The First $100 Million Client

$70 to $80 million clients are no longer the study of cryptozoologists. These relationships are real, tangible, verified, and highly prized. And, the $100 million client is within sight*. To be clear, these gargantuan relationships are rare—with somewhere around 30 clients globally spending $70 million or more with a single law firm on a recurring basis.

This milestone marks the beginning of a new age. Law firms of all sizes will start to see relationships substantially larger than they have seen—and in some cases imagined—before. This phenomenon will not be limited to the world’s largest firms. We uncovered one of the largest relationships at a law firm in the largest 101–200 law firms. We expect to see a select group of smaller and midsize firms developing more relationships in the $25 to $50 million range—if not bigger.

Giga-relationships come about in many ways. But we find a core commonality of all the strategies in use to develop and keep these clients.

All of the firms with giga-clients have a continuous client feedback loop. This feedback is detailed, covers every aspect of performance, and is specific. The feedback is candid because these clients want their law firms to get better and become even more valuable. These clients don’t give their law firms time to rest or admire their own performance. This is a world of real performance feedback—the kind every law firm would (and should) want from any client.

The firms rarely talk about collaborating—the team is too busy working together. The senior partner spends enormous energy making sure everyone on the team is informed about the client and each other. Everyone understands this client team has a leader. Anyone on the team who worries about not getting credit usually finds themselves no longer working on the client’s assignments. These clients get an all-or-nothing effort.

Some of the lead partners have been known to swap origination credit and other metrics to ensure all would benefit over time while putting client needs ahead of their short-term interest. This is client focus working around a system getting in their way.

And, underneath all these essential client-centric, selfless behaviors lies a shrewd strategy. The senior partners are busy sowing the seeds for future work. These partners are talking to their clients, analyzing their every word, report, and filing they can get their hands on. These partners send their team members to attend product development meetings to spot new IP and regulatory opportunities—and use this to think about how to get their clients to market faster. These partners have the best client intelligence, business intelligence, and client feedback in the world—and they use it all to stay ahead.

Firms can draw out these valued partner behaviors because the prize is so visible and cost of failure so obvious. But the same applies to almost any Top 100 client in any firm of every size. The opportunity in most clients is enormous. The same partners who developed these giga-relationships started with much smaller relationships—no one starts with a $70 million client relationship.

We recommend adopting the strategies and attitudes used to support the largest client relationships with these clients. In fact—go further—think about your firm’s top 100 clients. Every BTI client we know adopting this approach has registered double-digit client growth within 2 years. Today’s low growth market screams for this approach.

The law firms with the mega relationships have an edge—but you can start your own version of giga-client care today. This could be one of the most strategic decisions you make. All you need is one competitor to act before you at the same client and you are now behind. BTI has helped numerous clients develop these large scale trophy relationships—some starting with $200 thousand in billings. Call or click here to talk this through in more detail.

BTI research shows the average size of the largest relationship at a law firm is:

  • $33.6 million at the Am Law largest 30 firms
  • $29.3 million at the Am Law 31 to 100
  • $18.3 million at the Am Law 101 to 200
  • $4 million at the firms between the Am Law 201 and 350th largest firm

The single largest relationships are:

  • $72.1 million at the Am Law largest 30 firms
  • $73.3 million at the Am Law 31 to 100
  • $81.3 million at the Am Law 101 to 200
  • $27 million at the firms between the Am Law 201 and 350th largest firm

You can use this analysis to benchmark where you stand—and think about how these numbers may impact your strategy to grow your own version of a giga-client—whatever your size. 

MBR

*Based on in-depth BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between February 2016 and August 2016. BTI conducted more than 330 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations, as well as 200 interviews with law firm leaders.