Forget AI, Fred Flintstone Has a Big BD Lesson for Law Firms

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Fred Flintstone lived in a time when the concept of modern counting for tallying and tracking was coming into widespread use. As Big Data and AI try to muscle their way into law firms—you can still rely on a few Stone Age tools to reliably develop business and keep more clients.

Counting clients and their billings annually is a simple, important, and woefully underutilized business development tool, especially this time of year. Go count how many top clients you have this year—and compare this list to last year—name by name, billings to billings. Perform this analysis on your top 50 to 200 clients. If you’re brave, perform this analysis for each of the last 3 to 5 years—where some of our clients found a gold mine of new work.

Any top client who shrank to become a regular client deserves immediate attention, as does any client where billings shrank at all. It doesn’t matter how much they shrank—nothing good ever comes from shrinking fees.

Immediately investigate and learn exactly why these clients dropped down the list. Don’t be fooled by the premise of “one and done” or “the case ended.” There is always a reason. Clients have ongoing needs and ongoing spending—and they keep using law firms on a regular basis. This just-lost source of business is fertile ground for client and business development. Client feedback is invaluable with these clients.

This client retention and measurement calculation is your roadmap for landing new business right now. Go and develop clients where your relationships are still warm. Your clients just may be wondering why no one from your firm ever followed up after the last engagement.

BTI research shows only 48% of law firms calculated any kind of client retention rate in 2017, up from 40% 3 years ago. The typical law firm calculating its top client retention rate kept 85% of their clients on a year-over-year basis, up from 80% 4 years ago. The increased retention alone can be worth $30 million dollars in new revenue at an Am Law 200 firm—and the same proportionate gain applies to smaller firms.

For my money, I would stop or postpone another project and calculate my firm’s client retention rate for the top 50 clients, at least. I would look at 3 factors:

  • Changes in billings, year over year
  • Rank in the top 50, year over year
  • 3-year compound growth rate in billings

The numbers will tell the rest of the story. And define your path.

All you need to do is reinvigorate 1 major client and even the most skeptical partners will be inclined to shout: “Yabba dabba doo!”


(This research is based on interviews with more than 180 law firm marketing leaders conducted over the last 12 months.)

Shoddy Law Firm Work Doubles

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Shoddy work is driving clients crazy. And, it is driving twice as many clients crazy—in fact, 22% in 2017, up from 11% the previous year. 

Most of this sub-par work is unintentional. Certain law firms don’t even know they are missing the mark. What’s worse—clients simply let these firms fade away never to be hired again. Few law firms ask for client feedback, so they never learn what they’re doing wrong (or right). The decline of quality work is reflected in clients’ growing impatience and in their redefinition of quality. Here’s how it happens: 

Missing the Mark

Certain law firms didn’t do what clients asked. These firms often believe they did, but their clients think otherwise. Clients say these firms racked up a lot of hours, and more importantly, precious time passed before clients figured it out. 

The law firms believed in their heart they knew what the client wanted. But these firms did not confirm their strategy, work plan, and overall approach. They did not confirm the scope. They may have provided a budget—but figured they could blow through it if needed. And off they went, with the best of intentions, delivering shoddy work because the client couldn’t use it.  

Other firms believed their client’s goal was unrealistic. Acting in what they believed to be their client’s interest, they changed course. These self-correcting firms added people and tasks to do the right thing. They worked into the night making sure no deadline was missed. And a few developed irrefutable research to back their positions. The only missing element was the most important one: sharing any of this with their client—who was ultimately stunned by the invoice and the strategy—and not getting what they want. Maybe their client’s goal was unrealistic, but the responsibility lies with law firms to tell their clients why—on a timely basis. 

These miscommunications are the biggest reason even the best technical legal work turns shoddy in the eyes of clients. 

I Know Something You Don’t

Silence during ongoing work has graduated from annoying to shoddy. Silence undermines confidence and can make clients look bad. Corporate counsel expect to be advised and updated on a regular, systematic basis, and when needed for unique events. Anything less is low quality and signals clients are not front and center. Or worse—no one person is looking out for the client. 

Final Invoices

Top legal officers believe the budget is a proxy for strategy and risk management. Clients know budgets change—but they don’t change at the end of a matter—changes can be seen and managed. Clients have concluded an over-budget final invoice represents their firm’s lack of planning and the use of an ad hoc approach to their work. No management means no quality. 

Clients still talk of faulty research, incorrect citations, and mistakes in fact showing up in their documents. These are relatively rare in comparison and not something clients worry about and look for; and somehow, they don’t drive clients crazy. Maybe because they don’t leave the legal department and are easily fixed.

Clients have neither the budget nor time to deal with issues they believe should never have come about in the first place. The main safeguard against shoddy work: over-communicate with your clients. Always tell and retell clients what you are doing and why. And tell them once more, to play it safe. As one top legal officer put it, “Communicate until it hurts.”


(Based on BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between February 2017 and December 2017. BTI conducted more than 350 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations)

11 Trends Reshaping Law Firm Marketing and BD

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Law firm CMOs are pushing change forward. Go-to-market strategies are starting to diverge. Law firm focus on client development is becoming more widespread. Twice as many CMOs think social media is overrated—as opposed to underrated—while the majority of CMOs are starting to use more targeted marketing tactics in attracting clients and new work. And, this is the tip of the iceberg.

Clear and Unmitigated Changes in Law Firm Marketing

BTI just finished analyzing the results of our 10th survey of law firm marketing leaders. We found clear and unmitigated changes in strategy, approach, views on the market, and strategic thinking which help define law firm marketing and business development moving forward. 11 findings immediately stand out:

  1. Dedicated salespeople return to the law firm marketing scene at 11% of law firms, up from a handful of firms 5 years ago.

    Only a small number of law firms have the balance of culture, temperament, respect and trust for BD and compensation systems, as well as support systems, to make this successful. A dedicated salesperson can be a powerful tool, but it rarely works unless the bulk of these elements are already in place when your dedicated salesperson arrives. We expect only a small number of firms will be successful—but, the successful firms will have great results.
  2. The biggest 30 law firms continue to increase the budget behind client development activities. Client development is now 37% of the marketing budget, up from 34% in 2016.

    The law firms under the most pressure to grow are budgeting to protect their client base. Their budgets are in the right place. This has 2 big implications:

    —  It makes it more difficult for every other law firm who wants business from these clients, and

    —  Success demands the right tactics and strategies to back these budgets—money alone does not win clients

  3. 59% of law firms see broad market outreach as the most overrated marketing strategy. CMOs see themselves getting diminishing returns from casting wide nets to catch new clients. Now they are trying to convince their firms the best strategy is to narrowcast to land the best clients.
  4. 9% of law firms are betting big on social media and making it the centerpiece of their go-to-market strategy.

    The law firm social media world has many players but only these 9% say they are in it to win big business. These firms have highly developed themes for their social media activity along with a well thought out ecosystem to support it.
  5. 20% of law firms see social media as overrated. They expect little from social media. These firms also have minimal, episodic, and sporadic presence in this world.
  6. CMOs no longer see themselves as resource constrained, as only 9% say it is an obstacle to growth. This is down from 23% in 2016.

    While every CMO wants more resources, they no longer see the lack of resources as being an obstacle to growth. 90% of law firms have crossed a strategic threshold where growth is determined by the ability to keep current clients and get new ones faster than everyone else.
  7. 19% of CMOs see no obstacle to their firm’s growth in 2017, up from a mere 3% in 2016.  Strategic confidence grows dramatically. These CMOs believe in their strategies and ability to execute. Most of these CMOs had a hand in developing their firm’s strategy. Again, like the trend in 6, this signals the crossing of the strategic threshold where strategy rules.
  8. The number of law firms reorganizing themselves increased by a factor of 6 to 17% from 2.3% in 2016. With the resources they need in place, CMOs are changing their organizations to better support the firms and partners to drive growth. We see move to organize around industries, partners, clients, regions and firmwide—including combinations of the above.
  9. Virtually every law firm is spending less on seminars and events than they were 3 years ago. This serves as another piece of evidence law firms are moving to more targeted marketing.
  10. Only 16% of CMOs see Artificial Intelligence (AI) driving increased business. Another 25% expect AI will make MBD more productive. 21% don’t know what the impact of AI will be.

    We expect AI will eventually help CMOs develop highly personalized proposals and pitches with much less effort. AI will bring industry and product/service information—attorneys will have to supply the non-legal interactions to be able to use AI to develop the right tone and voice. And, a partner will still have to sell it.
  11. The typical CMO needs 2 years to learn how to work with the partners when joining a new firm. Swapping out CMOs is expensive. More than half of all law firm CMOs are not fully satisfied or engaged. We recommend law firms take a deep look at how they can engage their CMOs more—if not to make your CMO happier, then to save the precious 2 years it takes to bring a new one into the fold.  

All these changes add up to opportunity for law firms and CMOs. As law firms develop more focused approaches to the market, marketing and business development are the tools of choice.

There has not been a better time to make a law firm marketing leader’s voice heard. Those who are heard may just become more engaged and want to stay put—and become a permanent part of the 45% of CMOs who are loving what they do. And, will be poised to gain new business and clients at competitor expense.  


(This research is based on interviews with more than 180 law firm marketing leaders conducted over the last 12 months.)

The Ideal Client Mix

Looking at your client relationships along the dimensions of Client Attractiveness and Money allows you to easily see which clients create better opportunities and have a stronger financial impact.

Jennifer Dezso, BTI Principal, walks you through the steps you can take to assess and create your ideal mix of clients.

You can view the video by clicking the image below, or on YouTube directly here:

With this series we’ll be taking an in-depth look at a wide range of client relationship best practices. We’ll be releasing Client Relationship Lab webisodes on our blog every month—subscribe today (in the box at the upper right of your screen) and be sure you don't miss a single one.

What Law Firm CMOs Love and Hate about Their Jobs

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Law firm CMOs are basically split—45% are happy and fully engaged. This leaves more than half who are not.

At 35%—the biggest segment of CMOs rate their jobs an 8 of 10. It’s good, they like it—but does not cross the line into thrilled, awesome, or fully engaged.

Another 20% put their job satisfaction at 7 of 10 or lower. This is the level where frustration breaks through. These CMOs may enjoy some aspects of their job—but the balance between happiness and frustration is out of whack. These CMOs are on the prowl for a new job.

CMOs from both halves of the spectrum shared what makes them so happy—or not.

Why CMOs Love Their Job

  1. Making a strategic impact
  2. Watching partners gain BD skills
  3. Improving client service
  4. Freedom to make decisions
  5. Engaging attorneys
  6. Feeling valued
  7. Intellectual challenge
  8. Strategic challenge
  9. Serving as voice of the client

Why CMOs Hate Their Job

  1. No respect for marketing and business development
  2. No voice
  3. Firm’s internal focus
  4. Perfunctory work
  5. Can’t engage attorneys
  6. Stress
  7. Workload



    How to Move Up the Happiness Scale

    Find your friends. Virtually every law firm has partners who value marketing and business development somewhere. Find these partners. Focus your energy on helping these individuals. You will feel valued almost immediately once you help someone. Once you help one attorney it becomes contagious. Others will seek you out.

    Think small victories. You are in a war which you can win by fighting battles. Think about all the choices in front of you—where can you create a win? No matter how small, victories help your firm and you. And, one victory begets another. Any victory can change your own world view.

    Don’t take it personally. The barriers and situations you face were there before you arrived. Separate out marketing and business development from yourself—most firms react to the function—not you.

    Speak your voice—and be prepared to speak it many times. You know your marketing and business development ideas cold—like no one else ever could. And they don’t. Each discussion you have is an opportunity to illustrate how you, and your skills, can help attorneys develop and win more business. If the message doesn’t resonate—find the partners where it does.

    Speak your voice again. Share your best ideas. Not all your ideas—but your best ideas. Find someone on your staff or a friendly partner to brainstorm with to get counsel on which ideas will have the most impact. And be prepared for the long selling cycle accompanying any new idea.

    Stop banging your head against a wall. Some CMOs just don’t click at some firms. If you can’t get anyone’s attention and get things to work—move on. You and the firm will be better off.

    Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

    CMOs are one of the least understood members of the law firm management team. Success demands you market yourself within your firm.

    Happy CMOs spend substantial time thinking about how they can make their voice heard and make the benefits they offer in their voice. It’s intuitive to many. They find, focus on, and fight for victories where they can make an impact. They engage with attorneys whenever possible and start with the partners who see value in MBD. They know their happiness, and success, lies in their ability to make things happen—and like all else in marketing—your clients (the firm) has to see the compelling value.


    (This research is based on interviews with more than 180 law firm marketing leaders conducted over the last 12 months.)

    Only 4 Years Until AI Hits Big Time


    Review your plans, make your decisions, and mark your calendars.

    Clients have a schedule for when the future will arrive. Top legal decision makers see AI making an impact in 3.96 years. The outlook for how law firms develop and implement AI may be up in the air – but client thinking is pretty clear.

    Strategic Decision Support Expected Even Sooner

    Only 20% of corporate counsel expect to be using AI to help with decision making. They have high hopes – expecting AI to actually impact strategy and decision making in only 2.8 years.

    These executives are looking for the data and insight to drive better outcomes, generate more effective strategies, and define the shortest path to reaching their goals. Virtually every one of them expects their law firms to bring this insight – believing their firms will possess both the data and knowledge. The very largest of companies are thinking of investing in systems directly but still plan to look to their law firms for strategic input.

    Efficiency: Big Gains Anticipated within 4 Years

    BTI research shows another 57% of clients expect AI’s impact on efficiency to arrive in just over 4 years – exhibiting considerably more patience than their peers looking for decision support. Initially, they anticipate gains on efficiency ranging from 25% to 33%. This translates directly into fewer billable hours and shorter time frames to deliver the equivalent work.

    Client Expectations Are Everything  

    Client expectations are as important, if not more so, than the actual result. Your AI success depends not only on your AI prowess but also on managing client expectations. We recommend:

    • Asking clients about their goals, expectations, expected benefits, and time frames.
    • Bringing clients into your plans. Share your approach, goals, and timetable – and ask for comments.
    • Sharing your client-facing technology roadmap – technology companies routinely talk to their clients about their roadmaps. Clients want to know where you are going before they invest in your approach – psychologically or financially.
    • Creating a technology advisory group made up of your largest and thought-leading clients. Bringing this group together will yield much more than insights into your AI strategy.
    • Keeping the dialogue going. Clients have high expectations, and your ability to lead the dialogue proves you can lead the path to AI.  

    One of the major unspoken AI-related risks is the ability to meet and exceed client expectations. Firms who aren’t talking to their clients about what they expect, what to expect, when – and what they will get – may find their AI efforts not impactful at all.

    Engage now. AI’s time is closer than you think – at least according to clients. 


    And the Winner of Best Strategy Is...

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    Law firms love to measure the growth. Not so much for market share.

    Market share gains or losses tell you how much business and the extent of clients you gained or lost versus other firms. You can add a whole new dimension to your strategic performance by looking at profits at the same time. Profits tell you how much capital you have available to invest—in talent, technology, clients, and other key areas. The firms who gain more clients and generate more profits than anyone else on a regular and sustained basis have a clear advantage.

    Even though the legal market is growing again, success still demands law firms steal clients in order to create the kind of growth which attracts talent, creates opportunity, and draws clients to your firm.

    Only a small number law firms—12%—register big gains with big profits on a continuing basis. Another 14% are investing to earn these big gains and profits. 40% are losing share with lower-than-average profits. The rest are somewhere in between.

    Stealing Clients and Making More Money than Anyone Else

    12% of law firms are not just growing—they are taking clients and market share. These Pacesetters are generating superior profits—4 to 6 times better than everyone else. Everyone can learn a thing or 2 from these firms—no matter who you are.

    The Pacesetters are using client-centric strategies. They are focusing on growing their existing clients and investing in only a few selected markets, practices, and clients—all with discipline and strategic patience. They are top client service performers—but that’s not enough—Pacesetters are committed to getting even better at client service. Pacesetters know exactly who their clients are and what they want. Better strategy, adding more clients than everyone else, and making more money while doing it—this is the business trifecta.

    To learn who these firms are and more about their strategies, join us for today’s webinar: The BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2018, at Noon Eastern (Click here to register).

    Losing More Clients and Making Less Money

    40% of law firms are giving up clients and share. These firms are shrinking or eking out minimal growth. Either way—they are giving up business and clients to competitors. These firms are the Followers. Follower strategies are the opposite of the Pacesetters. These strategies focus on the firm before markets, they market to broad groups of practices equally, and cast a wide net for clients—all of which make it harder to connect with clients or grow your market share.

    Investing for the Biggest Gains

    14% of law firms, the Investors, are making big investments to drive growth and market share gains. These firms are investing in client-facing programs, industry teams, client feedback and provocative content, and are reaching out to clients. They have one goal—become a Pacesetter. They are spending profits now for bigger clients, new clients, and bigger profits to come.

    Harvesting the Gold

    The Gold Miners enjoy outstanding profits but are slowly losing clients and share. These firms, some of whom have mega prestige brands, are losing clients—especially to the Pacesetters—who are much more aggressive in seeking out and cultivating prime clients. Gold Miners have some of the best clients, but they largely position themselves as destination firms clients will seek out. But other firms are starting conversations with these clients when the need arises—slowly taking business. The Gold Miners will sense this loss of clients at some point—driving a pivot to a client‑centric strategy or merger.

    As we will discuss in our webinar at Noon EST today—the Pacesetters have increased their gains while firms losing share are losing more at a faster pace over the last 10 years. The Gold Miners are making more money but losing more clients. The gap between the Pacesetters and everyone else is growing daily.

    The legal market has entered the 4th distinct phase of growth since the financial crisis. At this point, the most successful strategies place clients at the epicenter of their world, and build out from there. The more the market changes the more one thing remains the same—clients and the client experience drive short- and long-term success.


    How Clients Hire: Top Clients Impose Law Firm Hiring Moratorium

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    A group of forward-looking top legal decision makers have stopped hiring new law firms.

    “I am tired of spending my time listening to the same old story. They all say the same things. There is no point. It isn’t like I don’t know what I am going to get. I’ll work with the firms I have,” explains an SVP of a large financial services company. If your firm hasn’t done any work for these clients in the recent past, you don’t exist.

    While representing no more than 15% of clients—they control more than 30% of US legal spending.* Their plan: Drive the law firms with whom they want to work into better performance. These clients plan to:

    • Initiate discussions about legal strategy for key matters
    • Ask for options before getting too deep into a matter
    • Convince law firms to adopt tools to get things done with budget predictability
    • Keep their law firms advised of their plans to help them be prepared for what’s coming
    • Give feedback—regularly. Clients plan to point out inconsistencies in service and delivery and tell you exactly where and how to improve—mostly in process and communication

    Your client is unlikely to announce this new change. And, they will only engage with a few of their firms. Clients don’t have the time or energy to drive change at all their law firms. Only a few firms will emerge stronger and larger as the decision makers gravitate to the top performers and those who embrace their changes.

    You can pick up on the clues quickly through well designed client feedback. The non-feedback firms will have to pay close attention to every client request and communication to be able to try to figure out what clients want.

    The only safe bet to be one of the chosen few is to behave as though your large client is going to develop a better and bigger relationship with you—and YOU initiate the feedback process. We recommend starting with fresh and broad feedback from everyone with whom you work at your large clients. This means many interviews at a single large client (our record at BTI is 39 individuals at a single client, so far).

    Analyze the feedback and share the results with attorneys serving your client. Then—be daring—share the major findings with your clients along with suggestions for how you plan to improve. Ask your clients for their suggestions. Then—change.

    If you need help developing the questions, tools to analyze the insight, or recommendations, please feel free to reach me at

    At the same time, treat any requests to attend client meetings about operations, upcoming plans, and almost any other topic as a juicy invitation to be briefed on how to get more business.


    PS. Don't miss out on our upcoming Market Outlook and Client Service Review webinar on January 18 at Noon Eastern. You can learn more or register here.

    *Based on BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between February 2017 and December 2017. BTI conducted more than 350 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations.

    Aggressively Growing Your Highest Quality Clients

    In this month's Client Relationship Lab, BTI Principal Jennifer Dezso shows you how to make sure you're aggressively growing and protecting your business with your highest quality clients. This client development plan is a tool to help you zero in on the clients who make the most sense for you to pursue, as well as a strategy for building your book of business with these clients.

    You can view the video by clicking the image below, or on YouTube directly here:

    With this series we’ll be taking an in-depth look at a wide range of client relationship best practices. We’ll be releasing Client Relationship Lab webisodes on our blog every month—subscribe today (in the box at the upper right of your screen) and be sure you don't miss a single one.

    Superstitions and Customs to Guide or Haunt Your New Year

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    A certain rock star litigator will wear 1 of only 2 ties when delivering closing arguments. He may add a new tie to this elite collection, but, only if he has success in less serious matters enough times for it to earn its keep as a good-luck tie.

    A top rainmaker confesses she always wears her good-luck pin when visiting clients. And she always leaves with work or a lead.

    A lead M&A partner always wears purple somewhere in his clothing when he goes to visit clients to brainstorm and talk about possible new deals—he says it brings luck and is associated with creativity.

    You get the idea—many successful people have their own superstitions and beliefs. People find big and small contributors to their success in many places—some more mainstream than others. Here are a few contributors for 2018:

    A Year for Good Relationships

    Astrologers and numerology suggest 2018 creates the right environment to make relationships function well. This includes cooperation, pulling together as a team, and the increased use of intuition. Contrast this with 2017, which was a year of self-sufficiency.

    The Timing Is Perfect

    The timing for a year of better relationships is perfect. Clients are about to send $3 Billion to outside counsel in 2018 while also reporting inconsistency in their law firms’ delivery—creating an opening for new law firms to strike and showcase their consistency. While every law firm can benefit from diving into client feedback, client teams, and firmwide client service programs to drive change—you’re better off starting while the universe is behind you.  

    Superstitions and beliefs are only weird if they don’t work.

    Wishing you the best of relationships in 2018.


    PS. Don't miss out on our upcoming Market Outlook and Client Service Review webinar on January 18 at Noon Eastern. You can learn more or register here.

    Smart Questions To Get Clients To Open Up

    Developing business doesn't happen by asking questions with yes or no answers. Truly understanding your clients' needs—and how your firm can help—comes from asking situational questions which drive robust answers. In this week's video, The Mad Clientist walks you through creating scenarios to get your clients talking.

    You can view the video by clicking the image below, or on YouTube directly here:

    We’ll be releasing videos here on The Mad Clientist blog every Tuesday. Subscribe today (in the box at the upper right of your screen) and be sure you don't miss a single one.

    The 16 Most Important Trends and Opportunities for 2018

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    Ten years in the making—growth in outside counsel spending returns. Before we party like its 2007, it’s important to realize the 2018 increase is different. 2007 saw new money flooding the market. In 2018, clients are making a strategic choice to move money from in-house staff to outside law firms. These clients want more breadth of skills, the ability to tap skill sets as needed, and the ability to scale up quickly. These same clients want your smarts and experience. Of the many changes to expect in 2018, here are the 16 with the most impact:

    1. Outside counsel spending will grow substantially for the first time in 10 years.
    2. Clients are shifting $3B in spending to outside counsel from their internal budgets due to the steady increase in complex matters.
    3. 35% more companies expect to face IP litigation than in 2017.
    4. 20% of General Counsel are working on plans to proactively eliminate risk and accelerate regulatory approvals.
    5. Clients will continue winnowing down the number of law firms on their rosters.
    6. The largest legal spenders will increasingly rely on procurement to negotiate rates but GCs will retain hiring decisions.
    7. More high-profile big-market laterals will find new homes at new law firms.
    8. Middle-market M&A work (deals ranging in size from $200M to $1B) will continue to deliver a robust flow of business to law firms as large companies buy smaller companies to fill strategic gaps.
    9. Clients expect every law firm proposing on substantive work to offer budget and progress dashboards.
    10. Industry understanding will play a bigger role in convincing clients to hire your firm.
    11. Clients are beginning to avoid firms where they experience too much attrition.
    12. The largest clients who experience uneven client service will stop giving these firms new work.
    13. Healthcare companies will increase spending in 11 practice areas and will lead all industries in increasing outside counsel spending.
    14. Financial services companies are increasing spending on outside counsel more than most.
    15. Increased outside counsel spending at big pharma will rival financial services.
    16. Litigation will see the most growth of any area with more than a 5% increase in outside counsel spending.

    Use these trends to guide your business plans. Target your clients and talk to your top clients about their plans; put these trends in front of them to learn their point of view. Asking is the only way to find out.

    The firms who are discussing how these trends are impacting their clients, with their clients, are the firms first in line to get the new work.

    We will be discussing these opportunities and much more in our upcoming Market Outlook and Client Service Review webinar on January 18 at Noon Eastern. You can learn more or register here.


    The Driving Force Behind the Most Successful Industry Programs

    Behind the most successful industry programs stands an opportunity for your firm to provide deep insight into your clients' greatest concerns and needs.

    You can view the video by clicking the image below, or on YouTube directly here:

    We’ll be releasing videos here on The Mad Clientist blog every Tuesday. Subscribe today (in the box at the upper right of your screen) and be sure you don't miss a single one.

    Clients Single Out 61 Law Firms Who Can Cut Through Complexity

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    Clients have been on the receiving end of a continuous stream of increasingly complex risk and exposures. This stream of complexity is in its 4th year and shows no signs of abating. And, it’s changing what clients want in their law firms.

    With equal parts tenacity, sheer will, smarts, and intuition—combined with confidence, savvy, conviction, and the nerve to go for the jugular—these cutting-edge law firms have the killer instinct clients want right now.

    Clients see killer instinct as the secret sauce to get to the right answer faster. Most importantly, clients are willing to pay more for killer instinct because their total cost will be lower.

    To be sure—clients want the unrelenting research and piercing analysis—but they see and reward firms with an intuitive (and seasoned) sense of direction about exactly how to reach their goals. Here are some the things separating those firms with killer instinct from everyone else:

    • Develop recommendations which carry more risk but may provide a measurably better outcome
    • Work on multiple strategies simultaneously with the goal of a substantially better outcome
    • Pointed and definitive recommendations
    • Fast follow-up—much faster than other firms
    • Willing to make decisions with less data than others

    This has been a long time coming—but inevitable. Clients want better results and want value. Killer instinct solves this problem—and more.

    Overall, clients identify 61 firms who display this killer instinct. Top legal decision makers single out 2 firms with the most killer instinct:

    • Latham & Watkins
    • Skadden

    These top clients point to 6 firms who bring more killer instinct than most:

    • Cooley
    • DLA Piper
    • Greenberg Traurig
    • Jones Day
    • Squire Patton Boggs
    • White & Case

    You can study the entire group of killer instinct firms and all those who stand out for traditional and new aspects of client service in the just released BTI Client Service A-Team 2018: Survey of Client Service Performance for Law Firms.

    To some killer instinct comes naturally while others learn to develop it. Clients want it from you now—and they are paying premiums to get it.


    3 Techniques to Build Stronger Client Relationships—Part 3: Working the Plan

    Successfully involving your clients in the matter management process can mean a steady stream of clients who go out of their way to work with you again and again. BTI Principal Jennifer Dezso shares the template you need for keeping your plan on track. 

    You can view the video by clicking the image below, or on YouTube directly here:

    View Part 1 here:

    View Part 2 here:

    With this series we’ll be taking an in-depth look at a wide range of client relationship best practices. We’ll be releasing Client Relationship Lab webisodes on our blog every month—subscribe today (in the box at the upper right of your screen) and be sure you don't miss a single one.

    Clients Add 8 New Firms to BTI Client Service 30

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    It’s so easy to fall behind in client service. All you have to do is stay the same. But, 30 firms overcome the odds and perform 9 times better at client service than everyone else. These firms are The BTI Client Service 30. While all firms in this elite group stand out for superior client service, the following firms are especially impressive:

    • Jones Day is ranked number 1—absolutely best with their 10th appearance in the top spot
    • Skadden—ranked at number 2—makes their 16th appearance in The BTI Client Service 30
    • Dentons, at number 3, continues to be as aggressive with client service as they are with growth
    • Latham moves up to number 4 by improving the value delivered to clients to best-in-class levels

    We also note the 4 firms above are the only law firms corporate counsel rank Best of the Best in all 17 activities driving client service. Jones Day and Dentons have delivered on all 17 best-in-class cylinders for 2 years in a row.

    • Jones Day, Morgan Lewis, and Sidley show unmatched commitment—and success—in continually improving client service. These 3 are the only firms to land a coveted spot on The BTI Client Service 30 in all 17 years BTI has been conducting the research.
    • 8 law firms have been improving performance and rejoin The BTI Client Service 30:
      • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
      • Davis Polk
      • Pillsbury
      • Littler
      • Mayer Brown
      • King & Spalding
      • McDermott Will & Emery
      • O’Melveny

    What Clients See in the Best Performers

    Every firm on The BTI Client Service 30 has been here before—for an average of 8 times. They all have ongoing client service programs, as compared to so many firms who start a client service initiative and then change to a new initiative after a year is up. Superior performance demands client service improvement be a permanent part of daily life.

    This year, top legal decision makers report superior client service is all about client-facing programs. We heard about dedicated client teams, law firms seeking out client feedback, industry knowledge, and deeply customized educational tools and sessions. We also heard how firms in The BTI Client Service 30 have become much more sensitive to the need for budget certainty—and are delivering.

    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 2018: 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. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how to improve your performance.

    Please join me in congratulating The BTI Client Service 30 for 2018.


    The 4 Biggest Client Service Turkeys of 2017

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    Next week we will give thanks for all our good fortune. This week, The Mad Clientist gives thanks for all we can learn from the most egregious acts of client service. While these may provide a few laughs, they also provide insight into how clients think about their interactions and their experience—and why they appreciate superior client service.

    Sure I Have Time for an Important Update—or—Whoops, I Have to Go

    My law firm called and asked me if I had time for some important updates on my case. I said of course and settled in for the unscheduled call. They promptly started giving me a very detailed briefing on what appeared to be delicate issues in a matter which was not ours. I told them this wasn’t my case. Then—they simply said they “had to go” and hung up.

    — As shared by the General Counsel of a leading pharmaceutical company

    My Attorney Really Hit It Off with Opposing Counsel

    I decided to give one of our newer law firms a complex but manageable case after they lobbied hard for more work. We had a good kick-off meeting—I felt they understood my key concern about risk and the need to contain the other side with language I wanted them to develop. They performed the work well.

    The lead lawyer called me and asked if the partner who performed the work did a good job. I was immediately impressed—they had never asked for feedback before. I told the lead lawyer his firm did a good job. I’ll always remember—his next words were: “Then you wouldn’t mind if the lawyer who performed the work teamed with opposing counsel to work on a matter together at a nonprofit in which both attorneys have an interest—because the 2 attorneys really hit it off.”

    — Shared with me during an in–depth interview with a partner at a private equity firm

    My Accounting Department Won’t Let Me

    “One my new goals was to provide better reporting to top management,” explains the Deputy General Counsel of a global bank, “I met with my partner at the firm who does the bulk of our litigation. I took the most recent invoice the firm sent me and marked it up with comments to show the changes I needed in order to be able to prepare my reports. He listened and acknowledged what I said. The next invoice came through and it looked just like all the other bills. No changes I could see. I sent my partner an email asking what happened. Two days passed and I had no response to my email. I called and left a message. We talked a day later at which point my partner explained he would investigate. Again no response until I called him a couple of days later. My partner told me: “my accounting department won’t let me make the changes you want.” I had to wonder to myself how he would stand up to my adversaries if he wouldn’t stand up to his own accounting department.

    — As explained by the Deputy General Counsel for Litigation of a global bank

    I Know the CEO

    One of the attorneys (at Law Firm X) was so obnoxious that we actually told the firm we would only work with certain attorneys and not this particular attorney on any of our cases. He is very rude and abrasive. But we didn't hold this against the firm because there are so many very good attorneys there. He actually went behind our backs to complain about us to our CEO. After that, no one trusted him, not even our CEO, who asked that the firm never work on any of our cases again.

    — Detailed by the EVP/General Counsel of a large power generation company

    The moral of these stories: Don’t be a turkey—gobble gobble.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


    How The BTI Client Service 30 Outperforms Everyone Else

    This week The Mad Clientist shares 6 key things The BTI Client Service 30 do to outperform their competition and deliver the very best client service to their clients—and potential clients.

    You can view the video below, or on YouTube directly here:

    We’ll be releasing videos here on The Mad Clientist blog every Tuesday. Subscribe today (in the box at the upper right of your screen) and be sure you don't miss a single one.

    Unspoken Criteria Clients Use to Evaluate Your RFP


    Clients are becoming much more skilled in evaluating law firms. They are on the lookout for clues as to what they will get once they hire a firm. Top legal decision makers see so many pitches and presentations they have now developed a clear set of criteria—some of which they share—and some not.

    Lack of sharing is neither a trick nor negligence—its client preferences which have become ingrained in their thinking. Clients think about some especially important requirements so often they believe the proposing firms know what these unspoken requirements are.

    Other unstated criteria are not yet fully developed but clients know them when they see them—these are the most dangerous—because clients still have an expectation you will meet these unstated criteria.

    Our continuing in-depth interviews with top legal decision makers and influencers reveal the following unstated criteria law firms are expected to meet:

    • Talk about client working styles and preference. Law firms are asking clients about their working styles especially around communication, managing to tight timelines, and the types of outreach clients find helpful. One top legal officer of a global consumer products company said, “These questions show they know there may be moments of urgency and plan for it. These firms have been there. I think it’s great they ask what it’s like to work with us—it’s a gutsy question.”
    • Asking clients about their experiences with AFAs. Even though clients report most law firms are still AFA averse—they expect you to not only be conversant in AFAs—but they want you to lead the discussion. AFA-savvy law firms are asking clients about their experiences with AFAs and making suggestions to help their potential client gain more value.
    • Willingness to go off script. Clients want advisors and are bringing up current problems and issues to see how law firms respond. Clients look for firms who share opinions, ideas, and discussion—and avoid the firms who hesitate, or worse, decline. “If they can’t speak about something I think is in their wheelhouse, I get more than a little unnerved,” says a top legal executive at a very large bank.
    • Online dashboards to manage budgets, progress, and store documents. These add so much value to clients, as one GC puts it, “The firms without a dashboard get put at the bottom of the pile.”

    The winning law firms prepare and train for each of these unannounced criteria. They practice the pitch, list out the questions they might be asked, and go in knowing they’ll get unexpected questions. And, the winning firms are already thinking about what clients may be adding to the unspoken criteria list moving forward.