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Demographic Business Development

By Jordan Furlong

When the financial crisis hit, it seemed like all the conversations in the legal space about generational change suddenly went silent. And as the recession wore on, some senior lawyers failed to disguise their schadenfreude over the millennial associates who one day were pushing “work-life balance” and the next day were pushing resumés across desks.

That cloud seems to be lifting a little, because I’m again starting to see articles about inter-generational relations in law firms. But for today’s idea, I’d like you to think less about the demographics of lawyers and more about the demographics of clients.

A Fresh Eye on Generations

Successful law practices identify specific client groups and focus their business development efforts there. But, being lawyers, we tend to classify clients according to their legal needs (family law, insolvency law, estates law, etc.) rather than by criteria that are far more relevant to clients: location, income, marital status and especially age. Generational change is real, so you should think about adjusting your business development efforts demographically.

  • Boomers. Earlier this year, Carolyn Elefant wrote a great post pointing out that although the massive boomer market is waiting to be served, lawyers trip themselves up by calling their offerings to this group “elder” or “senior” law—terms that few boomers are eager to embrace. She provides tips on how to market your services to this generation.
  • Millenials. At the other end of the scale are the Millennials, whose business and professional lives are just getting underway. Check out the law practice of California solo Rachel Rodgers, whose firm carries the brilliant tagline: “Innovative Legal Counsel for the Generation Y Entrepreneur.” This is a business law practice geared specifically to a large and emerging demographic unit, and more lawyers should emulate it.
  • Gen Xers. In between these two huge cohorts are folks like me, Generation Xers. I’m on the slightly older side of this group, but my friends and classmates and I have young families (kids aged anywhere from 2 to 16). We think about taxes, mortgages, child care, estate planning and an uncertain economy more than we’d like. But I’ve yet to see a single law practice specifically geared towards Gen-Xers.

Obviously, you don’t want to tackle an entire national demographic class—but you can break down a generation along criteria like state or province, city or community, business or consumer and so forth. Marketing and business development need to be just as client-centric as the rest of your practice.

Look at your clients with fresh eyes, and think about their lives from their generational vantage point. Chances are, you’ll see opportunities emerging as well.

Jordan Furlong is a speaker, writer and consultant who helps lawyers and law firms navigate the extraordinary changes in the legal marketplace. Read his blog Law21 and contact him at

Illustration © ImageZoo.

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Jordan Furlong Jordan Furlong

Jordan Furlong is a leading analyst of the global legal market and forecaster of its future development. A writer and consultant, he helps lawyers and law firms navigate the extraordinary changes in the legal marketplace. His book, “Evolutionary Road: A Strategic Guide to Your Law Firm’s Future” is available in the Attorney at Work bookstore. Read his blog Law21 and watch for his new book, “Law is a Buyer’s Market: Building a Client-First Law Firm in a Brand New Legal World.” Follow Jordon @Jordan_Law21.

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