Jean-Michel Beeching, international business development director
The Lawyer Management: Taylor Wessing
11 March 2013 | By Lucy Burton
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Jean-Michel Beeching is international business development director at Taylor Wessing. He was previously director of marketing at KPMG and has held roles at Linklaters, where he was head of marketing for Asia and head of business development (BD) for Europe.
How has your role changed during your time at the firm?
It has become even more international, the firm has added seven jurisdictions since I joined just over two years ago and I spend more time on planning and strategy. Sounds dull, but it’s more important than ever for clients and staff to be clear about what the firm is trying to achieve, how we propose to get there and why we can do a better job than our competitors.
How do you manage BD across international offices - do you notice huge differences from one to another?
Yes, there are big differences among the offices and that is largely down to the different markets they are in. The UK market is more innovative and competitive than just about anywhere else. Continental Europe is much more conservative in what it expects and what it allows lawyers to do. The Middle East and Asia are highly dynamic and fluid.
The thing that binds us together most is the growing demand from clients to deliver a consistent, high-quality service wherever they want to do business.
How much time are partners and associates expected to spend on BD, and does this increase the longer they have been at the firm?
We don’t stipulate a set amount of time, but we do spell out expectations of how we want lawyers to contribute. So, for example, associates have personal BD objectives that include specific targets around client development, thought leadership and brand-building.
For partners it should be clear winning and developing clients and building sector expertise are integral parts of the job, not additional tasks for their spare time.
How does the firm try to improve relationships with clients?
The key is giving the right clients the right service. To do this we have a global key client programme. Some of our larger international clients have more complex needs and generate more revenues for us, so justify a higher level of investment. For them we provide dedicated client teams, regular feedback sessions and more tailored training and pricing structures.
For others clients it is appropriate to offer something more straightforward. In all cases, though, it’s a question of talking to the client to find out what they want.
Has the BD role has changed in recent years?
Clients generally have become more demanding. Law firm marketing used to be about putting out as much information as possible into the marketplace and letting clients figure out how you might be able to help them. Nowadays, all firms have to work harder at understanding individual client needs and tailoring individual responses.
BD is not just about clever communications, but more about selecting the right messages and services that suit a particular set of client needs. That means better listening and more creativity when it comes to finding solutions.
Who would you most like to get stuck in a lift with?
I’m a huge Cormac McCarthy fan (All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, The Road) so it would be interesting to be stuck with him for a while. Of course, his books are pretty bleak, so I’d better hope I’m not stuck in there for too long.
What’s your favourite part of the day?
When I get to the end of my to-do list (it never happens).
What’s on your to-do list?
I’m finishing a report for the international management board on two industry sectors we’re considering investing in.
I also have six appraisal meetings to prepare for and am rolling out our key client programme.
Turnover 2011/12: £212.5m
PEP 2011/12: £407,000
Turnover 2010/11: £192.3m
PEP 2010/11: £402,000
“A law firm’s salespeople are its lawyers,” says Beeching. “It’s one thing to set out a strategy and BD plan but that’s no guarantee everyone will buy into it and implement it perfectly.
“Often they’re great lawyers but not natural salespeople and need guidance, training and reassurance to get the best results.
“This is all the more the case when you consider that everyone is coming at the subject from a different perspective - different cultural expectations, different skill levels, different strengths and so on.”