Legal Business Development and Legal Marketing Aren’t Synonymous, But They Do Fit Together

In the old days, say as recently as the 1980s and ‘90s, words were used to quickly and easily describe something or someone. For example, a janitor wasn’t known as a custodial engineer and sales wasn’t called business development or marketing.  The unfortunate side effect of this wordsmithing is that it has resulted in the blurring of lines and ongoing confusion about what things really mean.  

In the legal industry today, there’s still confusion about what differentiates marketing from business development. Some lawyers use these terms interchangeably when discussing the actions involved in growing a law practice. Well, I’d like to set the record straight while also giving you some insights on how to actually grow your law practice. 

Let’s start out by defining these two terms. While I’m not opposed to using a dictionary, it might be better to provide my own definitions for you. Since I am in the weeds with lawyers every day, I can handle this task. 

  • Legal Business Development focuses on the individual actions taken by a lawyer to build personal relationships to grow business. 
  • Legal Marketing is the act of providing educational or promotional content to the masses to build one’s brand.

Essentially, legal business development involves your time and effort to create and build individual relationships that will produce business for you and your firm. Your time, money and energy go into activities that include:

  • Attending networking events
  • Holding coffee meetings
  • Presenting to potential referral partners
  • Playing golf with clients
  • Schmoozing with your law firm partners
  • Attending conferences
  • And the list goes on and on…

On the other side, legal marketing is something you can decide to either engage in or outsource. Much of the marketing you employ is based on your interest in creating content or promotion to build your personal brand. Some examples of this include:

  • Writing a blog
  • Producing a book
  • Podcasting
  • Becoming a columnist
  • Use of social media
  • Creating a newsletter
  • Paying for leads with online ads, billboards, TV commercials, etc.
  • Posting a video on your bio so your audience can get a taste of your personality
  • And again, the list goes on and on…

My hope is that you are currently engaging in one or more of these activities to ensure you have consistent business coming in the door. For those who regularly read this column, you know that I’m engaging in business development and marketing together every single day! What kind of lawyer coach would I be if not engaging in the very things I help you with?

That all being said, there’s a dirty little secret that I want to share with you that most lawyers simply don’t know. The key to success in growing a law practice is to engage in both legal business development and marketing AT THE SAME TIME! I know, crazy, right? A good analogy would be that there are two sides to a mountain. On one side is your biz-dev and the other side is your marketing. When they eventually meet at the peak, that’s the promised land. You’ve developed amazing relationships, while simultaneously have built your brand.  From this point on, you just need to rinse and repeat and the business will be flowing in. 

The other point to make here is that you don’t have to do everything to get there. Find the best two to three business development and marketing channels that work for you and work them consistently. The best example of this is my podcast, BE THAT LAWYER. From this single outlet, I’m creating tremendous content, which is easily repurposed for video, transcribed into articles and utilized for social media posting. That’s the marketing bit. On the business development side, I’m meeting and developing relationships with hundreds of lawyers and legal experts that I never would have met before. I’ve even converted some of my guests into paying FRETZIN clients. 

The other secret I’ll share is to find the biz-dev and marketing outlets that you will enjoy. Whether it’s coffee meetings over big events or podcast interviews over writing a blog, the key is to find the areas that you can lean into. Doing what you enjoy. You’ll come to understand that half your work is already done. It’s important to note that perfection is the enemy of good when engaging in marketing and business development. Sometimes you just need to start the process by identifying and executing incremental improvements. 

It may not be inherently clear to you at this point which options would make the most sense, so it’s important to ask and receive help where needed. Remember, even the strongest mountain climbers hire sherpas to ensure a successful climb. 

For more information on legal business development and legal marketing for lawyers, you can email me directly at [email protected] to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation. It’s possible that the answers are right in front of you, but you simply aren’t able to see the forest through the trees. 

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