How You Can Make Lifelong Clients with at Least 22% of GCs

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I’m the last to know and have to drive this thing to close. I don’t get all the facts, and everyone is waiting for me. It’s ass backwards.” VP and GC, Large Telecom Company.

The attorney able to show this GC how to change the dynamics and drive the results they want will earn a client for life. And not just this one client.

22% of all GCs feel like they are behind the 8 ball. They want to be out in front of issues; helping to get things done, or even getting them done faster, but these top legal decision makers feel stymied by their own internal operations. These GCs say they are excluded from relevant communications from upper management and business unit leaders until the last minute. And then they’re playing catch up to deliver the results management expects. This is the biggest obstacle to getting what they want, and need, accomplished. These GCs tell us they can cope with being under appreciated; it’s being put in the position of bottleneck causing their personal frustration.

Law firms are in the unique position of being able to bring in an experienced partner, former GC, or a GC who is a friend of the firm, to help your client get out in front. Teaching these GCs how to anticipate issues, stay ahead, and add to the process creates lifelong friendships—and business.

This is only 1 of 5 obstacles GCs face in meeting their goals. The remaining 4 are:

Time

Unlike their stymied colleagues, these corporate counsel have more demands than time. They triage, prioritize, and delegate where they can. Ultimately, these decision makers focus on the top or urgent issues. They are master jugglers and are skilled in keeping many balls in the air.

This is 1 reason clients get so frustrated when they have to chase down outside counsel for budgets, updates, or key pieces of information. It creates even less time.

You can immediately help. Set up scheduled days and times where you will provide updates on matters and work for clients. Outline progress against the original scope and proactively notify clients of any changes before the scheduled update.

Resources

Resources come down to people and budget—and there just aren’t enough to go around. Like time scarcity above, this means prioritization and finding tactics to extend the budget.

Law firms are well served offering up AFAs, alternative staffing, secondments, or an occasional extra hand to add to the resource base.

Litigation

The growing complexity of litigation is stealing 10% of GCs psychic energy. Risk is growing to the point where it is all-consuming. Litigation attracts more and new litigation, and regulators. GCs have to stop and thoughtfully respond. The potential combined financial exposure from litigation is so large it has to be managed down—immediately.

Law firms who want to help their clients can offer strategic counsel and planning for these situations—both in the heat of battle and before with litigation prone clients.

Outside Counsel

A small but significant 4% of GCs say outside counsel is their biggest obstacle to getting things done. These GCs say their law firms are working towards cross objectives, don’t deal with uncertainty, and are being served by attorneys with no apparent leader. They make no progress and some law firms impede it.

Law firms holding their clients back probably don’t realize they are the obstacle—but these are the firms who do not ask for feedback and don’t provide timely updates. More formal and informal communication with clients is the number 1 way to ensure you are not your client’s biggest challenge.

Each client faces different obstacles. Your job is to understand which clients have what obstacles if you want to create a continuing stream of new business. You have many vehicles to ask clients about what holds them back, or BTI can ask for you. Your client’s obstacles are your opportunities. All you have to do is ask, and act.

MBR

(Based on more than 350 in-depth interviews with top legal decision makers conducted between September 2018 and January 2019 conducted by The BTI Consulting Group.) 

98% of CMOs Would Do It All Again

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Successful CMOs know how to navigate the people and culture of their firm. They know what experience counts and what’s worth caring about. The most successful CMOs have 7 lessons they wish they had known earlier. 

What Advice Would You Give Yourself When You Were Just Starting Out?
We asked more than 150 law firm marketing leaders this very question. The messages are pretty compelling:

  1. Don’t take it personally. Everyone questions new ideas. The questioners are not attacking you, they are trying to get their head around your ideas. Their approach may be hard and gruff, and they may not be believers—but it comes with the territory.

  2. Persistence. Don’t give up the ship. People won’t really understand what you are saying until they hear it 7 times. This means the initial resistance and indifference are part of the process. Very few ideas get off the ground without at least 7 clear messaging events to the right audience(s).

  3. Adapt. Learn from all the feedback you get. Rejection, resistance, and lack of enthusiasm all tell you the message or approach you are proposing may not be on target. Change your approach to play to the issues and concerns you hear.

  4.  Don’t make the job bigger than you. Don’t care more about the job than the firm cares. There will always be a few law firms who fundamentally don’t respect or care about the marketing and business development function. These law firm marketing leaders advise a new CMO to jump ship and go to a place where marketing and business development is an accepted part of the firm.

  5.  Really get to know the attorneys. Attorneys have their priorities and preferences. Marketing leaders recommend taking the time to understand these people and their personalities. You are there to make the firm and the attorneys more successful. Your knowledge of the attorneys’ personas, and how they conduct business, helps you develop your roadmap—and helps you make sure you get to know the partners most likely to make you successful.

  6.  Dial down the website. New websites are a visible success—but they take time. And, attorneys have many opinions about the website. In retrospect, these CMOs would have taken on the task, but given it a lower profile and spent more time with leadership talking about business development than web pages.

  7.  Do It! Only 2% of law firm marketing leaders tell aspiring CMOs to go elsewhere with their careers. In short, CMOs like being CMOs.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Advice for the new may also apply to the most seasoned CMOs. Let’s all keep learning and getting better. Use these insights as a start.

Any lessons we left out? Let us know. mrynowecer@bticonsulting.com

MBR

13 Words to Grow Your Law Firm

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Pick a word. Not just any word—a meaty, provocative word. Select the kind of word proven to evoke new thinking and gain new perspective. Think about your word every day for at least 30 days. Then think about using these words to drive improved performance. Here are 13 The Mad Clientist suggests.

  1. Invert – Invert your thinking. Take one thought or perception and turn it upside down—what if your perception was completely different? Just pretending improve outcomes, thinking, and empathy.

  2. Purge – Recognize the good, bad, or lack of benefit of your decision—and move on.

  3. Hundreds – There are hundreds of reasons not to do things. Find your reason to do things—or ignore the hundreds.

  4. Decide – Decide to overcome the obstacles.

  5. Move – Some competitor somewhere wants to crush you like a bug. Avoid this by always moving forward. Stagnate and you are crushed.

  6. Ask – Get out of your own head. Ask your clients what they think, and why they think it.

  7. Activity – Activity begets activity. Good activity begets good activity. Start making things happen and watch how many other good things happen.

  8. Bill – Build business development and client service into your legal service delivery to create even more billable hours.

  9. Control – The power to act is within your control.

  10. Share – Tell others about your ideas and use them to build better ones.

  11. Engage – Engage in one activity you don’t have time for and don’t feel comfortable doing. Just one.

  12. Stop – The time for thinking is done, at least for a moment. It’s time to act.

  13. One – Start with one behavior to improve or change. One client and one change at time drives many changes when all are engaged.

Each word represents a behavior or issue standing in the way of change. We recommend taking on one word at a time. This works out to different word every month. 30 days is sufficient to put you in a position where you think about how you want to change—and make it happen.

Just picking one word a month makes an impact. Each impact is enough for every one of your clients to see a difference and will put you in a position to grab some of the new business coming into the market before anyone else—and make you feel better about your performance while doing it.

Here’s to the power of words.

MBR

The 21 Biggest Takeaways from BTI’s Annual Market Outlook and Client Service Review

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So many lessons, so many questions; but so little time. Here is a recap of our 10th annual BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review. We would like to thank the 1,682 individuals who joined us and appreciate all the feedback—especially considering how much client feedback we develop for our clients. Here are the highlights:

Uncertainty is the biggest driver in the market today. It is the reason clients are:

  • Increasing spending in outside counsel

  • Cutting corporate counsel’s internal spending

  • Demanding more engagement from their law firm

  • Ramping up RFPs

  • Paying higher rates for complex work while applying unrelenting rate pressure on their standard work

Where the Growth Is by Industry and Practice

  • High Tech boasts 9 practices with premium needs and growth—more than all others

  • Health Care, Pharma, and Insurance (non-defense) show 7 premium practice opportunities each

  • Energy and Financial service see premium needs in 6 practices

  • Telecom, Transportation, and Professional Services have the fewest premium needs

  • Demand for Cybersecurity, M&A, and Private Equity leads the growth charge with IP Litigation, Class Actions, and Regulatory close behind

The BTI Client Service 30 are using these new strategies across their client base:

  • Tapping into their largest clients’ needs through client feedback and customization

  • Pinpointing clients’ risk before they do

  • Developing tools for clients to better manage and identify risk

  • Helping clients manage uncertainty

  • Becoming more aggressive in business development

The Most Innovative Law Firms

  • Hail mostly from The BTI Client Service 30—suggesting client service gives you a better on-ramp to the most compelling client innovation and technology needs

  • Tackle the most basic needs—such as historical document access and performance indicators—with scale across the client base

  • Customize technology solutions for their largest clients

  • Ask clients about their specific needs and then build out solutions to meet these needs

Changes in Client Service Expectations

  • Your ability to deal with complexity is now a part of client service—the 17 activities clients use to evaluate law performance and hireability

  • You can’t fully understand risk without understanding your client’s business

Again, this is a brief recap, watch the full recording here to gain vital insights for your firm.

The law firms delivering on all these demands across the client base are outperforming all others. This shows consistency, ability to scale, and your commitment to help—the most influential aspect of client service.

You can use these insights to improve your performance tomorrow. No law firm on the planet can tackle all these demands and changes at once, but you can prioritize, reallocate resources, and focus on the ones which make the biggest difference. You are best served by picking a small number of high-impact tactics for your firm—and scaling across clients. Rogue acts of greatness can’t compete with systematic excellence.

MBR

Largest Clients Ramp Up RFPs

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The next RFP is likely to be a big one. RFPs among the largest clients are on the rise. While only 38% of clients plan to issue RFPs through 2019—they are the largest legal spenders. Here’s why this group is moving to RFPs while others silently interview and select their law firms on a less visible basis.

  1. Clients consistently tell BTI they learn one new compelling insight, idea, or suggestion from the process—making the entire, and admittedly, grueling process worth it.

  2. Large clients are experiencing a faster rise in complex matters and increased financial exposure than their smaller spending counterparts.

  3. The number of individuals new to the top legal decision maker role is growing—they want to ensure they are getting the best service and counsel they can.

  4. Clients want law firms who will relish the opportunity to step up to help with the new complexity.

  5. Clients want more consistency from their law firms in terms of client service and levels of aggressiveness—these clients are using law firm pitches as a proxy by asking to meet with partner teams and observing how they do.

  6. Some law firms fall out of favor—often by inaction—RFPs are a politically correct tool to clean house.

  7. Clients always want more from their law firms. When client expectations get ahead of even the high performers, they will start to look around.

Clients plan to issue the most RFPs primarily for litigation, labor, less complex IP and cybersecurity—one of the areas where clients are most eager to learn. The complex work, especially in litigation and M&A, is still awarded with minimal, if any, bidding—and when it is—it’s in quiet and private negotiations with the best performing firms.

Clients Place RFP Winners in the Warm Up Lane

Winning an RFP is the beginning—not the end. Clients add several new firms to their roster and expect to give them medium risk work. Not the big, super complex work just yet. You are now invited to the proving grounds to see if you can you deliver.

But, for existing firms, this is your chance. Firms who get the RFP are always at some degree of risk (unless you wrote the RFP.) Take the RFP process and turn it on its head. Use it to explore goals, assess and manage risk, and treat it like a strategy session, so you can get the highest risk work—and the segment growing fastest.

It’s All in Your Control

You control almost all the reasons clients go to RFP. Here is how you can prevent and/or win the pitch:

  • Be the law firm who delivers the new insights client haven’t heard yet. Remember, this is the number one client benefit of the RFP process. Brainstorm with a group of your partners and ask the partners to brainstorm with clients. This could be the best defense against RFPs.

  • Talk to clients about the changes in the case load. Help clients locate the risks early and often. There are few more powerful tools than talking to clients.

  • Practice, train, and be consistent when you pitch. Clients know only the consistent firms can scale up to solve the big problems.

  • Reread BTI’s Unspoken Criteria Clients Use to Evaluate Your RFP.

We will be discussing clients’ new expectations and needs in our upcoming (and rescheduled) webinar. We will be discussing these issues and much more during our annual webinar BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2019 on January 30, 2019 at noon Eastern Time. Register now as space is filling up fast.

MBR

6 Things the BTI Client Service 30 Do and Others Don’t

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Client service is anything but static. Sometimes client needs evolve over time and sometimes they change on a dime—with no notice. The BTI Client Service 30 follow the lead of world-class firms like PwC, McKinsey, and Accenture to use changing client expectations to their advantage.

Best-in-class law firms stay ahead of clients by tracking shifts in client thinking, problems, and priorities—and offer solutions before clients ever ask. They change their actions and interactions with top clients to solve problems before they happen. Most importantly, they scale their actions across the firm by providing tools and knowledge to relationship partners. The combination of scale and tools is vital. And, while every firm has rogue partners delivering superior client service—it’s not enough to match the growth or new business associated with a large-scale shift.

Here’s what top legal decision makers are telling BTI is helping most—and hard to find:

Managing Increased Complexity

The world is more uncertain than any client planned or thought about a year ago. Clients are worried about tariffs, geopolitics, #metoo, and the impact of the US government on the economy and their business. This is in addition to their day jobs.

The best-in-class law firms dive in head first to define and manage the uncertainty. These firms provide clients with checklists, assessment guides, and strategic counsel before clients ask.

Scalable Teams in Case Things Get Ugly Quickly

Today’s legal matters can turn from hard to complex in a heartbeat. Savvy firms are watching this trend and addressing it by placing attorneys on client standby. The team leader ensures these standby attorneys are actively kept abreast of client issues and can spring into action the moment the matter’s risk ratchets up.

New and Deeper Industry Understanding

Today’s increased complexity is industry specific. High tech is worried about IP litigation, supply chain, industrial espionage, and export controls. Oil & Gas companies are worried about geopolitical issues, pricing, and supply contracts. Retailers are worried about Amazon. Top performers do deep dive research into their clients’ industries to offer industry-specific counsel—and bring better insights.

Even Earlier Assessment

Clients are embracing early case assessment faster than ever. The bigger the risk, the earlier the assessment. The best-in-class law firms are developing protocols to evaluate risk early and often. And make sure clients benefit from this structured approach by making it accessible and part of every relationship manager’s tool kit.

Secondments—Despite the Risk of Losing a Great Associate

Capacity constrained corporate counsel love a good secondment. The top client service performers realize the client benefits outweigh the risk of loss. These law firms figure the associates who leave were likely to leave anyway—and it’s better to have friends in important places. These firms offer up secondments and are quick to say yes when a major client asks.

Custom Innovation

Clients recognize more than 70% of the BTI Client Service 30 as top innovators. They use dedicated individuals and 3rd parties to ask clients what they want and what would be helpful. Corporate counsel may not know exactly what innovation they need, but are quick to identify their pain points when asked. The top client service firms use this insight to drive solutions for these clients and as the basis for their innovation investments.

You can learn the new client service strategies and tactics in use now by The BTI Client Service 30 here, and during our annual webinar today at Noon Eastern.

MBR

Hurry, While You Still Have A Rare Second Chance

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With luck your client’s budget is approved. After all, your client submitted their first draft last summer. The budget got worked, changed, adjusted, and reconfigured. Now it’s real. So, what is your client focusing on as the New Year starts? Those who know the answer are in the minority—but clearly have an edge.

Time to hightail it to your top clients to find out—even if you think you know. You now have a rare second chance to confirm where clients are headed and why—and these second chances don’t come often.

Call or go visit your clients while the year is still fresh. Be the first to understand how your client is thinking about:

  • Changes to cybersecurity since the Marriott incident

  • How tariffs are impacting sales

  • What tariffs are doing to supply chain agreements

  • New goals and priorities

  • Surprise initiatives introduced by management

  • Changes in their litigation settlement rates—they are plunging overall

  • New matters coming up this year

  • What kind of complexity your clients face

  • Most pressing needs and priorities

  • Resources they have and need for the year

  • What informal things you can do to help

You will learn the direct route to getting new business and position yourself as the one who cares more than anybody else—the most influential factor in getting hired. The second chance doesn’t last long—because someone else just might get there first.

We will be discussing these issues and much more during our annual webinar BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2019 on January 17, 2019 at noon Eastern Time. Register now as space is filling up fast.

MBR

12 Top Trends Defining the 2019 Legal Market

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Buckle up. It’s going to be an exciting ride. Clients are spending more money on outside counsel than ever. Top legal decision makers are redefining their approach to hiring and managing their law firms. This translates into direct opportunity.

But you will find the biggest wins by targeting your client’s new needs and hiring plans, focusing on the industries where you can win, and getting there before other law firms. Please use these top trends to your immediate and lasting advantage—and join us for the BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2019 where we will discuss these and much more:

  1. Cybersecurity leads all outside counsel spending increases at 9%

  2. M&A spending closely follows Cybersecurity in planned outside counsel spending increases

  3. The number of clients reporting high-stakes matters more than doubled in the last 18 months

  4. Complexity and uncertainty dominate client thinking

  5. Clients are settling less than half as many cases as 2 years ago—increasing risk and outside counsel spending

  6. Clients are cutting internal budgets to fund increasing use of outside counsel for the 3rd straight year

  7. Top legal decision makers are hiring more new law firms than ever to find the firms who can meet their needs

  8. High tech clients plan to increase spending in 9 major areas

  9. Health care clients plan to increase spending in 7 major practice areas

  10. Pharma plans the 3rd largest outside counsel spending increases of all industries

  11. Clients now look for law firms who can scale into teams quickly to manage cases, which could become large or attract other matters—these teams can come from small, medium, and large firms

  12. Clients are most impressed by law firms using technology to provide core information (i.e., updates, budgets, access to current and historical documents)

Match these trends up against your business plans. These opportunities are here now and finally big enough to drive strategic growth in law firms. We have all been waiting for the market to return to the good old days—this is the closest we have seen in a long time.

Please join us for our annual webinar BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2019 on January 17, 2019 at 12:00 pm ET to discuss these trends and much more. You can also learn about these and more detailed trends and opportunities in BTI’s report BTI Practice Outlook 2019, available immediately.

Best in the market ahead and a happy, healthy new year!

MBR

Clients Single Out 30 Law Firms Best at Client Service

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The BTI Client Service 30 keeps putting more distance between themselves and everyone else. But, as in prior years, certain law firms manage to leap frog a whole group of competitors and land a spot in the BTI Client Service 30—knocking out others. Client service performance is dynamic, absolute, relative, and a source of real advantage—all at once.

The leap into the Top 30 is always the result of a set of strategies and tactics to improve client service—all having management backing and teeth (otherwise known as accountability, metrics, and funding). We can see the firms improving in the years prior to joining the best-in-class firms—moving steadily up the curve.

This year we congratulate the following firms on rejoining the BTI Client Service 30:

  • Arnold & Porter (15)

  • Ropes & Gray (21)

  • Willkie (26)

  • Goodwin (28)

  • Greenberg Traurig (29)

At the same time, only 3 law firms remain as a continuing part of the elite BTI Client Service 30 in each and every one of the 18 years we have conducted the survey. We congratulate the following 3 firms for their longstanding skill in delivering at the leading edge of client service performance on an ongoing basis:

  • Jones Day

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Sidley Austin

Jones Day is ranked number 1 in client service more than any other law firm for an impressive 11 out of 18 times. 2019 also marks Jones Day’s 3rd year in a row at number 1—a feat only accomplished when all the partners successfully work, firmwide, to improve all the time with every client.

Skadden is ranked at number 2 for the 2nd year in a row. Latham, DLA, Gibson Dunn, and Hogan Lovells all moved up to fill out the top 5—presented in rank order.

Each member of the BTI Client Service 30 takes their own approach to client service. You can see it built into the culture and the behaviors. You can learn the client service strategies and tactics used by the BTI Client Service 30 here. You can see where your firm stands by ordering your copy of the BTI Client Service A-Team 2019: Survey of Law Firm Client Service Performance, which includes a custom comparison of your firm with up to 8 competitors of your choice. This report is the only place you can learn exactly where your firm improved and where a competitor may have improved more—and recommends exactly what to do about it.

BTI has been helping our clients design and implement the most effective client service and business development programs in the world for 30 years. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how to improve your performance.

Please join me in congratulating the BTI Client Service 30 for 2019.

MBR

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

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.