5 Reasons Clients Love to Call Their Law Firms

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Clients tell us there are 5 times when they truly enjoy calling their outside counsel. These busy legal decision makers have little time for optional phone calls—which makes these 5 especially telling. These calls are:

  1. Review a delivered work product
    Clients inevitably have questions, comments, and changes. Your clients view these calls as essential and productive. Many enjoy intellectual stimulation. These calls are a core part of the work process.

  2. New work
    Congratulations. Your client wants to give you more work. You have superior client service, you deliver on time, and within budget. You understand your client. You won the work without going to RFP. Clients like to make these calls and partners like to receive these. An excellent phone call by any standard.  

  3. Come give us a CLE
    Clients may need to meet a state requirement, improve staff morale and productivity, or see a knowledge gap in their department. They want you to train their staff. A CLE provides more than knowledge. CLEs provide new thinking, promote internal dialogue, make outside counsel seem more available, and show the top legal decision makers actively investing in their people. All good.

  4. Give you feedback
    Contrary to popular belief, clients like to give you feedback. They want you to be better at what you do, no matter how good you already are. Everyone can improve. The clients who take the time to share feedback on your performance are among the best clients. These clients are invested in your success. Another good phone call—especially weighted towards the law firms.  

  5. Checking in
    Clients call their favorite partners to see how they are doing. Clients want to stay in touch and see their advisors succeed. While a good call by any measure—it is also a sign—you are not staying in touch with your client. The best clients and law firm partners know informal communications drive the success of all the other communications.

If you are getting these calls, accept our congratulations—and keep developing what is clearly a strong relationship. If you’re not—here are a few suggestions:

  • Call your client. Share progress and tidbits from your current work. Talk about the good work your associates are doing. List out any new thinking or breakthroughs—even an interesting observation. The important message—bring your client into the process early and often.

  • Update your client on firm events. Any client who treats you as a primary law firm wants to know the firm’s plans. They enjoy knowing their advisors are planning ahead and feel included when you make an effort to tell them. (They feel excluded when they learn about your firm’s strategy from a 3rd party—including the press.)

  • Call and offer your client a CLE. So few clients are proactively offered CLEs you can almost count them on one hand. Law firms who offer up a CLE before clients ask, stand out as the proactive, understanding firm. The law firms who wait for clients to ask are merely responsive.

  • Ask for feedback. Clients want to tell you how you are doing and want you to improve. Ask before clients offer and position yourself as one of the firms who includes self-improvement—and client thinking—in their culture.

  • Stay in touch. When one of the calls clients love to make is to see how you’re doing—they are saying they want to do business with the person and the firm. Make it easy—schedule a time every 2 to 3 weeks to have a short call with your top clients. Share the more interesting parts of your life and ask your client about theirs.

    One top legal officer at mega-sized Tech company once remarked how the most surprising thing the partner from his most used law firms ever did was to call and ask how things were going and what was new in his world. It changed the whole relationship for the better.

You can’t exactly hire yourself for new work—but the law firm partners who take the time to make these calls will receive one of the call clients love to make—give you new business.

MBR

How Clients Hire: Clients Using Attorney Bios in New Ways to Hire

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Clients are using attorney bios as a selection vehicle—taking attorney assignments into their own hands.

Clients are going online, picking the attorneys they want on their matters—and telling law firms exactly who they want. Think of this new phenomenon as a self-service bar for clients. Corporate counsel used to use attorney bios to check out the people law firms proposed or want to use on a matter. No more. Now, the tables are turned.

Clients don’t want no for an answer when they select their attorneys. Few understand why the chosen lawyer behind the bio would not be available for their work. After all, they are a paying client. One top legal decision maker went as far as to call an associate after the partner indicated the selected associate was “too busy” to work on this client’s matter. When asked, the client savvy associate told the client they were never too busy to work on their matters. How many associates have the where-with-all to offer the only correct answer to this client query? Most would say it isn’t their decision or they are working on another matter.

Client Bad Behavior?

Some law firm partners say this is client bad behavior. Clients politely say bunk. They want what they want—when they want it. They are paying the freight.

Client’s new self-selection process is a direct result of law firms ignoring the most basic of client management strategies. These include:

  • Developing a client team with a dedicated group of attorneys meeting client needs—clients served by well-run teams rely on their team to pick their attorneys and don’t feel the need select from the firm roster.

  • Providing a single point of accountability who also acts as an ombudsman to find the right talent for their clients when and where they need it.

  • Staffing from across the firm. Clients selecting their attorneys from your attorney bios ignore offices, departments, and practices. They are unaware of reporting relationships within their law firms. Clients just pick the attorneys they want, where ever they may be.

  • Really knowing your client. We are talking deep, ongoing knowledge where you see new needs coming—and put the right attorneys in front of clients before they go shopping for attorneys on your site. Client feedback is one of the few proven vehicles to get this coveted, forward-looking insight.

  • Providing client-centric bios. Write all your bios through client eyes—focusing what they really look for and how they interpret what you have.

  • Asking clients what they want in their attorneys for different matters. Get ahead of their process and guide them through to the attorneys you recommend.

The law firms with client teams or dedicated client relationship executives rarely see their clients select their own attorneys. Clients will still check out the attorneys on your website and LinkedIn—but more with a mind towards learning instead of hiring.

Finally, value is destroyed when clients are picking their own attorneys. One of the many benefits of working with outside counsel is relying on these law firms to take over staffing responsibilities. The more work clients take on, the less value law firms provide.

Law firms protect client relationships and value by staying ahead of staffing and needs. We recommend enforcing client teams, single accountability, firmwide staffing strategies, and client feedback to ensure you know how to staff up for client needs before they ever ask. Law firms who let clients choose their staff before consulting you will start to be viewed as hotels for attorneys—inviting discounts, discussions of hourly rates, and logistics instead of solving client problems. Premium rates go to the problem solvers who make their clients’ lives easier.

Special thanks to Lisa Gasbarre Black, General Counsel, Catholic Charities, Alfred C. Perry Jr, General Counsel at Westfield Bank, and Ed Blakemore, Assistant General Counsel at Rockwell Automation for inspiring this blog post. I had the honor of moderating a panel with these dynamic individuals at the Practice Development Institute presented by The Legal Marketing Association and The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association on November 15, 2018.

MBR

The Pendulum Swings Back to Outside Counsel

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What goes around comes around. Finally. Clients are sending substantially more work to outside counsel for the 2nd year in a row. The spending increases are widespread and across the board.

10 Practice Areas Slated for Growth. 5 to Shrink.

Cybersecurity and M&A Lead All Growth

Spending is increasing most in Cybersecurity as GDPR, California regulations, and public scrutiny skyrocket. M&A follows closely with the 2nd biggest increase in outside counsel spending in 2019. These 2 areas are leading in client mindshare as well as spending.

IP Litigation and Private Equity Slotted for 5% Gains

IP Litigation will see fewer matters but more spending. This means bigger matters and higher risk for clients—and more outside counsel need. Private equity firms see increased activity driving new and more spending.

Tech, Health Care to Lead the Spending

High Tech companies are planning the biggest and broadest increases. Look for these big spenders to be sending substantially more money to law firms in 9 practice areas—and expecting to pay higher rates. Health Care plans increases in 7 practice areas—as does Pharmaceuticals—and expects higher rates from outside counsel as well. Financial Services and Energy companies plan to increase outside counsel spending in 6 practices.

Plummeting Settlements Adds to Outside Counsel Spending

Clients tell us they settled 38% of their active matters—down substantially from 61% just 2 years ago. Fewer settlements means more legal fees. They face more complex and high-stakes matters than ever before—making these matters harder to settle.

Unintended Impacts and Outcomes

The shift to more outside counsel spending is placing unrelenting pressure on everyday routine and recurring matters. Clients realize they will be paying higher rates for the new more complex matters—but overall budget increases aren’t going up enough to cover the higher rate spending. This means they are forced to spend less on lower-risk matters. It also means more use of alternative fees for both new and existing matters.

Getting while the Getting Is Good

The new spending will go to the law firms who seek it out and develop the business early. Those who wait for RFPs will be left behind. This compels all client relationship managers to engage in deep discussions about strategy, current priorities, upcoming needs, and new strategies to improve settlement rates. The lion’s share of the gains will go to the firms who cannot only engage with clients but also get to clients first.

You can pinpoint where each and every practice will grow and command higher rates in the newly released BTI Practice Outlook 2019: Changes, Trends and Opportunities for Law Firms.

MBR

(Based on more than 350 in-depth interviews with top legal decision makers conducted between January 2018 and September 2018 conducted by The BTI Consulting Group.) 

1/3 of Law Firms Up Their Marketing and BD Spending

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33% of law firms are increasing their Marketing and Business Development (MBD) budgets. This is 3 times more firms than last year—making this the largest number of firms increasing their MBD spending in 9 years. This increased investment in MBD may just give these firms an unprecedented edge in 2019.

New money means new programs or beefing up old ones. These CMOs put the following programs at the top of their to-do list:

  • Client feedback

  • Client service

  • Industry programs

On average, these lucky CMOs will have 5.13% more to invest in MBD than they did in 2018.

Which Firms Will Be at a Disadvantage?

Fully 64% of law firms are keeping their budgets the same as last year—again, as measured by percent of revenue. Firms experiencing bottom-line growth will throw more actual dollars at MBD, but not as much as the firms increasing the percent of revenue committed to MBD. The firms with no growth will be facing the same budgets as last year.

Small Increases Go a Long Way

Overall, the typical law firm (the largest 500 firms) are targeting 2.76% of their revenue for marketing and business development in 2019—up from 2.63% this year. The Am Law 100 is targeting 2.67% of revenue, while the Am Law 101-200 targets 2.71%. Law firms outside the Am Law 200 are planning to spend 2.86% of their revenue on MBD. The differences are woefully small to sound meaningful—but, can be the difference between 1 and 5 full time BD equivalents, funding a new client team, or creating one more industry group. All of which are proven to drive new business.

Why Increased Budgets Will Bring the Biggest Returns Ever

Clients are moving a giant chunk of their legal budget back to outside counsel for the second year in a row in Litigation—we will see the same increases across most legal spending when we release our BTI Practice Outlook 2019 next week. This increase in spending is a gift. The law firms able to capture this new spending put themselves in a position to reap the benefits for years.

In addition to increasing their spending, clients are making big decisions about which law firms to use and how to reduce their rosters. This means much more business for the law firms able to snag a spot on clients’ shrinking roster of legal providers. The amount of new client spending dwarfs the increases firms are making to their MBD budgets—making a compelling argument to boost those MBD budgets for 2019. One-third of law firms have already figured this out.

There’s still time to rethink your firm’s budget.

MBR

*Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 136 law firm marketing leaders between July 13, 2018 and November 5, 2018.

 

 

 

66 Law Firms Leading Litigation as Market Surges

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You are looking at the highest levels of corporate legal spending in a decade. High-stakes work is growing like a weed. Clients are expecting an influx of new matters and plan to spend more on existing matters. Clients are cutting their internal budgets to fund new outside counsel needs, Why? Increasing workloads and more complex needs clients don’t want to handle and don’t have the resources to handle in-house.

Here is what to expect in the 2019 litigation landscape along with 66 law firms best positioned for these new opportunities. The Powerhouse and Standout law firms in the links below are the ones corporate counsel tell us they are turning to for their most pressing litigation needs in 2019.

The IP Litigation Outlook: The Powerhouse and Standout Law Firms

Why GCs are Hiring: Fewer, but bigger and more complex matters.

The Class Actions Outlook: The Powerhouse and Standout Law Firms

Why GCs are Hiring: Increasing risk and exposure and ever more innovative plaintiffs.

The Complex Employment Litigation Outlook: The Powerhouse and Standout Law Firms

Why GCs are Hiring: Changes in regulations around wages; increased concern about wage and hour issues; a growth in investigations, spurred by sexual harassment and workplace culture.

The Product Liability Litigation Outlook: The Powerhouse and Standout Law Firms

Why GCs are Hiring: Increased caseloads, more complex matters as a result of increasingly complex products and data these products gather and rely on.

Clients are reevaluating who and what types of firms they want to use as the nature of Product Liability claims undergoes a fundamental change.

The Complex Commercial Litigation Outlook: The Powerhouse and Standout Law Firms

Why GCs are Hiring: Increases in 5 industries is enough to drive growth and increased spending on outside counsel.

Learn more about how your firm can take advantage of new spending and matters in 2019—and what your firm can do to adapt, in the new, just released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019: Changes, Trends and Opportunities for Law Firms.

The Product Liability Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

Product Liability Litigation can frequently turn into high-stakes work, but most organizations facing these types of potential issues are trying to minimize and avoid damage well before a full litigation trial develops. Clients are skilled in assessing risk and look for alternative fees to match. Clients want law firms who can assess and understand the exposure associated with product—and hire the firms who adjust their approach to match the risk.

You can learn more details about the best opportunities, how client expectations are changing, and the 51 law firms clients recognize most in Product Liability Litigation in the just released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

You can also learn why clients recognize 8 firms as leading the market. Please join me in congratulating the Powerhouses and Standouts.

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PRODUCT LIABILITY POWERHOUSES

  • Jones Day

  • Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

PRODUCT LIABILITY STANDOUTS

  • Barnes & Thornburg

  • Goldberg Segalla

  • Greenberg Traurig

  • McGuireWoods

  • Shook, Hardy & Bacon

  • Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell

Learn more about the firms clients singled out for Product Liability Litigation prowess in the newly released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

The Complex Employment Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

Employment Litigation will effectively stay even with 2018 spending. Although, the faster growth is in the large and complex matters. Clients are paying more for these larger assignments. Clients report continued need in the less complex segment of the market as well. Clients want to be able to manage their complex cases while managing the everyday work under alternative fees and delivery structure. Look for opportunities in Banking, Energy, Financial Services, and 4 other industries. 

You can learn more details about the best opportunities, how client expectations are changing, and the 79 law firms clients recognize most in Complex Employment Litigation in the just released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

You can also learn why clients recognize 5 firms as Complex Employment Powerhouses—and 21 firms as Complex Employment Standouts. Please join me in congratulating the Powerhouses and Standouts.

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COMPLEX EMPLOYMENT POWERHOUSES

  • Gibson Dunn

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Reed Smith

COMPLEX EMPLOYMENT STANDOUTS

  • Baker Botts

  • Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott

  • Carlton Fields

  • Day Pitney

  • Debevoise & Plimpton

  • Dentons

  • DLA Piper

  • Duane Morris

  • Hogan Lovells

  • King & Spalding

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Mayer Brown

  • McGuireWoods

  • Norton Rose Fulbright

  • O'Melveny

  • Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs

  • Pillsbury

  • Sidley

  • Sullivan & Cromwell

  • Troutman Sanders

  • Weil

Learn more about the firms clients singled out for Complex Employment Litigation prowess in the newly released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

The Complex Commercial Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

More companies are facing commercial litigation matters than last year. Most of the increase is coming from the soaring rates of high-stakes matters—which is also putting pressure on the routine work. Look for growth in Consumer Goods, Food, Insurance, and Transportation.

You can learn more details about the best opportunities, how client expectations are changing, and the 80 law firms clients recognize most in Complex Commercial Litigation in the just released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

You can also learn why clients recognize 5 firms as Complex Commercial Powerhouses—and 23 firms as Complex Commercial Standouts. Please join me in congratulating the Powerhouses and Standouts.

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COMPLEX COMMERCIAL POWERHOUSES

  • Gibson Dunn

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Reed Smith

COMPLEX COMMERCIAL STANDOUTS

  • Baker Botts

  • Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott

  • Carlton Fields

  • Covington

  • Day Pitney

  • Debevoise & Plimpton

  • Dentons

  • DLA Piper

  • Duane Morris

  • Hogan Lovells

  • Jenner & Block

  • King & Spalding

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Mayer Brown

  • McGuireWoods

  • Norton Rose Fulbright

  • O'Melveny

  • Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs

  • Pillsbury

  • Sidley

  • Sullivan & Cromwell

  • Troutman Sanders

  • Weil

Learn more about the firms clients singled out for Complex Commercial Litigation prowess in the newly released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

The Securities and Finance Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

After a flurry of new activity in 2018, the percent of large organizations handling Securities and Finance litigation dips back to 2016 levels. The companies still managing these matters plan to increase their spending in 2019—driving moderate growth for this segment of the litigation market.

You can learn more details about the best opportunities—by industry—and how client expectations are changing in the just released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

You can also learn why clients recognize 5 firms as Securities and Finance Powerhouses—and 11 firms as Securities and Finance Standouts. Please join me in congratulating the Powerhouses and Standouts.

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SECURITIES AND FINANCE POWERHOUSES

  • Jones Day

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Sidley

  • Skadden

  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

SECURITIES AND FINANCE STANDOUTS

  • Covington

  • DLA Piper

  • Gibson Dunn

  • Hunton Andrews Kurth

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Maynard Cooper & Gale

  • O'Melveny

  • Paul, Weiss

  • Pillsbury

  • Weil

  • Winston & Strawn

Learn more about the firms clients singled out for Securities and Finance Litigation prowess in the newly released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

The Class Actions Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

More than half of large organizations face class actions each year. What is different is the number of class actions a large organization manages in a year—this is noticeably on the rise. Combined with an increase in exposure of each of these cases, you have the all the conditions necessary for growth.

You can learn more details about the best opportunities, how client expectations are changing, and the 82 law firms clients recognize most in Class Actions Litigation in the just released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

You can also learn why clients recognize 4 firms as Class Actions Powerhouses—and 22 firms as Class Actions Standouts. Please join me in congratulating the Powerhouses and Standouts.

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CLASS ACTIONS POWERHOUSES

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Littler

  • Morgan Lewis

CLASS ACTIONS STANDOUTS

  • Arnold & Porter

  • BakerHostetler

  • Carlton Fields

  • Debevoise & Plimpton

  • Dentons

  • DLA Piper

  • Foley & Lardner

  • K&L Gates

  • Katten Muchin Rosenman

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Mayer Brown

  • McDermott Will & Emery

  • McGuireWoods

  • Morrison & Foerster

  • O'Melveny

  • Orrick

  • Pierce Atwood

  • Reed Smith

  • Sidley

  • Troutman Sanders

  • Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell

  • Winston & Strawn

Learn more about the firms clients singled out for Class Actions Litigation prowess in the newly released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

The IP Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

IP Litigation is poised to be the fastest growing segment within Litigation at 5.15% in 2019. The number of companies expecting significant IP Litigation dropped slightly. Increased spending plus fewer matters equals higher hourly rates and larger spending on each matter. These dynamics offer law firms opportunities to develop bigger relationships—more than offsetting the drop in companies with IP Litigation needs. Look for the biggest increases to come in Chemicals, High Tech, Manufacturing, and Pharmaceuticals. 

You can learn more details about the best opportunities, how client expectations are changing, and the 53 law firms clients recognize most in IP Litigation in the just released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

You can also learn why clients recognize 7 firms as IP Litigation Powerhouses—and 11 firms as IP Litigation Standouts. Please join me in congratulating the Powerhouses and Standouts.

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IP LITIGATION POWERHOUSES

  • Fish & Richardson

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Orrick

  • Perkins Coie

  • Sidley

  • WilmerHale

IP LITIGATION STANDOUTS

  • Alston & Bird

  • Duane Morris

  • Finnegan

  • Goodwin

  • Greenberg Traurig

  • Hogan Lovells

  • Kilpatrick Townsend

  • McGuireWoods

  • Morrison & Foerster

  • Pillsbury

  • Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Learn more about the firms clients singled out for IP Litigation prowess in the newly released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

37 Law Firms Most Feared in Litigation

Advantage goes to the feared.

Good strategy stops others from acting before they start. The most feared firms make their opponents either stop or change what they are doing. Feared firms have the upper hand as the opposing side is reacting to your changes—meaning you can better drive the process.

Clients change their views on law firms to be feared based on law firm behavior—and what they hear from their peers. This year, clients point to these specific behaviors:

Unpredictable

The most feared law firms will do things their opponents don’t expect. Until just 2 years ago, clients felt like they could anticipate the strategy opposing counsel would take—no more. The Fearsome Foursome and other feared firms stand out for their new, unexpected, and winning strategies.

Show of Force

These feared client teams want to start off with a show of force. They bring a lot of talented attorneys to bear early and come on strong. This initial surge lets the other side know they are in for a bigger fight than they ever dreamed—and their client is wildly committed to getting the outcome they want. It may cost more, but clients are convinced it’s the cheapest way to go over the life of the matter.

Cut Through Complexity

The most feared law firms cut through complexity swiftly and decisively. This is a real advantage as complex matters are the fastest growing segment of the litigation market.

Unrelenting

Fearsome firms are unrelenting in meeting their client’s goal—and their behavior lets everyone know of their unmatched commitment—including the opposing side.

Please join me congratulating the following 37 law firms:

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The BTI Fearsome Foursome—the most feared law firms in litigation.

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The BTI Awesome Opponents—these firms are nipping at the heels of the Fearsom Foursome.

The Fearsome Foursome Honor Roll

Being Fearsome is one the biggest differentiators in the market today. The number of Fearsome Firms is shrinking; meaning the more Fearsome your firm, the more you stand out, to clients and the other side. It is the Fearsome firms who have nothing to fear.

Learn more about how your firm can take advantage of how client behavior and spending is changing for 2019—and what your firm can do to adapt, in the new  BTI Litigation Outlook 2019: Changes, Trends and Opportunities for Law Firms. Available now.

MBR

(Research based on more than 350 in-depth interviews, with top legal decision makers conducted between January 11, 2018 and August 28, 2018.)

3 High-Performing Practice Leaders Share 5 Tips and Secrets

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Practice Leaders agree and disagree on a lot of things. But when 3 high-performing practice leaders agree, it’s a learning moment. I enjoyed having an insightful panel discussion with Rich Moche of Mintz, Tom Schulte of Clifford Chance, and Philip Sellinger of Greenberg Traurig at the Practice Management 2.0 Conference in Chicago. We focused on how to drive performance. Each of the 3 panelists presented a different perspective—but the following common themes emerged:

Prioritize

The move into practice leadership means an exponential increase in situations with an apparent need for attention. The solution—prioritize. Don’t limit yourself to taking a hard look at the list of items competing for your precious attention. Scrutinize and decide what you absolutely must do and can’t delegate—and what needs to be done now. Now does not mean just short term—now can mean starting strategic initiatives as well.

Prioritizing can become a second nature skill, enabling practice leaders—and their practices—to be more focused and get substantially more done.

Delegate

Delegation quickly follows prioritization in lessons learned. These practice leaders looked to see what they could delegate up, sideways, down, or to support staff in some way. Limiting yourself to downward delegation constrains the ability to leverage your time. Practice leaders are moving more towards using support and management staff to help get things done.

Embrace Other Professionals Within the Firm

Embracing other professionals is a key part of a practice leader’s strategy. This includes the Marketing/BD department as well as HR. But, the newest area of support is coming from practice managers. These individuals help with running the practice and ensuring associates are being utilized—both for associate careers and maximizing billable time. Some of these practice managers drive communications and act as the go-to person to try to resolve issues which may not need practice leader attention.

Learn Why Not What

As a relationship manager, partners want to know what their client really wants, needs—and how to make this happen. As a practice manager, your focus becomes: “Why did we win this work”? What can we learn from this to win more work? What did clients see as our strengths and why did we stand out? All the practice managers agreed—the only way to learn is to ask clients—whether they interview clients themselves or through 3rd parties.

Talk and Listen to Millennials

The generational divide is top of mind. Our panelists suggest the best strategy for understanding and getting the most out of your millennials is to talk to them—and listen to what they have to say. The millennials may or may not want to be lifers at your firm but—the more they are heard and believe their voice matters—the longer they will stick around. These practice managers also note millennials have a sense of how the business of law and delivery of legal services may be disrupted—as disruption is a routine part of their life.

Overall, these practice managers are optimistic about the future but don’t suggest it will be easy. Each is highly focused and has a clear idea on where their practices are headed—and what they want their practice to look like. Successful practices use different strategies than other practices. These tactics are among those defining the high performers.

The panel consisted of:

Richard H. Moche, a Member at Mintz Levin and Chair of its Public Finance, Real Estate, Bankruptcy, and Environmental Division

Philip Sellinger, who recently served as Co-chair of the Global Litigation Practice at Greenberg Traurig and currently serves as Managing Shareholder- New Jersey; and Regional Operating Shareholder

Thomas Schulte, Senior Counsel at Clifford Chance. Tom recently served as Head of the Americas Banking & Finance Practice and was a member of the Firm's Partnership Council, the supervisory board of the global firm.

I extend my deep appreciation to Rich, Tom, and Philip for their candor, time, and energy in sharing these thoughts with a captivated audience at the Practice Management 2.0 Conference held last week (October 4, 2018) at the Gleacher Center at the University of Chicago.

MBR

Making Better Associates Faster

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Associates want more than money. They want some recognition—not much, but some—and they want to feel like they have a future. A big part of this sense of future is feeling like their firm is investing in them. Law firms can take immediate steps to make the future more obvious and brighter.

Ask associates to make decisions before you think they are ready

Not the biggest decisions, but just ahead of where you think their knowledge and experience are. Put these associates in a position to chase instead of following their performance. The associates who will grow into leaders want the opportunity to strut their stuff and be challenged.

Their ability to make the right decision is an intangible benefit providing confidence and increased job satisfaction. They may be wrong in their decisions, but they will learn faster by making their mistakes in a protected environment. Be ready to coach and explain why they might have made a wrong decision in time to make it right.

Find a reason to bring associates to clients

The best associates thrive on client air. Nothing compares to observing clients, interacting with clients, and seeing how different things can be with a client present. Your associates can observe partner behaviors and discussions, and gain insight into the art of client management and how to talk to clients. Associates will also be better able to support partners as they hone their knowledge of what partners need.

Ask your best clients if you can bring associates to meetings to learn and observe

Most clients welcome this opportunity. They enjoy mentoring and influencing an associate’s career. This gesture shows clients how client-focused you are as you teach associates what clients think. If you are skilled and/or lucky, your client will invest in your associate’s success.

Give your top associate a specific role in client meetings

Then, immediately give them detailed coaching on how to play this role. This includes practice sessions before you go to the client meeting. Don’t go easy—practice the difficult questions as well as the softballs.

Ask your associates to research one major client in depth to find new information and insights

Understanding a client’s business is one of the biggest law firm differentiators in the market. The best associates crave information about the client for whom they perform work. This adds up to a high-power opportunity for associates and law firms. Ask an associate to perform business research on a key client where they bill time. Ask them to look beyond immediate headlines and find product plans, growth plans, M&A history, and business challenges.

Ask these associates to use all firm resources but insist they synthesize the data into usable analysis, and bullet points. Ask for partner-ready summaries which relationship managers can use to discuss things with clients. Associates love the responsibility to make an impact and partners get help in developing high-value client conversations.

Train, train, train, and train

Few things say I’m investing in your future like training. Training goes well beyond teaching associates new and useful skills…it drives culture. Associates adopt the values the training supports. Start training in client service and watch associates embrace the importance of client service. Train them every year and they will believe it is increasingly important in everything you do.

We recommend developing and delivering associate training in 4 key areas:

  • Client service—a core component of any client-facing business. You can’t train anyone early enough nor hone their skills enough. This associate training will also improve partner support and productivity—as associates use newly acquired client skills with partners.

  • Business development—a proven tool to draw out the associates with interest and potential talent in business development. Use this training to introduce business development and bring it into the firm’s culture early. This will make business development a more natural and effective process when the associates reach partner.

  • Social media—your associates are already using it. Leverage their natural inclination to incorporate social media into their professional success. The art of social media for business can be taught and is effective for making new contacts and clients.

  • Networking—always talked about but rarely taught. Teaching associates when, where, and how to network is giving them fuel for their careers and business development.

Associates are more valuable than ever—and continue to increase in value. Law firms are working harder to keep them—and keep them longer. These steps turn associates into better attorneys, makes them feel more invested in the firm, and helps define their clear contribution to the firm besides their billable hours. This is your opportunity to make your associates better and keep them around a lot longer.

MBR