How to CYA (Cover Your Achilles) Before You Ever Need To

Achilles, the Greek war hero, struck down by a strategically targeted arrow.

It only took a single vulnerability to topple the seemingly invincible.

In his death, the mighty Achilles taught us a valuable lesson: do not simply rely on your strengths; know your vulnerabilities and take great care to not let them be your downfall.

Like Achilles—despite great strength and skill—every law firm is vulnerable. Firms ignoring the woeful tale of Achilles are at risk. However, recognizing potential vulnerabilities gives you the opportunity to fend them off.

BTI spoke with more than 330 corporate counsel and discovered even strong relationships suffer from 1 of 3 potentially fatal weaknesses:

  1. 50.1% of corporate counsel see limited depth and breadth in their primary law firms.

    Clients perceive limited capability within their law firms—this includes firms with hundreds (and thousands) of attorneys offering the full portfolio of legal services. The issue is rarely with the firm’s capabilities. Clients say they aren’t introduced to other partners within their primary law firm in a manner building trust or value.

    The Mad Clientist’s discussions with legal decision makers show clients want to see uniform levels of knowledge about their business and industry from a single firm. Instead, clients find little coordination within their firm and are left providing the same information to multiple attorneys at a single firm—frustrating and inefficient for busy General Counsel.

    BTI’s research shows corporate counsel are tired of working with dozens of law firms. Consolidation is on the rise with both middle market and large organizations. Clients, looking for time and cost savings, want integrated teams of lawyers from a single firm to handle more work efficiently.

    Overcoming this Achilles’ heel:
    A handful of savvy law firms are already changing their structure to meet this need. Adopting industry and client teams to leverage institutional knowledge about a client organization or delivering CLE programs using lawyers from multiple practice areas to send an integrated, seamless message about the firm. 2 formidable ways to shoot poison arrows at the heels of law firms unable—or unwilling—to adjust their approach.


  2. 22% of clients report a decline in value from their primary law firm.

    Value has been the top goal for corporate counsel 2 years running. Yet fewer law firms are answering the call. Clients tell The Mad Clientist they see an overriding lack of investment from their law firms—firms are reluctant to spend their own time building an understanding of the client’s business, discussions about new work center around rates instead of client goals, and fewer firms proactively offer (or even discuss) AFAs.

  3. Overcoming this Achilles’ heel:
    Undertake analytical work for your client to uncover opportunities for new work while adding value. This could come in the form of analyzing a client’s litigation portfolio to identify cost and time savings, reviewing clients’ new product plans to pinpoint potential IP and regulatory issues, or training in-house attorneys on risk mitigation or streamlined approaches to managing routine matters. Each option adds value to your client relationship while overcoming a potentially deadly Achilles’ heel.


  4. 13.8% of corporate counsel find their law firms tapped out in client focus.

    From disjointed (and sometimes a complete absence of) communication to a lack of business understanding, a small segment of clients find their primary law firms behind the curve in terms of client focus. With an eye on consolidation and a strong buyers’ market, corporate counsel demand for exceptional client focus is higher than ever.

    Overcoming this Achilles’ heel:
    Providing the best legal advice isn’t enough anymore—most law firms are capable of this. However, delivering exceptional client focus is a true differentiator in today’s market. This means putting the client’s needs first to meet their targeted outcome and communicating how your legal advice will impact the client’s business.

The above issues are rarely at the forefront of a strong relationship. Unfortunately, these small—almost undetectable issues—frequently fester and grow into relationship-killing problems. But your Achilles’ heel doesn’t have to be your downfall. Well-designed client feedback can quickly uncover the poison arrows lurking in your relationships. Your ability to act and remove these vulnerabilities may be your path to legendary client relationships.

MBR/JPD