Law firm marketing is a key function in helping win and retain clients. What are the latest trends in law firm marketing? How are law firms investing in marketing and business development? And what types of marketing and business development roles should firms be recruiting?

In a piece first published in PSMG’s Centrum magazine, Rebecca Ellis, Director at Totum, reveals some of the findings from its recent survey of law firm marketing and business development functions.

At Totum we are often asked to advise on law firm marketing staffing and tactics. Firms are particularly interested in the make-up of the marketing and BD (M&BD) function in the legal sector. What size are M&BD teams? Who typically makes up such a department? Where do they sit organisationally and how are firms planning to invest in and evolve their teams in future?

As we emerge into what we hope will be a much brighter year ahead, these questions come more frequent than ever. Firms want to know how they can get the most out of their M&BD team. They want reassurance they are making sensible strategic choices in line with those made in other firms – or where they differ, they have made a deliberate decision to achieve specific objectives that are pertinent to their organisation.

We have therefore taken the time during the strange year of 2020 to undertake Totum’s most comprehensive survey yet of law firm marketing and business development teams across UK firms, splitting respondent firms into six groups by revenue, from smaller firms operating from one or two offices, with revenues of under £50m per year, right up to global operations with an average of over 40 offices and revenues of £1bn or more.

At the same time, Calibrate Legal, a US recruitment and consulting firm with whom we partner on many research projects and candidate searches, undertook the same survey with a wide range of firms. Altogether 127 firms kindly participated in the survey, answering a huge breadth and depth of questions on their M&BD teams.

In this piece, we reveal a few of the key findings from the UK results bringing to bear details from the US sample to highlight areas of particular interest for comparison.

Law Firm Marketing Survey Highlights

  1. The average ratio of partners to M&BD employees in the UK law firm sample is 5:1. Among the largest magic circle firms, however, ratios are much lower, with minimum ratios at 2:1 and the average 3:1 among firms with revenues over £1bn.
  2. Meanwhile, average ratios from smaller US respondent firms are higher than the UK sample. But among the larger US firms, ratios are much closer to the UK – for example, the lowest ratio found in the £500m-£1bn bracket is 2:1, matching the UK magic circle firms. It makes sense that larger firms would have bigger M&BD teams to support businesses spanning many offices, typically located across the globe.
  3. Of both UK and US survey respondents, 85% of law firms intend to boost spending on digital marketing technology in the wake of Covid-19. In addition, the majority of UK firms (55%) are considering increasing their marketing technology team, with 84% of those planning to expand it by one or two people, and 16% by three or more. This tallies too with more than 90% of respondent firms saying digital skills/roles will be more in demand post-pandemic.
  4. CRM also scored very highly in terms of the specific areas of technology in which firms are intending to invest. Together with individual feedback that frequently cited the importance of finding new ways to engage clients, it shows how vital M&BD teams have become to improving existing client relationships and generating new leads/opportunities.
  5. Unsurprisingly, the number of events dropped significantly in 2020 and firms have had to significantly change the way in which these are hosted. Consequently, the majority of UK firm respondents (55%), think that 40% or more of in-person events will no longer take place post-Covid, with all firms also thinking that there will be less demand in future for skills/roles in events, conferences and sponsorships.
  6. The US findings show a similar trend, with 56% of firms saying they plan to reduce spending on sponsorships due to Covid-19 (compared to 53% of UK firms). In the long term, it is likely firms will be more judicious as to what in-person conferences they host, while shifting to simultaneously running a greater number of smaller virtual events that can deliver more personalised content to targeted audiences.

A different future for marketing law firms?

This has been a year in which M&BD teams have had to significantly change the way in which they work, dealing with the huge impact of Covid as well as getting on with business as usual. There have been many learnings that can be used as an opportunity to drive positive change for the future. Client-focused business development and marketing is key – activity that is targeted, underpinned and driven by data, commercial and delivered in a personal way.

For all its destructiveness, Covid is clearing the path to a future that is defined by fresh strategic focus, ever-more sophistication in client engagement, and new digital capabilities that can inform business, transform communication and inspire innovation.

If you would be interested in receiving a PDF copy of the full report, ‘Adapting to change: Developments in the law firm marketing and BD function, including complete datasets plus in-depth analysis of all areas, including skillsets and team structures, contact [email protected].

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