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  • Ruth Napier

It's a jungle out there - top BD challenges for law firms and how to tackle them

Two overlapping green fan shaped jungle plant leaves.

A damp spring and a long spell of high pressure weather has given pretty much all the plants in my garden free rein to double in height, width and depth. Those gaps in the border which concerned me in March also seem to have morphed into hotbeds of rampant competition between the various colonising weeds. Buttercups, self heal and docks are the serial offenders but round the corner are lurking some worrying signs as the aphids up their game, the mildew spreads a little further and leaves are worryingly stripped, perforated or curled by a range of bothersome pests. I take a minimal chemical approach to my gardening, relying on natural predators and manual intervention but it is a constant battle to try to get just the right growing conditions in place and to keep the damage to a minimum.

Like a garden, a law firm needs nurturing to perform at its best. And that includes tackling the pests, problems and diseases to make sure your firm stays on track to deliver the results you want.

So what are the top bd challenges for law firms when growing your business and some of the best ways to cut them down to size?

Top BD Challenges for Law Firms


Gardening tips

Law firm tips

Weak or spindly growth, poor performer

Either too little light, too few nutrients or too much water.

Assess position and move, feed and water appropriately

Firm: Lack of vision, leadership or skills to deliver strong business development: assess gaps and put in place BD programme(s) to address.

Individual: employ coach/mentor to address, agree, implement personal development plan. Monitor and adjust to results

Excessive growth

Too many leaves, too leggy, lots of small flowers rather than large blooms.​

Overfeeding or failure to prune can cause plants to bolt, grow too large or produce smaller flowers.

Cut back, alter pruning regime and retrain.

Confusion, lack of coordination and failure to cross/upsell services and deliver merger dividends can be symptoms of rapid growth.

Culture is as important as finances for merger success, so ensure you have a BDM expert on your project team. Clear communications, regularly reinforced brand values and firm-wide systems and processes will smooth potential friction points and support positive behaviours.

Spreading or invasive species

A self seeder, one that spreads via roots or runners, or simply a plant that is growing more rapidly than expected and spreading beyond its expected boundaries.

Options are to prune, divide or remove.

Root spreaders can be slowed with physical barriers.

Busy high billing lawyers can occasionally fail to adhere to accepted firm practice. This can become problematic if they are influential/looked up to.

Options are to ignore (and run the risk of it being taken as acceptable behaviour) or temper by appealing to their better nature to do the right thing. If becomes toxic, be prepared to make difficult calls.

Limited or no flowers

Adjust water, feed, warmth and light to suit the plants affected. They may need to be moved.

Consider a greenhouse and/or cold frame for certain plant types.

​Ensure your lawyers understand why BD is important, give them the tools and training to enable them to grow business tailored to their strengths and your firm’s needs. Consider hothousing via a BD academy programme.

​Rust, mildew, blackspot and similar diseases which weaken

Symptoms of excessive damp weather, bacterial or viral infection, particularly on susceptible plants.

Treat on a timely basis. Remove all affected leaves and burn. Chemical sprays may help to control.

​Keep an eye out for minor irritations in junior team members to avoid these spreading. They are likely to travel faster than expected and will amplify quickly.

Ensure adequate pastoral care. Avoid leaving younger team members or solo marketers without access to a mentor or buddy.


​Keep an eye on vulnerable plants.

For bug outbreaks, apply physical, chemical or nematode controls.

Encourage predatory species.

​Keep an eye on where time is being spent. It can easily be eaten away in overly busy practices. Practice heads should aim to keep a balance to ensure enough time is spent on BD alongside getting the work done, supervising, client care, billing etc etc.

Too many demands on a lawyers’ time reduces their ability to contribute to business development and practise BD skills.

Smart firms empower lawyers at all levels to get involved in BD.

Unexpected lumps and bumps

In the lawn = anthills or molehills. Slice the top off both to flatten, pour boiling water on the ants and use a sonic mole deterrent. Moles are usually solitary.

In leaves/stems = a gall (wasp) or other insect damage. Treat as for infestation

Individuals can sometimes be obstructive or a negative influence.

Expect the odd one but if you get a regular offender, enlist peer support and tackle them systematically to direct their activity to where it makes a positive impact.


Going away? Depending on the time of year, make plans to ensure your plants are kept in good health.

Good relationships with your neighbours means if your tomatoes need watering for a fortnight in July there is someone to step in– in exchange for free produce, of course!

Planning ahead around absence is one of the keys to looking after clients well.

Be diligent about handovers, communicate timings to the account team and the client, checkin on your return to make sure everything went well.

Total or partial loss

Rabbits, deer, birds, bees, beetles, slugs, snails and caterpillars can all cause extensive leaf loss and plant death if not controlled.

Tender plants can suffer especially with frost or poor treatment.

Physical barrier options include mesh, netting. Visual and sonic scarers can be used. Chemical controls may be necessary. Sharp gravel or copper tape can deter slugs and snails. Beer traps can also be effective.

Of new business:-

Work drying up is a high priority wake-up call for your marketing and bd efforts. Plan quickly and act fast: enlist expert advice and implement.

Set your trainees and NQs up for success by training in BD from the outset. Tailor to level and ability. Incorporate easy and habit forming behaviours.

Of a particular age group/cohort:-

You are unlikely to be able to compete on salary, so type and variety of work, culture, opportunities, development and benefits become part of your USP.

Attracting and retaining the right people means investing in their future: BD skills training is an essential part of this.

Other posts in this series on marketing and bd:

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