It certainly is no secret that the buyers of legal services are closely scrutinizing the costs associated with outside law firms, especially during this economic downturn. There are two things that some firms recognize in that climate: first, there is a need to re-think their approach to developing business; and secondly, now is not the time to hunker down by reducing business development activities.

An article by Sharon Caffrey and Rhonda Ulrich of Duane Morris has some very savvy tips on how to recession-proof your business development plan  (that actually are applicable in any economy). All firms should take their advice to heart:

  1. Network effectively by helping others. It is so true that networking is not about "self-promotion." Rather, as the article points out, it’s about "investing in people now" in order to reap benefits later. Accordingly, help other people expand their network and reach their goals;
  2. Focus your niche more narrowly. Now is not the time to take anything that walks in the door, or is thrown over the transom. The more focused you are, the more focused and effective your business development efforts will be;
  3. Implement your action plan. Lawyers are often more effective in planning marketing strategies, then they are in executing them. Even when you are busy, you need to keep in mind the need to feed the pipeline. It is necessary to execute your plan, and you might consider using a coach to help;
  4. Seek client feedback. As the authors point out, don’t assume clients are happy. Remember, client satisfaction "is a vital component of maintaining your business." The most effective way to get feedback is to put a "client interview program" in place; and
  5. Become more of a trusted advisor. The best client relationships are ones where the lawyer is more than a technical legal provider. Effective rainmakers invest in their client’s well-being, and are often personal and business advisors. This is done through visits off the clock to learn more about their business, and helping clients in ways beyond purely legal advice.

This article is well worth your time.