The Seven Dimensions of Law Firm Business Development Maturity

Law firms vary across a broad spectrum in terms of how developed and sophisticated their business development approaches are. Some law firms have fully embraced modern selling processes, tools and attitudes. Other firms approach business development in a more traditional, reactive, or primitive way.

How do you know where your firm is across this spectrum and how do you know what steps you can take to further evolve your BD motions?

The following is a business development (BD) maturity model developed by LexisNexis (click image to see full-size):535 LexisNexis-BD-Maturity-Model


This tool allows a law firm to have its methods and processes assessed according to defined best practices, against a clear set of external benchmarks. Maturity is indicated by the award of a particular “maturity level.”   The model provides the following benefits:

  • A known maturity level, with precise recommendations on how to improve;
  • Ability for organizations to compare their maturity level with other organizations, or other parts of their own organization;
  • An independently held set of “benchmarks.”

There are seven independent dimensions that all contribute to law firm business development success.

1. Organization – describes how the business development function is staffed, aligned, led, and funded. It includes elements of the law firm’s culture. Firms in the ad hoc or reactive stages typically do not have dedicated business development teams. Optimized firms have staffed with BD professionals and are led by CMOs or CBDOs who have a strategic role at the firm.

2.  Process – deals with the policies and methodologies the firm has implemented for business development. In the early stages of maturity, firms lack documented processes and have no formal processes. More mature firms have adopted standard sales methodologies, track opportunities through a pipeline, and have programs to continuously improve processes.

3. Enablement – refers to the business development tools, technology, training, and coaching the firm provides the lawyers. Mature firms provide regular “sales” training, create standard templates, and establish a coaching cadence. They use technology and software to drive and manage the process.

4. Focus – indicates how well the firm targets prospective clients and qualifies opportunities. Less evolved firms are reactive and may have a “spray and pray” approach to marketing and BD. The most mature firms have consistent qualifying criteria and only pursue winnable opportunities. They successfully shrink their universe to focus on the prospects and clients that are most likely to yield financial outcomes.

5. Oversight & Accountability – measures whether or not the firm tracks goals, KPIs, and adherence to processes and best practices. The most sophisticated firms have standard management reports and regular meetings to provide oversight. Lawyers are held accountable for executing their BD activity commitments. Progress against the goals are measured with financial and CRM data.

6. Relationships & Client Experience – gauges how optimized the firm’s approach is to managing relationships and intentionally improving client experience to drive business development outcomes. Leading firms have formal client experience programs and establish relationship goals and plans. Client focus at these firms is institutionalized and they have the ability to understand and measure the full client journey.

7. Analytics & Intelligence – provides a view into how much the firm uses data for benchmarking and insights. The most analytical firms can measure ROI, client lifetime value and referral rates. Analytics are viewed as a competitive differentiator and are used to drive strategy and improvements.

Within each of these dimensions you can identify reasonable actions to make incremental improvements.  “You can’t make huge leaps in large organizations,” cautions Toni Minick, director of Product Management for LexisNexis and the primary architect of the business development maturity model.

“We see firms struggling with wanting to be at the optimum maturity level but taking on too much, actually think too big too fast and not being able to succeed or move the firm forward,” she adds.  “The model helps assess where you are and can be used as a roadmap to build a plan for how you improve and move the firm forward with guidance in tools and metrics to help you assess the improvement.”


Matt Thompson is the director of the Client Success Team Program for the LexisNexis InterAction business.


Matt Thompson

About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is Vice President of Product Marketing for Foundation Software Group and is an industry thought leader on how professional services firms can leverage technology to enable best practice business development initiatives. With 18+ years providing marketing solutions for law firms, he is focused on how firms can adopt data-driven approaches to business development, deliver superior client experiences, and leverage relevant aspects of modern selling methodologies. 

Matt previously held senior management roles within sales, consulting services, product management, customer experience, partner relations and technical communications. A Six Sigma green belt, he is also certified in Pragmatic Marketing. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Lowell (Massachusetts).

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