Uniting your Business Development and Library Teams

"The law is not an end in itself," says Lance Sapsford, Business Development and Marketing Director of Ince & Co. He maintains that the information support function can raise its profile by adopting an approach that focuses on helping the firm's clients to achieve their commercial goals.

1. Your session at Legal Libraries 2016 shone a light on the relationship between business development and marketing and the library function and how this relationship can be strengthened. What do you think are the main benefits of this?

Closer collaboration means that business development and marketing working with the information (IS)/library function to extract relevant knowledge from the firm’s resources and packaging and presenting it in a way that will add value to the client. By adding value, I mean helping the client to meet its strategic objectives through the application of this knowledge.  Consistently doing this via a well-managed relationship demonstrates true value to the client and can create a mutually beneficial relationship between business partners - law firms deliver services and add value - clients recognise value and are happy to pay our fees.

2. What steps should law firms take to build an improved relationship between the library function and BD/marketing?

  • Understand the relationship between the two
  • Understand how marketing can be used as a bridge between the IS/library function and the client
  • Create a plan to bring the two into line

3. What are the main challenges facing law firm BD and Marketing teams right now where legal librarians' expertise can be used?

  • Moving the librarian’s focus from the law to the issues facing clients from a commercial perspective
  • Getting the lawyers to understand the above
  • Changing the operational and management structures within the firm to allow this to happen

4. In some forums it has been suggested that in some firms, many of the research requests are marketing/business development focused. Do you think creating a specific role for this type of research can greatly benefit a firm as a whole?

Supporting the research requirements of the lawyers for business development purposes should form 75% of what an information support function does. The function should be set up with this at its core. To go further, the function should employ analysts to come up with ideas based on the insight they can gain through their research and through working with lawyers (who understand the clients and sectors in which they work). These ideas can be translated into products and services which can be taken to clients as part of the sales and marketing efforts of the firm. This would take the onus from partners to come up with content and give a sharper commercial focus to all marketing activity.

5. What piece of advice would you offer to librarians looking to ensure that their research for BD and Marketing is recognised and valued, thus helping to raise the profile of the function?

Do not think of research as being about the law. Think of research as being about helping clients to achieve commercial goals. Competitive advantage can be gained by interpreting a legal or commercial problem or issue to best advantage for clients.  Make it short, high level and geared towards demonstrating commercial understanding NOT legal understanding.  We make money by helping clients achieve their goals through the delivery of legal services.  The law is not an end in itself.