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As a support staff specialist here at JMC Legal, I have been working with Business Development Executives and Managers from some of the biggest law firms in the world. And, as I delve further into law tech and technological innovation/disruption in my spare time, I have found myself asking questions about the future of business development and how technology might either revolutionise business development, or in fact be detrimental in the long run. There are potential problems littered along the way. 


User Mapping


There is a wide range of technologies available that can aid business development. One of which is user mapping.

This is basically a tool to search for and interact with clients (or potential clients) without having to contact individual accounts (or potential accounts) one by one. This saves a lot of time and resources and can offer a technological route to lead generation, optimisation, schedule management and CRM with one stroke. Such technology can search for potential customers and clients and target them in a focused manner. This can save a lot of time and resources spent on lead generation, reaching out with business and business development opportunities, and follow ups.

However, the temptation here is to deviate from a particular and bespoke approach to business development and the content involved. There might be a fine line between a “spam” approach and a more personalised and considered approach to business development. Nobody wants a random email popping up starting with the phrase “Dear Sir/Madam” and with content that does not seem tailored to properly represent a genuine opportunity. Business development the more traditional way (with a spreadsheet and a phone) might well be a slightly more human approach; it’s easier to be personable over the phone, build a rapport and really get to know a business and convey the right opportunity the right way.

Furthermore, we have all seen examples of the bulk email approach bringing a company a certain level of embarrassment, the infamous “Dear [insert candidate name here]” or “To Adrian [insert last name]” or “Dear Mr Sue Baker” etc. There may be an argument here that convenience and a reliance on technology may result in slightly more slip ups, when such opportunities to save time are present at the tap of a button.


Machine Learning


Machine learning is the idea that machines learn from data via mathematical models and algorithms; this would allow businesses to collate data and information about prospects and the success of business development strategies. This, in theory, could be used in conjunction with Artificial Intelligence, which would combine to make an automated collation of data and information and then a reaction based on extrapolation of what works, which would of course be fine tuned and refined the more data is brought in and the more that machine learning adapts to alternative methods of doing business development. This would allow for a reactive and fluid method of optimising business development and for machines to learn what business development methods work and which areas of business development strategy could be improved.

Machine learning also means that businesses can keep on top of changing circumstances, because machine learning can be used to adapt, for example to changing market conditions, audience needs, outside competition, etc. This could mean that business development becomes fluid and targeted through automated means.

However, machine learning requires a certain level of data and “proof” to build up from and so it is likely that the biggest law firms in the world would have a better base line in this regard than smaller practices, giving longer established and more data heavy law firms a distinct advantage. The other point to make is that machine learning needs to be set up and sustained in such a way that everything is defined and mapped out correctly and methodically. Errors in terminology, data or market knowledge could result in a serious slip up. As a project, machine learning should be approached with respect and enough resources and knowledge to really be an asset to business development.


Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality


In the world of business development, AR and VR can be extremely valuable tools to convey messages and products and to demonstrate sales and business development opportunities in a vivid manner. There are millions of ways that AR and VR could help to make a point and aid in sales and business development.

Of course, one potential risk here is that the message and the clarity of the vision/business opportunity should not be lost in the relaying of imagery in AR or VR. So, it is essential that VR and AR do not override basic sales knowledge or business/commercial acumen and that the opportunity does not get lost in the bright, fascinating and alluring world of AR/VR. Furthermore, it is important in sales and business development that there is heart; people buy and invest in people- it would be detrimental to lose the human face of business development to the expansive worlds and imagery that AR and VR create. They should therefore be a means to an end and not the totality of business development strategy.


Technology and the Future of Business Development


These are just some examples of how technology can change business development. Technology is, and likely will continue to be, a positive force for optimisation and opportunity within business development. Whether there is a darker side of this, with potentially incredibly serious GDPR and data protection issues, the risk of error because of complacency, and the cost and time spent to rectify any issues and to even implement these technologies in the first place, should be a concern going forwards.

In a world where law and technology are increasingly intertwining and assimilating to create more opportunities, the future of business development in law firms is looking bright.

But, is there a hidden danger in this?

Only time will tell.

By Support Staff Specialist Recruitment Consultant, Andrew Burrows