- Recommendation 1 – diversifying business development practices: smaller practices need to diversify their business development activities and move beyond a reliance on their existing client base and referrals.
- Recommendation 5 – building networks/strategic collaborations: smaller practices need to build greater networks within the sector and with external bodies. This recommendation is also connected with furthering business development opportunities and marketing efforts.
Both of these relate to the future-proofing and sustainability of smaller practices.
Recommendation 1 identifies the need for practices to move away from a reliance on referrals for generating business and introduce a more diverse set of business development activities.
Recommendation 5 advises that a method of increasing business development is for small practices to build greater networks, both within the legal sector and externally.
Joining new networks and expanding a practice’s current network will enable small practices to gain insights from like-minded individuals and other small practice/business owners, all of whom will likely be facing similar challenges and opportunities.
It is also a cost-effective form of marketing and a great way of promoting your practice and your service offerings to potential clients.
There are a large number of benefits associated with joining networks and membership organisations. These benefits can assist smaller practices in successfully meeting growth goals and can help them overcome the challenges associated with running a smaller practice. Benefits can include:
- Collective problem solving – many practices will face similar problems and will also share problems that SMEs in other sectors face,
- Financial benefits (cost savings, cost sharing),
- Business referrals and new business opportunities.
The report outlines methods of ensuring that you make the most of your current networks, as well as deciding factors on which organisations are the best fit for expanding your network.
These methods include setting targets, following up on initial introductions, ensuring the right fit between your practice and the network, and implementing a planned approach.
As with all business activities, networking should be approached in a planned way. Key considerations should be:
- What is your aim?
- Who are your ideal connections (people)?
- What can I do for these members?
- What can they do for me?
- What are my targets/expectations?
- What is my ‘elevator pitch’ to this group?
Answering such questions will enable a greater understanding of the benefits of membership of each individual network/organisation. The report also lists potential networks and organisations that smaller practices can join, as well as outlining a number of alternative networking methods:
- Becoming a member of a board,
- Sharing office space,
- Sponsorship opportunities,
- Awards and competitions,
- Speaking engagements/providing expert opinion.
The report finishes by summarising the next steps for practices looking to increase their networking activities. The report also contains an appendix, listing a significant number of networks and membership organisations from all over Ireland.
There are a large number of benefits associated with the growth of your professional network. Careful planning makes these more likely to have a positive effect on your practice and its growth.
Referencing the small practice network report and, in particular, the networking planner within that report, will provide you with a guide to approaching networking activities – and, in particular, the planning phase of these activities.
The report is part of an overall programme of supports being provided to smaller legal practices by the Law Society.
Your networking activities can be assisted through the use of additional supports available to small practices on the Small Practice Support Hub (launched in July 2019), and relevant online and on-site training resources, including www.lawsociety.ie/businesshub.