Debra Hare made her way to legal marketing after cutting her teeth in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) vein of the professional services industry. As with many people’s best decisions, it was more accidental than it was calculated. And although the two are very different industries, she recalls the transition being relatively seamless, mainly because law firms were conducting BD and marketing the way AEC professionals had been for years. Project management and concepts like alternative fee arrangements were commonplace in the AEC industry. She was able to smooth the way as they were introduced into the legal industry, sharing her past experiences and successes with a growing group of receptive professionals.
Debra recalls several notable differences between the industries as she transitioned from professional services to legal marketing, the first being that "the lawyer is the client." Still today, legal marketers and business developers are more behind the scenes when it comes to identifying and capturing new business. “The closest we get to interacting with a client sometimes is a survey.” Debra was used to being the face of the firms she worked for, generating leads, interfacing directly, and establishing relationships with the client. That access was incredibly helpful in understanding the client’s needs and addressing them. It proved, more often than not, to provide advance notice of opportunities on the horizon and get a jump start on that business. Over the years, Debra has overcome the inaccessibility challenge by strategically advising her lawyers on how best to engage their clients and through a strong coaching regimen. While not all of the attorneys she works with are receptive to coaching, she says “Those who get it, get it. And they go far.”
Debra also noted the volume of RFPs in professional services is significantly higher. “There is nothing I haven’t seen over 100 times” in working on proposals in the professional services arena. Debra learned to hone and rely heavily on her memory—remembering deals, where documents are, past proposals, etc—and she says that a strong memory is the best asset any business developer can have. The volume of RFPs also demanded she develop impeccable organizational, editing, and communication skills in order to make the proposal process as smooth as possible.
When Debra isn’t working, she enjoys yoga, working out, and watching her son play sports. She also counts down the days until the start of the Steelers football season!!
Her advice to LMA members is one I have heard repeatedly over the past few months while writing member profiles – look outside of the legal industry for ideas, inspiration, and best practices. She also encourages any BD professional to read Ford Harding’s “Rainmaking: Attract New Clients No Matter Your Field.”
By Michelle McWhinney, Founder of Navigate Recruiting, LLC, for the May/June 2015 issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.