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Virtual Roundtable Discussion: Senior BD, Marketing & Communications

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Over the past 4 weeks of lockdown I’ve been mulling the idea of hosting some virtual roundtables for Senior BD Managers across the legal industry. So, with some trepidation in hoping my knackered Dell laptop and the Suffolk Wi-Fi would hold up, I did my best Dimbleby impression and ventured into the world of Zoom.

I’m pleased to say the first two hurdles were cleared, and I have thoroughly enjoyed engaging with everyone that has joined the two sessions so far. Of course, not everyone who wanted to attend could, so here’s a flavour of what we covered.

Current climate – Dealing with Covid-19

Unsurprisingly, one of major themes throughout both sessions was how firms and in particular Business Development teams are responding to the current global crisis.

“Partners have actually been so much friendlier” was a quote from one of the attendees which summed up the general positivity of adapting to WFH. It seems partners had focused more on future business generation and client relationship/prospecting than just focusing on billable hours – and therefore had more free time to really value the input of BD staff.

Secondly, there was resounding agreement on how busy everyone had been over the past 4 weeks of lockdown. Whilst all very positive, this also led to us discussing the challenge of how to appear proactive without taking advantage of the current climate. 

One individual highlighted an issue that occurred with “mass mailing” as firms work hard to get as much content to clients as possible. Some of this led to a feeling of being spammed. 

To counteract this, several comments were made around the necessity to work on a more 1:1 basis with fee earners, and to put themselves in the client’s shoes in order to tailor the right services. Others in the roundtable reiterated importance of meaningful client engagement to maximise relevance and increase potential revenue generating opportunities.

Impact on direct BD teams

As we know the legal sector is always quite resilient in navigating turbulent economic times, and early indications are that the same qualities are shining through again, with law firms seeming to be much better positioned than other sectors of the economy.

At the time of writing and from the discussions we had, there is no mass furloughing and as long as the crisis didn’t lastlonger than a few months, this wasn’t something they envisaged happening in the future.

We also covered the age old topic of how to position Marketing & BD teams as an effective tool rather than an expense. Again, similar views were echoed regarding client engagement for the rest of the year.

Mid to long-term changes in BD structures

I posed a question about how legal BD teams may evolve over the coming years – not necessarily as a consequence of Covid-19 but in terms of how roles and teams are shifting. 

Some interesting points were shared and there seemed to be a general consensus that roles will be even more client-led in the future – which seems to be a resoundingly positive thing.

I would also add that if anything positive comes out of this strange time, it should hopefully help put to bed the reluctancy of some firms to let BD staff work from home. After all, flexible working can help to attract the best talent.

Future predictions

Overall , the groups were positive about the mid to long-term business outlook for their respective firms. In particular,individuals operating across certain sectors such as restructuring, insurance and litigation had a positive outlook on the circumstances, given their big uptick in work and increase in revenue. 

This was also a question asked of me, and whilst it’s true to say we have certainly seen a huge downward shift in active roles, there are still firms pressing on with business critical hires right now.

More importantly I typically hear the word “paused” not “cancelled” in respect to BD recruitment projects. So, given the feedback I have received from a multitude of clients, I’m fairly confident that once we hit June/July we will see some normality returning to the market.

Overall the quality of my written word and top level summary really doesn’t do justice for the quality of discussions we had, but I would welcome individual thoughts on the above. If you would like to be involved with future engagements, do drop me a message.

Finally, I hope everyone stays safe and well.

Best wishes,

Ben Curle

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