I met Nancy Furman Paul at the Bloomberg Big Law Business Summit and enjoyed our conversation about the trends in law firm business development. She is the Commercial Product Manager for Business Solutions at Bloomberg Law. Here are a few highlights from our talks.
What exactly is law firm business development?
It’s really about what firms do to maintain positive relationships with their existing clients, through the continuous delivery of a high level of service, and how they generate new work both from existing clients and from prospects. It goes hand-in-hand with “marketing,” which is more about getting your name out there and creating opportunities for client touches. Business development is about making those touches meaningful and building on the relationships.
How do attorneys react when confronted with dreaded “sales” talk?
Lawyers don’t want to see themselves as sales people, but that’s what the market reality is today. It’s one of the more difficult tasks that marketing and business development departments at law firms face when trying to get lawyers to understand and embrace the effort. Bloomberg Law aims to make this a seamless process with a one-stop desktop solution that helps overcome the hesitancy and uncertainty over what attorneys think they should be doing and the actionable steps they can take, both themselves and with their marketing and business development teams.
Does one approach business development at firms by talking to associates, partners, or marketing personnel?
All of the above. I talk with attorneys at all different levels of practice and also the marketing and business development departments, as well as librarians. It depends on the firm and who the decision makers are, but regardless, it’s important to build a constituency across the board because all are involved in delivering client services. We try to partner with firms to see how our business development solutions can address their needs throughout the firm and, based on their input, how we can continue to develop and enhance our offerings.
What about the changing relationship and dynamic between law firms and inside counsel?
Corporate law departments are increasingly demanding that law firms understand their industry, know their business, show how they’ll add value, quantify their relevant experience, and be willing to partner with them on resolving issues. It’s about being seen as a trusted advisor, not just a legal expert.
In-house counsel often use many of the same business intelligence tools and data that we offer law firms to understand their clients’ industries, competitors and issues. And they use the same information to determine which law firms to hire. So everyone is looking at the same data, but from different angles.
How do you feel about social media and blogging as business development tools?
They’re important. Blogging provides an opportunity for lawyers and law firms to showcase expertise, share information, and differentiate themselves from their competitors. Similar to how companies view law firm client memos, though, it’s important to not be too general–to be specific, instead–about what topics, issues, and industries you write about.
Being engaged online also allows law firms to monitor trends in specific industries. For instance, Bloomberg Law has a “social velocity” feature. It monitors Twitter activity and will send you an alert when there are more Tweets than expected on a given company, for example if there’s a sudden surge of consumer product complaints, so you can determine if it’s something that’s actionable for the firm. This is where social media becomes a business development tool, as well as a communication and engagement tool.
Finally, it’s not enough just to have an existing relationship with a client. It’s important to stay proactive about how to develop those relationships, how to meaningfully mine information and data and how to parse analytics to continually provide and prove your value.
Nancy Furman Paul (email@example.com) is the commercial product manager for business solutions at Bloomberg Law. She oversees, develops and implements business development products and strategy, including company and news resources and data analytics tools, which enable attorneys and legal professionals to build deeper relationships with existing clients and win new business.
Prior to joining Bloomberg BNA, Nancy practiced corporate law for a number of years, first at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York, and then at Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale & Dorr in Washington, D.C.
You can find out more about Bloomberg Law’s business development solutions here or by contacting Nancy directly.