UK firms are “shying away” from BD, says NatWest

A minority of UK law firms see business development (BD) activities as a priority despite dwindling work levels, according to research from NatWest (part of the RBS group) and BD specialist Huthwaite Legal.

Delegates at NatWest’s 2012 series of legal conferences, held in association with Huthwaite, were surveyed for their views of the industry and their firm. Of those surveyed, 31 per cent said they were motivated to commit time to business development while 64 per cent acknowledged that their investment in business development was only reasonably effective.

“Many firms are still adapting to a changing world,” claimed Steve Arundale, the head of professionals sector at NatWest who led the events along with speakers Kate Fleming of Huthwaite, Robert Mowbray of Taylor Mowbray, Steve Billot from RSM Tenon and James Holder from Global BPO.

“Prior to 2009, when demand was outstripping supply, a lot of the work handled by solicitors simply came to them without the need for much business development. Now there’s an over-supply of providers of legal services, but many lawyers haven’t got to grips with what they need to do to generate income.”

Arundale added that firms should look to invest in training lawyers to be better aware at spotting opportunities.

“There’s still an anti-sales culture at many firms so if they interpret BD as selling some lawyers will shy away from it,” added Arundale.

The events were run throughout September and October across Edinburgh, Bristol, Leicester, Wakefield, Manchester and London, attracting around 550 legal professionals. The survey was completed by 127 partners and managing partners from small and medium law firms with between £2m and £30m revenue.