Idea in Brief

The Problem

Business development at professional services firms has long revolved around one tenet: If you do good work for clients, they will keep coming back.

The Cause

But clients are no longer defaulting to established relationships with premium-priced providers and now often ask a range of service providers to compete for business.

The Solution

Three behaviors are core to a successful business-development approach: building connected networks of colleagues and clients, creating value through collaboration, and committing to a proactive and consistent business-development routine.

The self-evaluation memo is an annual ritual at global law firm Baker McKenzie. At most firms, year-end self-appraisals consist of fee earners’ perspectives on their own performance, but Baker McKenzie does things differently. It asks its partners to not just report on their own accomplishments but also point to specific instances in which they’ve successfully collaborated with colleagues—by, for example, introducing other partners with different areas of expertise to their clients. The firm expects its partners to expose clients to its broad array of services and to build new relationships—and in the process increase revenue. “Collaboration is crucial for Baker McKenzie,” says Colin Murray, the firm’s North America chief executive officer.

A version of this article appeared in the November–December 2023 issue of Harvard Business Review.