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Make the connection between law firm efficiency and business development

In the 2019 State of US Small Law Firms Report from the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, 25 percent of respondents said their top goal was “business development.” Only two percent said their top priority was increasing efficiency. There are many conclusions to be drawn from the eyebrow-raising juxtaposition of those two findings, but one really stands out – too many law firms don’t understand the connection between efficiency and business development.

Why does the efficiency/business development correlation matter?

Inefficiency is a fatal flaw in any business development plan. Just as you shouldn’t build a house on a weak foundation, you shouldn’t expect a thriving law firm and job satisfaction if the fundamental aspects of your practice are riven through with inefficiency. Any new client your firm attracts will likely flee if he or she is unhappy with slow or costly service – that is if you even have time to pursue new clients after trying to patch together a practice (and maybe even a personal life) week in and week out. Investing in business development without having first focused on efficiency is putting the cart decidedly before the horse.

How does a two-pronged approach benefit you?

The good news is that you don’t have to fight a battle on two fronts. Since efficiency and business development are so closely intertwined, a victory in one category is often a victory in both. Here are three examples:

Efficient service is your best calling card: There is an old saying along the lines of, “The best customer is a repeat customer.” The gist is that a customer who comes back because of a good previous experience didn’t cost you anything in marketing or outreach. The more efficiently you handle any one client’s matter, the better you set yourself up for a “free” client somewhere down the line. Thus, practicing with efficiency helps establish a pipeline of future clients.

Word of mouth costs you nothing: A happy client with no future legal needs is still valuable. That’s because he will tell his friends, family, and coworkers how good it was to work with you. Without any effort on your part, several strong potential clients have been created – all at no cost to you. Business development does not come any smoother or high-reward than that.

Efficiency tips the scales in your favor: At its heart, efficiency is achieving a given result with less effort and in less time. If you can improve the efficiency with which you dispatch bread-and-butter tasks, you will have more time to devote to business development. That’s a good thing, too, because business development takes strategy, time, and effort. An investment in efficiency, then, frees up the resources you need to affect a robust, successful business development plan.

Where do we go from here?

It is not wrong to want to focus on business development. Far from it. In fact – the State of US Small Law Firms report shows far too many firms are not, and that does not portend well for their bottom lines. Rather, law firms should make sure they have made an earnest effort to improve their efficiency before addressing the secondary challenge of trying to bring in new business.    

More insights on firm business development

Read our white paper, “Is inefficiency hurting your firm’s profits?” to learn more about streamlining tasks and empowering your firm’s business development efforts