The terms marketing and business development are frequently used interchangeably, especially by law firms that utilize both to grow their businesses. To set up each department, it is critical that firm leadership knows the difference between these two roles. While both marketing and business development cover similar ground and ultimately contribute to growing your law firm’s business, each has different strengths and each department should have distinct responsibilities.


First, let’s define marketing and its function. Marketing is necessary to understand the wants and needs of a law firm’s target market and involves developing a strategic plan to establish the firm’s overall message, benefits, and capabilities. The marketing department should be responsible for executing a number of strategic tactics, including the design of marketing materials and websites, and must ensure that all of the information online and in other materials is consistent and accurate.

The marketing department’s role within a firm includes, but is not limited to: refining and communicating the firm’s current service offerings and identifying new ones that should be added; providing education about the firm and its services; creating and maintaining a professional and consistent image for the firm; managing visibility through public relations, the website, and other marketing collateral; measuring success toward reaching marketing goals; and monitoring the effectiveness of campaigns.

In order for law firm marketers to be successful, they must have a diverse set of skills including: knowing the legal industry dynamics and audience, the ability to think strategically, and measuring their success by tracking completed tasks. If an individual or team is hired who can meet this criteria and also fulfill the tasks assigned to the marketing department, the law firm will thrive and revenue will increase.

Business Development

Business development can begin after a marketing plan is in place. This department should be responsible for forming partnerships and strategic relationships with referral sources and other professional contacts in target markets in order to bring in new clients. This may also include developing new markets in different geographic areas. Business development specialists should be expected to join trade associations and attend trade shows, develop prospect and referral source lists, and assist in following up after direct mail campaigns via email and phone calls.

A successful law firm business developer must possess many key skills and traits. These include knowing the industry dynamics, managing time strategically, the ability to make personal connections, and being resourceful. The success of the person in this position is easily measured by the number of referral sources and prospects, and the amount of new work gained.

Marketing and Business Development Working Together

The marketing and business development departments have many opportunities to collaborate, which your law firm should take advantage of in order to maximize efforts and ensure that tasks are not duplicated. To ensure the firm uses its marketing and business development resources efficiently, these six tasks should be coordinated between both departments:

  1. Strategy and Planning – smooth communication of firm messaging
  2. Firm Messaging – amessage should be developed based upon how the firm is qualified to meet the wants and needs of a client
  3. Content – items created by marketing, such as articles, blog posts, and webinars should be based upon information on topics that the target audience wants to learn more about
  4. Hosted Events – marketing handles the coordination and promotion of the event, while business development provides personal outreach following the event
  5. Speaking Opportunities – the marketer successfully pitches a partner at the firm to speak at an event, and the partner or other business developer meets prospects, hands out business cards and follows up post-event
  6. Client Feedback – both marketing and business development must be aware of changes to client needs and challenges and adjust how the firm responds to these

Marketing and business development possess skill sets that complement each other and work together to help a law firm thrive. It is critical for firms to take advantage of the strengths from each department while also recognizing their differences. A firm that understands how these departments can interact and support one another will benefit in the future and have a higher return on investment.

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