April 23, 2019

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Law Firm Business Development Directors Roundtable: A Unique Opportunity to Network and Learn from Your Peers

Large law firm CMOs are often asked to join executive roundtables. These programs provide a forum for discussing common needs, reviewing best practices and sharing experiences. Directors and senior managers with significant responsibility, on the other hand, usually don’t have access to similar forums. To meet this need, LawVision Group launched its inaugural Business Development Directors Roundtable, hosted this past April at Morgan Lewis’s Washington DC offices.

The BD Roundtable is a confidential forum, driven by the participants, where large law firm Directors of Business Development share best practices, discuss challenges and opportunities, talk about career advancement, and brainstorm new and innovative solutions. In order to attend, prospective attendees need to apply to the program. The Roundtable is an ongoing group in which colleagues meet twice a year and develop a peer-to-peer networking and support group for day-to-day professional challenges.  

Bringing Together A Peer Group from Across the U.S. and Canada

Per Steven Schroeder, Senior Director of Marketing at Perkins Coie LLP, the best takeaway from the Roundtable is knowing that others are dealing with similar issues you face and hearing from others how their organization deals with those challenges. It is also helpful to make real connections with others in the group to share thoughts and ideas going forward.

Roundtable member Brandon McAfee, a Senior Business Development and Marketing Manager at Miles & Stockbridge,  also appreciated getting to know the group and observed that the participants had a good mix of experience. Elizabeth (Liz) Boehm, Director of Business Development at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP, enjoyed meeting people in similar roles to her own from firms across the country. She also found it interesting to hear about the range of responsibilities of others in the group and how those roles vary greatly, particularly in relation to the size of their firm.  

 

Law Firm Business Development RoundTable
Day 1: Law firm business development directors at the Lawvision group's roundtable.

 

Law Firm Business Development Is Growing and BD Professionals Wear Many Hats

The new roundtable is timely as budgets at law firms for BD and the hiring of professionals to fill these roles is growing. According to a joint Legal Marketing Association and Bloomberg Law® research study this past April, two-thirds of law firm partners interviewed regularly engage BD professionals. And the attorneys surveyed favor senior BD professionals, which this survey considered to be professionals with more than four years of legal marketing experience. The roles for BD professionals across firms varies widely, but the survey noted some consistency in the role. Fifty-nine percent of senior BD staff initiate client outreach, and 52% participate in client pitch meetings. Additionally, 36% of senior BD staff conduct client feedback interviews and 44% also participate in client meetings with attorneys.

 

Business Development Law Firm Where are we now graphic
Graphic from Where Are We Now? Revealing the Latest Trends in Legal Marketing and Business Development, a joint research study by the Legal Marketing Association and Bloomberg Law® (April 2018)Graphic from Where Are We Now? Revealing the Latest Trends in Legal Marketing and Business Development, a joint research study by the Legal Marketing Association and Bloomberg Law® (April 2018)

Topics Addressed at May’s Business Development Directors Roundtable

Roundtable members discussed the different roles within the BD umbrella and also touched on  issues related to:

  • The challenges of building a firm-wide experience database and tips that worked to drive this process
  • How to maximize the firm’s capabilities and legal market education, as well as how to enhance team building to facilitate cross-selling opportunities at firm retreats
  • Building and communicating a firm’s identity and brand
  • Attracting and retaining top talent
  • Key BD metrics to use and how to best use them to improve client value and firm profitability, key tools and techniques used to gather data, and metrics members wished they could access.
  • Industry-focused initiatives, such as how to form and execute firm-wide sector initiatives and how to create industry outreach systems within a practice group structure.
  • Recommended vendors

In addition to the participant discussion sessions, experts were brought in to address some of the issues identified in advance that were of concern to the participants. Bill Crooks of Priority Search International led an interactive session on what law firm leadership is looking for in a CMO/CBDO. Darryl Cross of LawVision discussed building diverse teams. And Patrick Fuller, VP of Legal Intelligence at ALM, outlined emerging law firm trends and AI and the legal market. Capping off the first day was a wonderful rooftop networking dinner with a great view of the Capitol, bringing the participants together in a less formal environment.  

view from reception
The view from the rooftop dinner and networking reception.

Roundtable members across the board appreciated the networking opportunities. Per Liz Boehm:

“Because we were seated in a roundtable arrangement and given plenty of time for open dialogue, it was easy to get to know one another. I also enjoyed the evening networking session and dinner overlooking the city and talking more about our backgrounds.”

At the next Roundtable meeting, which will be at Orrick’s office in San Francisco on September 13 and 14, the participants will focus more on solutions-oriented approaches. The group will add specific case studies for the group to work through, learn from, and analyze.  

Steven Schroeder probably summed the event up the best:

“In our fast-paced daily world, it is hard to find time to brainstorm solutions to the various challenges we face. The Law Vision Roundtable provides the vehicle to learn from others and ultimately make you more effective in your role. Be prepared to participate. The value the group receives is based on the active engagement of all the individuals in the room.”

If you are interested in applying for the fall session, please contact Craig Brown.

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About this Author

jennifer schaller National Law Review  attorney legal publisher and speaker on Law Firm SEO and Legal Thought Leadership
Managing Director

Jennifer Schaller, Esq. is the Managing Director and co-founder of the National Law Review on-line edition.  Prior to the National Law Review, Jennifer most recently served as in-house counsel / director at CNA Surety. She also served in various marketing and business development roles as a vice president of Aon Services Group.  Jennifer started her legal career in as an insurance coverage attorney with Smith Amundsen, LLC in Chicago, IL.

In 2016-17, Jennifer is serving as the Vice Chairman for the Chicago steering committee for the Legal Marketing Association and on the Women...

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