The 7 Stages of Client Relationships

For most firms, quantity and size come before strength and quality when counting clients. We always want more and bigger. 

But without core strength or understanding our depth of quality, we know little about what each client relationship can be and how long it may last. Knowing where we stand with clients is the foundation to ultimately securing market position and long-term success. You can look at your client relationships along two dimensions:

  1. The strength of our current relationships—are we the primary, secondary or other firm  
  2. The quality of our current relationships—we know how many clients recommend us in an unprompted manner—no suggestions needed or given

Ideally, you will have some balance between primary relationships and recommendations—but few firms do. Some law firms are overweighed in primary relationships with fewer recommendations and other firms find the reverse. Both have profound business development implications.  

In BTI’s newest report, BTI Client Relationship Scorecard, more than 500 corporate counsel rank their relationships with nearly 400 law firms. Law firms fall into 1 of 7 distinct categories:

  1. BTI Power Elite—The firms with the highest number of superior relationships. These firms enjoy the most primary relationships and the most recommendations without prompting.
  2. Power Players—One step removed from the Power Elite, these firms boast more superior relationships than 90% of the market.
  3. Celebrities—Recommended more often than used in a primary role—suggesting upside if these firms can be more aggressive on business development.
  4.  Players—Used as a primary firm more often than recommended—suggesting opportunity through strategic use of client service and business development.
  5. Suitors—Prime candidates for growth, these firms have more superior relationships than 60% of the market.
  6. Contenders—With more client recommendations then primary relationships these firms have the potential to develop new business with aggressive and bold tactics.
  7. Stealth Providers—Firms with primary relationships but little in the way of recommendations or client mind share. Aggressive tactics can make these relationships substantially more robust.

Your position can inform your marketing and business development strategy moving forward. You can target your resources to change your market position and get more bang for your buck.  

You can learn where you stand and how corporate counsel view their relationships with nearly 400 firms in over 15 industries in the new BTI Client Relationship Scorecard 2014: Ranking Law Firm Client Relationships.