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Lawyers who have too much work to do

In this insights piece we explore the art of balance in legal practice.

Key topics discussed

Developing a strategy for success

Through insightful discussions sparked by our recent LinkedIn post, we explore strategies employed by legal professionals to navigate the balance between client service and business development.

We recently posted on LinkedIn:

Lawyers who have too much work to do…You need to separate, to some extent, your client acquisition and BD from your fee earning. 
It’s a matter of push and pull. 
Consider a digital agency, such as our team at MLT Digital, to help partner with you. 
We do the same ourselves. 
We have a team who help generate new clients for us. 
And an operational team who help deliver the work. 
But there should always be time for some BD. 
Otherwise none of you would be on LinkedIn… 
Further thoughts from any rainmakers or law firm consultant followers? 

It’s not uncommon for lawyers to feel overwhelmed by the demands of their caseload due to the busyness of legal practice. However, while attending to client matters is essential, it’s equally crucial for law firms to dedicate time and resources to business development (BD) and client acquisition.  

Striking the right balance between these responsibilities can be challenging but is vital for the sustained growth and success of any firm.  

In this insights piece, we explore the critical importance of navigating the equilibrium of client acquisition, fee earning and the importance of business development alongside digital marketing services. Following interesting conversations on LinkedIn from lawyers and professionals who responded, we have provided these for extra insight.  

Separating client acquisition and fee-earning

A recent LinkedIn post highlights the need to separate client acquisition and fee-earning tasks. Just as successful digital agencies maintain distinct teams for generating leads and delivering services, law firms can benefit from a similar division of labour.

By assigning BD responsibilities to a dedicated team or individual, lawyers can focus on providing excellent service to their existing clients without neglecting the need to attract new business.

Just as a well-oiled machine relies on the synergy of its individual components, a law firm functions most effectively when its team members excel in their respective roles.

With BD tasks entrusted to a dedicated team, lawyers can dedicate their expertise to delivering high-quality legal services, confident in the knowledge that client acquisition is being actively pursued by skilled professionals.

By consolidating BD efforts within a specialised team or individual, law firms can harness the collective expertise and experience necessary to navigate the complexities of client acquisition.

This focused approach allows for the development of targeted strategies tailored to the unique needs and preferences of potential clients, thereby maximising the effectiveness of the firm’s business development initiatives.

Tailoring strategies for success

Separating client acquisition and fee-earning tasks can enhance client satisfaction and retention. When lawyers can devote their full attention to serving existing clients without the distraction of BD responsibilities, they can deliver exceptional service, build stronger relationships, and foster loyalty.

Dimple D., Legal Marketing Expert and AI specialist agrees and explains, “I agree with your point on the need for lawyers to differentiate between client acquisition, business development, and fee-earning tasks. In a profession where the workload can be overwhelming, it’s vital to focus on what lawyers do best – practicing law.

The idea of engaging with digital marketing professionals to handle client acquisition resonates strongly. This approach not only streamlines processes but also ensures that each aspect of the business receives expert attention. By delegating marketing efforts, lawyers can concentrate more on their legal expertise and client service, which are their core strengths.

Personally, I also strongly believe that incorporating AI into the business plan is essential for success in 2024. Time is our biggest commodity and with AI, lawyers and law firms can get many hours back in their day.

It’s a balance between efficient business management and effective service delivery. Even with a busy schedule, maintaining an active role in business development is essential, and building a personal brand on platforms like LinkedIn is imperative to being relevant in a crowded space.”

Cesar Cobo, Chief Operating Officer and Partner of WEBRIS, agrees “Separating client acquisition from fee earning is a smart move for efficiency.”

The push and pull of legal practice

Lawyers often find themselves caught in a constant push and pull between servicing clients and seeking new opportunities. While fee-earning tasks demand immediate attention and yield tangible results, business development (BD) activities play a crucial role in laying the groundwork for future growth and sustainability.

Striking a delicate balance between these competing demands is not only a challenge but also an imperative for law firms looking to thrive in today’s competitive landscape.

The focus on fee-earning tasks

In the day to day of legal practice, fee-earning tasks often take precedence as they directly contribute to the firm’s revenue stream. Lawyers dedicate their time and expertise to addressing the needs of existing clients, resolving legal matters, and delivering tangible outcomes.

However, while these tasks are essential for maintaining current operations and meeting short-term financial objectives, they alone are insufficient for ensuring the firm’s long-term success.

The significance of business development

On the other hand, business development activities encompass a broad spectrum of initiatives aimed at nurturing relationships, expanding the firm’s client base, and positioning it for future growth. These activities may include networking events, cultivating referral partnerships, publishing thought leadership content, and implementing digital marketing strategies, among others.

While the results of BD efforts may not be immediately apparent, they are indispensable for fostering a pipeline of new business opportunities and enhancing the firm’s competitiveness in the market. Striking a balance between fee-earning tasks and business development activities requires a strategic approach and careful allocation of resources.

Striking a balance

While it may be tempting to prioritise fee-earning tasks due to their immediate impact on revenue generation, neglecting BD activities can lead to stagnation and missed opportunities in the long run. Conversely, investing too heavily in BD initiatives at the expense of servicing existing clients can jeopardise client satisfaction and erode trust, ultimately undermining the firm’s reputation and viability.

Therefore, successful law firms recognise the importance of integrating fee-earning and BD activities into their overall business strategy in a balanced and sustainable manner.

By allocating time, resources, and attention to both aspects of their practice, firms can ensure both short-term success and long-term viability.

Moreover, by adopting a proactive and strategic approach to business development, firms can position themselves as industry leaders, attract high-value clients, and achieve sustainable growth and profitability in today’s dynamic legal landscape.

Alecs Magtoto, explains, “Balancing client acquisition and fee earnings is crucial. Your model at MLT Digital looks inspiring; creating that balance ensures sustained professional growth.”

Adam P. Bond, Principle of the Northwood Group, notes “Managing client acquisition and fee-earning can be tough. Teaming up with a digital agency, like MLT Digital, makes sense.”

Making time for business development

In the hectic world of legal practice, finding time for BD can feel like a luxury, however, neglecting this aspect of the business can lead to stagnation and missed opportunities. By carving out dedicated time for BD activities, lawyers can proactively identify new clients, nurture relationships, and position their firm for future success.  

Whether this includes networking events, publishing thought leadership content, or investing your budget in digital marketing initiatives, prioritising BD is essential for staying competitive in today’s legal market. 

As Gyi Tsakalakis, Attorney Sync President, puts it, “In my experience, it’s a matter of deploying resources most effectively. In Strategic Coach parlance, what’s your unique ability? Is your time more effectively spent delivering service or generating new business? What do you like to do? What do you have the capacity to do? 

Successful lawyers can do all, some, and none of each. The key seems to be mindful of how time is budgeted and spent.” 

Embracing digital marketing

Firms can’t afford to overlook the power of online marketing. Digital channels offer unprecedented opportunities to connect with potential clients, showcase expertise, and differentiate from competitors.

From Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to website design to lead generation, leveraging digital strategies can help law firms expand their reach, attract qualified leads, and drive business growth. By embracing digital marketing techniques, firms can stay ahead of the curve and position themselves for success.

By strategically deploying these techniques, law firms can engage with their target audience across various online platforms, nurturing relationships and establishing themselves as thought leaders in their respective fields.

Kushagra T., Consultant at JustMachina, explains, “It can even start with something small like automating scheduling. I have seen so many law firm websites that have huge traffic but a delayed response time or no scheduling option – resulting in a subpar website conversion; such a low-hanging fruit.”

The path to prosperity

Ultimately, achieving success in legal practice requires a multifaceted approach that balances client service with business development. By separating client acquisition and fee-earning tasks, making time for BD activities, and embracing digital marketing strategies, law firms can position themselves for sustained growth and prosperity.

While finding this balance may require careful planning and prioritisation, the rewards are well worth the effort. With a strategic approach to client acquisition and fee-earning, law firms can unlock new opportunities and expand their reach to compete in 2024.

Victoria Moffatt, a non-practising solicitor and founder and MD of LexRex Communications, believes it depends upon the firm, work and target audiences.

Victoria says, “If you are a hunter gatherer of your own work – for example, you work in a small firm or as a consultant (where you are expected to bring your own clients – some will pass you work for a lower return), then you need to build your own biz dev into your time.

If you work for a much bigger firm OR you are not a natural at developing clients, you may simply be able to spend your time concentrating on delivery work.

I don’t see any point in trying to turn lawyers who are very good at delivery and concentrating on their work into biz dev people, it just won’t work. And equally, it makes little sense to get those who are natural client developers to be chained to their desks and expected to just churn out the work.

As ever – it’s about nuance and strategy. What are you trying to achieve? How can you get to that point in the easiest, cheapest and quickest way possible? It goes without saying that you can’t have all three at the same time.

Putting a thinking hat on is always the first step. And a blanket approach is always doomed to failure, in my respectful opinion.”

Unlocking success

In conclusion, balancing client acquisition and fee-earning responsibilities is essential for the long-term success of any law firm. By separating these tasks and leveraging the expertise of specialised teams or individuals, law firms can maximise their efficiency, productivity, and profitability, whilst focusing their resources on areas where they excel.

This is also a theme we’ve been hearing about in some of the Your Law Firm Success podcast episodes and would recommend listening to this one first from Bernard Savage on “Demystifying business development for professional service firms” and this one from Murray Mathieson on “Delivering law firm success by changing your mindset and getting organised.”
At MLT Digital our digital marketing services enable firms to attract new clients, expand their online presence, and achieve unprecedented growth and success in today’s competitive legal landscape.

With a deep understanding of the legal industry and extensive experience in digital marketing, our team is equipped to devise tailored strategies that align with the unique goals and objectives of each firm.

We are committed to delivering results which drive tangible business outcomes and propel our clients toward sustained growth and success.

Picture of Gavin Ward

Gavin Ward

As MLT’s Projects Director, I help establish and maintain best-in-class project delivery, client service and performance standards.


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