2. Capitalise on client satisfaction

Clearly, a law firm can’t exist without clients, so it is encouraging that 77% of respondents agree their firm is focussed on client satisfaction. However, 64% do not obtain client satisfaction feedback in any systematic or formal way. 
This is a huge missed opportunity for firms. Collecting client data through a formal process can help you to:
  • keep your clients happy and make them feel special by asking for their opinion and feedback
  • give clients what they actually value (hint: it’s unlikely to be a 'latest news' section on your website)
  • head-off any grumbles before they become serious issues (like a bill dispute)
  • uncover what your clients’ changing needs are – giving you opportunities to design new services or refine your offerings
  • reward your lawyers and staff for a job well done, and to performance manage others
  • promote your firm using client data statistics and evaluations.


Set up a simple client feedback survey to ask your clients what they want and value. With a regular process in place, not only will you improve your attractiveness as provider of legal services, but you may also see improvements in client retention and satisfaction over time.  Learn more about the benefits of measuring client satisfaction. 

3. Win with in-person activities

Firms rated face-to-face marketing and BD activities as the most effective for generating new business enquiries. Research results showed that the top three most effective activities are: referral networks; events (such as seminars hosted by your firm); and client relationship management programs.

Strikingly, though, 56% of firms do not train their lawyers in critical marketing and BD skills, and we can see in the report card that more than half of firms do not have individual marketing and BD plans for their lawyers. As one respondent noted, their firm tends to rely on ‘passive’ marketing and BD activities, like referrals, to generate new business; ‘our staff are not comfortable with actively trying to market the business in more direct ways.’


Some ideas for developing younger lawyers’ skills and confidence include offering partner mentoring and opportunities to accompany partners to client meetings; encouraging attendance at client social and networking events; or engaging external BD coaches. Download JMA’s simple 10 minutes a day BD plan for lawyers (PDF) to help you get started.

4. Do more with digital

While a few firms indicate they do not use social media yet (‘fear of the unknown’), it is positive to learn 58% of respondents agree that their firm is prepared to be innovative and adopt new approaches to marketing and BD. 
The most popular activities firms are hoping to try in the coming 12 months include:
  • making use, or better use, of social media
  • upgrading website features and content
  • increasing client-focussed activities 
  • producing online video content. 
With few firms doing digital really well, there’s real scope for firms to extend their online presence and make smarter use of digital tools to differentiate and amplify messages in support of their in-person activities. Nearly all firms surveyed have a website, but only 13% of respondents rated their firm’s website as highly effective.


You can’t afford to ignore it any longer: 2015 is a digital world, and you must engage with it. Figure out where your audiences are, and investigate the right platforms and content to deploy in the battle to win new clients and more work in a digital world.  If you’re not sure where to start, our earlier blog post will give you some ideas.

You should also download the 2015 ALPMA/JMA Winning Work in A Digital World research report for free to see how your firm's approach to marketing and business development compares to other law firms in the competition for new business. 

Editor's note 

Interested readers can also register to attend for the Winning Work in a Digital World webinar on Tuesday 8  December at 1pm (AEDST), where Alistair Marshall, Julian Midwinter and Associates' resident business development expert, will talk more about the most fruitful areas for firms to concentrate their marketing and BD efforts on and share ideas and practical tips to help you get positive behavior change and results for your firm.  Register now.

If you have a particular question you would like addressed at the webinar, you can submit your question here, and we will endeavour to answer as many as possible.

About our Guest Blogger

Amy Burton-Bradley
Amy Burton-Bradley is an experienced business developer, marketer, and copy-writer, who has worked with more law firm clients than she cares to remember!

She is a partner at Julian Midwinter & Associates, a business development consultancy that has helped law firms attract, win, grow, and retain new clients and business since 1993.

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