What Does Business Development Mean in a Law Firm?

Meranda M. Vieyra, Denver Legal Marketing

Meranda M. Vieyra, Denver Legal Marketing



If you are like most attorneys, you went to school to practice law, not to market your law practice.
However, in today’s legal landscape, all successful lawyers and law firms must focus on several aspects of marketing, specifically law firm business development. But what does business development mean in a law firm?

What is Law Firm Business Development?

Business development for lawyers and law firms focuses less on sales or one-time marketing transactions. Instead, it’s about building bridges, prioritizing relationships, and exploring sustainable, long-term revenue streams.

Marketing generally focuses on the here and now—for example, getting your law firm in front of a
prospective client who will benefit from your services and securing retainers. But on the other hand, law firm business development is geared toward the long-term health of the practice—adding revenue and sales streams, practice areas, and relationships that will build and serve your law firm over time.

Law firm business development involves seeking strategic business opportunities. For instance, your business development strategy might include building new client relationships, cultivating existing or old client relationships, expanding geographically, initiating new procedures for your client intake team to follow up with prospects, or pinpointing new-found revenue streams and marketing opportunities. Cross-selling to current clients or creating new practice areas for your firm also counts as business development activities.

Business Development Goals

Law firm business development objectives or goals can include:

  • Growth in business and other areas
  • Serve clients and the community efficiently, economically, and thoroughly
  • Identify and market strengths or unique services within the law firm
  • Increase the firm’s marketplace exposure
  • Continue being involved in pro bono and civic work
  • Boost the law firm’s community reputation
  • Develop and maintain relationships with potential referrals
How Can a Lawyer Grow a Business?

Growing a business is nearly impossible without a business development plan, and the same is true for law firms and solo attorneys. Drafting a business development plan is one of the first steps in growing a law practice.

A business development plan can lay a foundation for your law firm’s growth and continued success. In addition, a business development framework allows you to focus on your firm’s future while evaluating what it has or hasn’t already accomplished. Holding both of these critical factors in sight helps you learn from the past while striving for more success in the future.

Unsurprisingly, the most successful law firms and solo attorneys set aside quality time to plan for business development. However, drafting such a plan should involve as many of your firm’s lawyers and employees as possible. Everyone in the firm plays an essential role in its implementation, and having varying perspectives is vital.

Not to worry if you are a solo practitioner, as you can discuss ideas and strategies with your colleagues – or rely on networking groups for mentorship on how similarly positioned attorneys to draft their business development plans.

Is Business Development for Young Lawyers Necessary?

Many law firms and new attorneys make the mistake of setting aside business development to serve clients. However, the sooner green attorneys build client development into their schedules, the easier it will be to bring in clients later. In addition, new associate attorneys must understand that they will have to bring in business later in their careers and can start building a foundation for their later business development efforts immediately. When associates reach the point in their careers when they should bring in new clients, they should work on business development plans and goals. In addition, it’s recommended that they prepare annual business development plans that will factor into their performance reviews and compensation.

Invest Time in Your Law Firm’s Business Development Plan

Whether it’s planning business development for corporate lawyers, personal injury attorneys, or family law firms, every law firm and solo practitioner should set aside time for this essential task. However, suppose you don’t make business development a priority. In that case, you may see your new client prospects dwindle in the future or even some of your existing or previous clients seeking other avenues of legal help. One of the most significant facets of law firm business development is consistency. No matter what kind of law you practice, business development is a marathon and not a sprint. Therefore, investing the time now and staying committed to business development will prove fruitful, even if it doesn’t provide much ROI immediately.

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