Prolawgue spoke to John Grimley, an independent writer, publisher and BD service provider to organisations, individuals and international business, including legal organisations. John edits and published Asia Law Portal.



You began your career working at various levels of the US government. How did you manage such roles and how was your experience?

After law school, I began my career as a writer to President Bush Senior in the White House – and then later worked as an aide in the California Legislature, where I focused on legislative drafting, legislative affairs, media relations, and constituent relations.  I enjoyed all of these roles very much. I’d had a long-standing interest in government and politics and wanted to gain experience in them before going into consulting or lobbying in a public affairs capacity (as I did later, but on the business development side).


From media communications and legislative writing, your niche shifted to business development (BD). How did this shift happen, and why did you specifically pursue BD in legal services?

Shortly after working as a writer for a campaign in London headed by former British Foreign Secretary David Owen – which favored the UK retaining the Pound as its’ currency while remaining in the EU – I went to work for a London-based public affairs consulting firm where my role was to write topical articles and an ebook – about navigating the EU – for American companies.  I used these publications to write to the European heads of US corporations who might have an interest in bidding on EU public sector contracts.  I met with those C-Suite executives, often wrote custom proposals for them – and helped my employer build a client base of US corporates sufficient to establish and staff a Brussels public affairs office for the firm – to serve the needs of those newly signed clients. Shortly after that, I was recruited to join a Washington, DC-based hybrid law and lobbying firm to help them build their European client base. My work for them lasted several years where I helped the firm get retained by multinational corporations, foreign government, and foreign trade associations. In that role, I was responsible for the entire business development cycle – from identification of clients to meeting with and being retained by them.


You’ve also written for The Wall Street Journal Europe, The Lawyer, The European Journal, and the like. How was your experience working for such highly regarded publications? How can one write for these journals, what would your advice be for beginners?

I guest authored pieces for these and other publications by contacting them with story ideas or articles I’d already written – which were germane to their audiences. I’d suggest anyone with an interest in this contact editors and ask how they might author pieces for their publications – and ask whether there is any payment for freelance writers who successfully submit articles.


In 2014 you authored: A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets & in 2021 you co-authored: Thriving in a Multi-Generational Law Firm: How to Increase Communication and Collaboration Among Lawyers. Please tell us about these books, how the idea of authoring these books arose.

My 2014 book looks at the growth of Asia-Pacific region economies and how they are impacting law firms.  My 2021 book looks at the divisions among generations and how they are impacting law firm profitability negatively and what can be done about it. I was asked to write the 2014 book by the publishers after writing an article about a 2013 presentation in Seoul by the late Alan Hodgart at the Inter-Pacific Bar Association meeting. And I was asked by Pamela DeNeuve, advisor to law firms on wellness and profitability – to co-author the 2021 book.


You have researched and drafted content for numerous firm websites specialising in different areas. What is your strategy for website content? What sort of content makes the user frequently visit a website?

The strategy should be guided by a BD plan which identifies ideal potential clients, and the content that might be used to attract them on an inbound basis, as well as something which can be utilized when doing outbound BD. Frequent visitors are less important than client-centric. I think SEO would be helpful to increase views – but not necessarily good for BD.


Since you deal with BD and marketing of firms across regions of the globe, in your experience, what BD strategy should firms adopt for creating a transcontinental reach and consumer base?

Identify ideal potential clients. Create a superb online presence with content focused on those audiences with calls to action to generate expressions of interest.  Utilize dedicated BD professionals to manage the entire BD process from identification of potential clients to close of new business. Focus on things of importance to foreign investor clients to build a transcontinental client base.


You have great experience in brand recognition on social media channels. What are the 3 things you think are important to expand social media reach?

1.     Build an industry-leading blog on the WordPress platform populated with superior client-focused content.

2.     Establish and operate social media channels to amplify the blog content.

3.     Focus on building a conversation around your blog and social channels and make it vital as a place for your audience to gather.


Since you have authored a number of books, e-books, and digital publications, what do you think has the most impact in today’s age and time? For organisations planning to focus on marketing, is frequent publications a good idea?

Highly-client centric sophisticated content published on a WordPress platform blog with robust social media channels will lead to new clients if this process is taken very seriously and treated as crucial to organizational survival and success.


Since you have researched and drafted marketing and BD strategy for organisations internationally — what differences in law and market landscapes have you observed in these jurisdictions?

Little difference. Most firms do not take publishing very seriously. Only outlier firms do – irrespective of geographical locale.


What areas of BD and marketing are law firms over-looking? Do you think there is a need for the legal sector to more intuitively adapt to any new or emerging trends of marketing and BD strategy?

No firms I am aware of have dedicated BD teams to initiate and manage all aspects of the BD process (from identification of saleable services to specific potential client targets to outreach to pitch meetings to proposals to follow up – all of this should be conducted by BD professionals, not practicing lawyers). This is almost certainly not going to change. Few firms publish seriously.  Most firms rely on referrals only. Publishing seriously would yield much better results. Outbound BD coordinated and led by BD professionals would be a profit center for any firm that deploys it effectively.


What would your suggestions be for someone seeking to improve their writing skills so as to write for organizations that might publish sophisticated content like white papers or studies?

Position yourself organizationally or professionally in some way – so your writing will be edited by a professional journalist with impeccable credentials.


What would your suggestions be for a legal blog to scale its audience and build content?

Produce large amounts of sophisticated client-focused content. Build an organic blog following and social media following. Create a platform that becomes a must-read for referral sources, potential clients, industry journalists for key practice groups in your firm, conduct outreach to legal media and trade publications to facilitate interviews with firm partners. Dedicate yourself to building the most important blog in your niche in the world.


You’ve said recently that large law firms are not going to adopt sales divisions.  How would they adopt them, why won’t they adopt them – and what does that mean for you?

As many consultants and observers to the legal profession have observed – law firms are not managed like corporations – or even like Big4 accounting firms, NewLaw firms, or legal technology companies – all of whom operate sales divisions. Law firms are owned by lawyer partners – who prefer to be personally responsible for BD. They want to direct strategy and staff BD operations with assistants. They do not want experts in BD to have prominence internally – even when that presence results in higher top-line revenue for the firm.  Sales divisions provide firms with a sales operation that organizes sales and pursues potential clients from identification of what can be sold and to whom – to contact, discussion, negotiation, and signing of clients. Practising lawyers participate in this process when BD interviews them about their services and ideal potential clients – and occasionally during client pitches. This dramatically reduces the time practising lawyers spend on BD, increases firm BD results and overall firm revenue. I now provide BD services to public affairs/governmental relations consulting firms – (I did this prior to and during my tenure in legal BD, too). At the end of last year, I stopped advising law firms and lawyers in BD. Advising on BD in law is the province of coaches. Not practitioners of BD. Lawyers have and will continue to direct and manage their own BD – irrespective of their level of knowledge and experience in BD. Some firms will provide assistance via staffing to help lawyers conduct BD – but no law firms I’m aware of have BD professionals who direct and conduct BD for firms.


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