There's a Bull Market for Law Firm CMOs

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The market is ripe for law firms to up their marketing game.

Smaller firms, bigger firms, and global giants are all bringing on new marketing leaders. In the last 6 (or so) months alone, we’ve seen many notable changes in leadership:

This flurry of top-level turmoil can be credited to retirements, a drive for law firms to build more marketing muscle, people leaving for new opportunities, law firms setting new strategic directions, and a host of other factors.

Think for a minute. Almost ½ of law firm CMOs are on the road to burn out. Only 20% see themselves as trusted advisors to their firms and only 45% rate their jobs an 8 of 10 or higher. In short, a lot of talent is open to greener pastures.

So… How can law firms use this to their advantage?

Love the One You’re With: Double Down on Your Marketing Leadership

Up your support, listen more, listen better, and an occasional extra thank you never hurts. Include your CMO as a central figure in the firm’s strategic direction. Take the time to review the firm’s strategic vision, marketing & business development plans, and client-facing philosophies. Ask them for new ideas and thoughts about how to up the marketing and business development game—and give them the support to see their initiatives through.

Find Your True Love: Find the Best Performers Looking for More

When a potential new CMO walks through your door, tell them a compelling story—the firm’s vision and how you see marketing and business development playing a central role. Sharing your marketing and BD philosophy right away will tell you more about each other than any other conversation you have. Make sure everyone who meets your candidate can tell the story. Revisit priorities, even briefly, to be sure everyone in leadership is in sync with the role of marketing and business development. This shows your candidate they can make an impact, be respected, implement new programs, and see their contribution to the firm’s success.

And, your candidate knows you already. They’ve checked your firm out in Chambers, BTI reports, and talked with folks who have worked for you—they want to know your vision and how this role fits in, not about the firm’s history.

It should go without saying but treat your candidate well. Think of candidate service as a proxy for exactly what it will be like to work at the firm. CMOs tell me stories of firm management being late to interviews, partners taking phone calls during interviews, and no one ever saying thanks for coming in—even when the candidate travels from out of town.

To attract the best-in-class CMOs, offer a market-based salary. High performers believe their current pay plus a percent doesn’t speak to commitment or value—it speaks to offering enough to make a move. CMOs have a good sense of what the market will support. And, the top performers view themselves as being at the top of the market.

More than a few law firms are still on the hunt for a marketing leader. The candidate pool is strong. Look for more offers, more moves, and law firms with strong leaders making sure theirs don’t go.


New, Classic, Light, and Heavy Summer Reading—All with Lasting Lessons

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Summer reading can be a light or a serious read. I recommend a selection from each for summer reading—a light and short and maybe something longer when you are done. My selections include:

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Learn all about creativity and a great mind. See how a genius thinks about the world and thinks in general. See how he relentlessly pursues answers to satisfy his curiosity and how he procrastinates. Learn how he manages not to create boundaries to limit his thinking.

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day by Michael J. Gelb

Mr. Gelb, who is also an excellent presenter, offers practical insight into being more creative and what holds us back. He suggests strategies such as focusing on questions instead of answers and how to eliminate the constraints of outcomes to encourage creative and more original thinking.

In the lighter category, I highly recommend a read or re-read of:

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

This highly readable book can be digested in an hour or so. 2 mice and 2 people deal with change, complacency, contentment, and the obstacles to change—presented as a story about the different approaches to the dwindling cheese supply. Amusing and thought-provoking, this book is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary. It spent 5 years on the New York Times best seller list.

And, a set of summer reading recommendations would not be complete without:

The Mad Clientist’s ABCs of Client Service by Michael Rynowecer

This fully illustrated book is a light-hearted look at a deadly serious skill: learning how to improve client service. The Mad Clientist distilled 14,000 in-depth interviews with top executives into 26 pithy, pointed actions for you to start using today. Spend just 26 minutes with The Mad Clientist and his ABCs of Client Service and improve your client service immediately.

Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits by Michael Rynowecer

Learn how to drive growth and develop the best relationships with clients—based on in-depth research with 14,000 top decision makers who hire professional services firms. The decision makers point to 17 activities described within Clientelligence as driving superior client relationships, service, and new business.

Learn and enjoy.


Rainmakers Kicking Big Time Butt: Increase Their Books 4X Others


A typical rainmaker added just over $1 million to their existing book of business since 2015. This increase is way ahead of any industry growth or other market-based phenomena. And it is 4.5 times bigger than the average partner's increased bookings.


This performance comes from one thing—unrelenting focus on clients. They understand relationships are everything and don’t consider the possibility they won’t deliver. Their clients know when budgets will change in real time, and they exude confidence to be a “turn-over partner”—a client calls in the middle of the night, shares a crisis, and can then turn over and go back to sleep, confident their rainmaker has it covered.

7% of Rainmakers Hidden and Waiting to Be Found

BTI research shows only about 7% of all partners are rainmakers in the largest 600 law firms. By contrast, 86% of partners say they lack the skills to develop new business in a meaningful way. This leaves 7% unaccounted for—these are rainmakers-in-the-making. Find them in your firm. Cull them out. Train them. Give them tools, training, and most importantly—access to your most strategic clients—where they can really build a relationship—and new business.

Unleashing Your Hidden Rainmakers

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If you want to lose the 7% of up-and-comers, constrain them and don’t give them access to clients. Rainmakers and rainmakers-in-the-making hate to be constrained. They get their energy from clients—suppress the energy and you suppress the rain.

This 7% of up-and-comers are likely already high performers. But, they may not have the length of experience leadership typically expects. The risk of letting an up-and-comer loose on a strategic client is much less than the risk of keeping them from clients. Someone (think recruiter or another firm) will spot this talent and lure them away to the greener pastures of client access.

We realize this can mean hard decisions for law firms. What do to with your partner managing a strategic client but not booking new business? How to allow for more client-facing time and how to provide the infrastructure a rainmaker-in-the-making might need? And the advanced coaching, mentoring, and training up-and-comers crave. However hard the decisions, law firms will make them either passively through inaction or actively by preparing up-and-comers for outsized success. But the decisions need to be made.


Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 160 law firm marketing leaders and 150 law firm partners between September 2016 and May 2017.

Where Law Firms Think They're Great, and Where They Ain't


The B players outperform the A players.

They are hungrier, want to make change and are ready to fight city hall (aka management), if need be. These law firm marketing leaders are focused on blocking and tackling issues such as: client service, client feedback, basic business development skills, client teams, and an occasional industry group.

This is from the results of more than 160 law firm marketing leaders’ self-assessment of 15 key areas of performance.

B Players are Building with the Basics

The B players are much harder on themselves—offering a self-ranking of 8 out of a possible 10. But, they sport the highest 3-year growth rate of all law firms, at just over 5%. It pays to be just a bit humble and focus on the basics.

A Players are Building Strategy before the Basics

The self-ranked A players show the slowest 3-year CAGR, at a 1.2%. The self-ranked top performers are focusing on the strategic. They are emphasizing legal prowess, technology, innovation, content marketing, industry groups, and collaboration—all important. But these programs rarely show results without training in the basics. These strategic programs are highly effective in attracting clients—but don’t turn into business unless partners can turn these leads into clients—using the basics which remain the focus of the B players above.

Doing What Works – the Self-Ranked 7s

Law firm marketing leaders ranking themselves 7 and below receive less institutional support than the self-ranked 8s, 9s, and 10s. The 7s put all their energy into getting programs, tactics, or a single effort in place—but they are making forward progress—at the 3-year CAGR of 4.3%.

These 7s are like the 8s—they focus on basics and building blocks. And don’t let go until their program is up and running—and working.

Influence by Osmosis

At a self-ranking of 6, the law firm marketing leaders are making an impact at the partner level. They may get a firmwide program or 2 off the ground (usually client feedback) and will use the feedback and their coaching skills to drive improvement and change. These CMOs take on the one-to-one relationships with the vested partners—and drive change with each one. The good news—the vested partners are typically the most interested in building client relationships and new business—so it’s well-placed leverage.

The self-ranked 6s deliver a CAGR of 2.8%.

The Disenfranchised

Ranking their firm’s performance at 5 or less—these CMOs are most likely to be in the market looking for a new gig—they try—but can’t get a lot of traction. They are pushing water up hill and want to make more progress. Usually, somewhere other than their current firm.

Few Areas of Greatness

Only 3 areas really stand out with a self-ranking of 10—with more than 20% of CMOs ranking themselves a 10—these are:

-        Cultivating Work from Existing Clients
-        Setting Strategic Direction
-        Providing Tools for BD

Conversely, more than 50% of CMOs rank their firms at 6 or lower in 4 areas: 

-        Partner Accountability
-        Using Metrics to Drive BD
-        Attracting New Marquee Clients
-        BD Training for Attorneys

You can see the full results of how CMOs rank their firms in each of the 15 activities by clicking here.

The best performers show a bit of humility and hunger. They show how mastering the basics beats the strategic at this stage of the market. But, it won’t always be this way. Business development is going to become a lot more difficult—and those firms who mastered the basics will be the first to really get benefits from a well-crafted strategy.


Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 160 law firm marketing leaders between September 2016 and May 2017.

Clients Pay Their Highest Rates to These Law Firms–and They Are Worth It

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Clients are slimming down the list of firms to whom they pay their highest rate. This can help explain why the top rate hasn’t budged in 3 years—at a lofty $2,000 an hour. And, only 56% of clients say these firms are truly worth it.

Clients pay the highest rates when they need deep insight, understanding, and unflinching confidence in the ability to deliver. This presumes the firms bring unique knowledge and understanding of the risk. The following firms stand out above all others for: 1) Being identified as the firm clients pay the highest rate; 2) Clients sharing this high rate with BTI; and 3) The firm was well worth this highest rate.

The Highest of the High

The above firms are part of the BTI Client Service 30—the law firms clients single out for delivering the best client service.

Garnering Super-Premium Rates

The firms below also enjoy their clients’ highest rates—but not quite as high and not quite as many clients as the firms above. Please join us in congratulating:

Follow the Money

It is no coincidence one of the largest spending industries tops the list of highest rates paid. These rates are averages of the highest rate paid reported in each industry:

Life Sciences
High Tech
Professional Services
Consumer Goods
Financial Services



We live in a world where top legal decision makers are relentless in wringing maximum value out of their law firms. These firms are living proof of value being delivered at the very top of the rate spectrum. The firms who enjoy these rates gain their credibility by:

  • Dropping everything and showing up—or making it seem so
  • Showing up with piercing questions and a plan
  • Pivoting with ease—as in changing the plan when facts, circumstances, and/or goals change
  • Mobilizing quickly—and never discussing resource issues in front of their client
  • Bringing bigger teams on their matter—there IS safety in numbers—top dollar is not lean and mean
  • Being ready to talk budget right then and there
  • Speaking unequivocally in their thoughts and recommendations
  • Having one person clearly accountable
  • Exuding a certain calm

As more clients pay more law firms their highest rates, their expectations will soar along with these rates. As complex work grows, look for clients who want you to look high-rate ready—especially since more and more matters are morphing from complex to bet-the-company midstream. Every relationship partner can start adopting the top-rate behaviors at any time—this will give you practice for when the big day comes—and just might get you happier clients at premium rates.

You can see the list of all firms earning the highest rates in our newest report BTI Highest Rate Firms 2018. Order your complimentary copy here.


*Based on BTI research conducted between September 2017 and January 2018. BTI conducted more than 360 independent, individual interviews with top legal decision makers at large organizations with $1 billion or more in revenue.

Complacency Epidemic Hits Law Firms as Growth Returns

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Wishes do come true. Legal spending is up. The existential crisis is over. And, urgency is retreating as success is just a little easier to come by. One year of renewed growth is bringing complacency back to law firms.

Complacency Makes a Comeback

Complacency now stands as the number-one source of insomnia for law firm CMOs, at 24.9%*. This rate rivals 2005 complacency levels when demand started to exceed supply. The current number of complacent law firms has virtually doubled last year when it was 13.6%.  

These CMOs at complacent law firms see their firms happy about their new-found wealth but are unhappy and deeply concerned about their firm’s lack of action to make sure growth continues—or in some cases—returns.

The worry comes from 3 main complacency related threats:

          1. Prey for Aggressive Firms

The most aggressive firms are scooping up new business from complacent firm clients: Latham; Kirkland; Paul, Weiss; Greenberg Traurig; Quinn Emanuel; Dechert; Jones Day, and the rest of the BTI Business Development Badasses, who all are making big moves to carve out new business and not just ride the wave.

2. Failure to Engage

Most partners in the complacent firms have no real interest in client teams, client development, industry groups or other proven programs to build, strengthen, and keep client relationships. They don’t show up for training, don’t consult with the CMO on pitches except to make the PowerPoint, and otherwise keep their distance from marketing and business development.

3. No Strategy

These sleepless CMOs say their complacent firm has no strategy and doesn’t want one. The firms don’t engage in planning beyond the budget. Partners are largely left to define their plans with little specificity about how. They have no defensive strategy (keeping rainmakers, keeping clients) or offensive strategies (grow clients, target new clients).

Complacent firms are likely to be victims of both market changes and the more aggressive firms who are on the prowl for clients—and laterals.

By Contrast, Other CMOs Less Stressed than Last Year

Last year, almost half of all CMOs were on the road to burn out. Thankfully, this number is shrinking.

CMOs losing sleep over getting all the work done shrank to 20.69% from 25.3% last year. At the same time, more CMOs stay up worrying about performance—at 18.82% from 14.9%—suggesting a shift to more strategic initiatives.

Urgency Retreats While Success Creeps Back into the Market

Relentless and aggressive firms are using new demand to expand business with current clients and grab new ones. They are also spending more than ever on these efforts. All law firms, complacent or not, are off the aggressive firms – whether they want to or not.

Complacency just makes it easier for everyone else.


*Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 160 law firm marketing leaders between September 2016 and May of 2017.

5 New Trends Point to Big Changes

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The ink isn’t quite dry yet on our most current research. But, we see clear signs of subtle change with big impacts. We just finished in-depth interviews with more than 300 top legal decision makers—here is what we are learning:

Complex Work is Morphing into Bet-The-Company Work Mid Matter

Matters starting out as complex are growing into bet-the-company matters. Top legal officers report the newly bestowed bet-the-company status is a direct result of increased financial exposure. Litigation matters start out contained—then grow and attract regulators, other plaintiffs, and a growing list of securities litigators if the company is public.

This trend is bad for clients but gives law firms real opportunity to join the exclusive bet-the company club for firms who are looking for entry. It is also causing serious damage to law firms who don’t realize they are now handling bet-the-company work.

Clients Have Less Patience than Ever

The value of a client’s time is increasing as the complexity of their matters remains at peak levels. Clients are spending more time managing risk and strategizing—leaving less time to track down attorneys, matter details, budget status, and other issues which steal precious time from your client’s main mission. And the more valuable a client’s time—the less they have for nonvalue-added tasks. Law firms are losing serious work because they don’t provide comprehensive and timely status reports. This reporting is just as important as the legal strategy.

Large firms are in their 4th year of outspending other law firms in client development—and keep winning more work than other firms.

Much is being made of the largest law firms growing much faster than other firms. 2018 marks the 4th year in a row these largest firms spend 1/3 more on client development than all other law firms. This is the reason they are winning so much new business—they have been spending more and working harder to get it.

Mid-size Firms Living Large in Mid-size M&A

Mid-size and smaller firms are carving out preferred relationships with the largest law firms to handle the small deals larger firms don’t find economical. The largest firms are all chasing large deals and private equity. It’s a great market with great clients. But these large firms can’t do small deals—and don’t want to. A clever group of mid-size firms, think 100 to 400 attorneys, are making a nice living developing preferred relationships to handle these smaller deals and service the daylights out of the clients and larger law firms.

This adds to the already established trend of mid-size firms having an especially strong position with non-US-based companies for making US-based acquisitions.

AFAs are Back

Client interest in AFAs is gaining new momentum as complex litigation grows faster than budgets are increasing—and is squeezing the routine work. Top legal officers are finding AFAs and settlements are 2 powerful tools to manage budgets and squeeze more litigation money out of the budget for the more expensive and complex matters.

Spot and Ride the Trends

The fast movers are grabbing clients while other law firms aren’t even looking as they take advantage of these trends. It is 1 the most effective tools to develop business and build enduring relationships.

Partners in a continuing dialogue with their clients are the first to learn these trends—clients will have shared them through words and behaviors. You can also predict and anticipate these trends through well-crafted and executed client feedback. Your chances of picking and using these trends to your advantage are directly linked to the frequency and depth of your client feedback. They are also linked to knowing exactly why clients bring you in and if the reason they bring you in changes. And, one thing is as sure as death and taxes—client needs will change.


Best of the Best in 5 Branding Factors and 14 Law Firms Boosting Their Already Strong Brand

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Only 1 strategy drives a better brand—making a better direct and indirect client experience in the 9 factors driving brand. This means leveraging strength and intentional branding while minimizing unintentional acts of branding.

Once law firms reach the BTI Brand Elite 28—it becomes exponentially harder to improve your brand. But 14 firms have figured it out. Each of the firms who manage to move up have different approaches focused on a common goal. They are focused on improving key parts of the client experience which have the most impact.

Please join me in congratulating the 14 firms who were able to increase their rank to get into or while in the BTI Brand Elite:

And, don’t miss out on the significant changes in the 5 other key branding factors clients rely on to separate one law firm from another, make hiring decisions, and pick and choose who they ultimately work with—and who they don’t:

Clients See a Few Law Firms Become Premium Worthy
More Bet-the-Company Work but Fewer Bet-the-Company Law Firms
Clients See More Law Firms Ready to Lead the Industry
Clients Shorten Short Lists
Fewer Law Firms Earning Client Recommendations

Learn how to earn premium worthy status, and keep it, in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients See a Few Law Firms Become Premium Worthy

Clients pay you more when you bring more. They pay you premiums when you bring insight others don’t. Clients face more complex work and a greater quantity of it—making insights all the more valuable.

Clients single out 3 more law firms able to bring this premium insight—increasing the number of premium-worthy law firms by 3% over last year. However, none of the 2018 newcomers made Best of the Best, leaving the number unchanged from last year.

Please congratulate these premium-worthy firms:


Learn how to earn premium worthy status, and keep it, in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

More Bet-the-Company Work but Fewer Bet-the-Company Law Firms

Top legal decision makers report they have more bet-the-company work than ever, but the number of firms clients think can handle the pinnacle of all matters shrank by 11%. Client demand and expectations for this high-risk work are going up faster than supply—good news for those firms who can brand themselves as a bet-the-company firm. Please join us in congratulating the following firms with the best bet-the-company brands:


Learn more about why legal decision makers think fewer law firms are a sure bet in the new in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients See More Law Firms Ready to Lead the Industry

Clients want to work with the firm who will be around to lead the industry. Top legal decision makers don’t want to work with law firms they think will get merged away or otherwise disappear. This is especially true for litigation which can last years. From a relationship standpoint, clients get concerned about conflicts, changes in command, and loss of institutional knowledge—so they want to work with the long-term leaders, almost as a risk management tool.

Top legal decision makers see 51 more law firms than last year as The Survivors. Please congratulate the following firms on their ability to convince the most demanding clients they will be last firm standing:

Learn more about the future market leaders—and how your firm can join them—in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Clients Shorten Short Lists

Clients Shorten Short Lists

Everyone wants to at least be on the short list. But clients want no part of it—trimming their short lists by 1% this year and 22% over the last 3. Clients indicate they want more knowledge from fewer firms. They have cut their law firm rosters to record lows. Short lists were bound to follow this path. The firms who remain or regain their place are looking at bigger chunks of business.

We found 3 fewer Best of the Best and 7 fewer Leaders. Please join us in giving an especially hearty congratulations to the firms below who lead the pack in claiming their place on client short lists. The law firms enjoying a strong position on client Short Lists in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2018 are: 

Learn how to secure—and continually defend—your position on client short lists in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Fewer Law Firms Earning Client Recommendations

Top legal decision makers recommend 241 law firms, 19.7% fewer law firms for 2018, continuing a 3-year downtrend. The same decision makers recommended 345 law firms in 2015.

Clients are facing more complex work. They largely have lost patience for any law firms who don’t relish this work or who can’t keep within budget and keep them in up-to-the-minute news. 

Clients rely on peer-to-peer recommendations as their best source of learning about new law firms—meaning recommended firms have an edge. Please join us in congratulating the firms with the best branding in earning unprompted recommendations from top legal decision makers:


Learn exactly who is earning client recommendations—and why—and where you stand compared to everyone else in the new BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

14 Firms Move Up in the BTI Brand Elite 28 for 2018

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Try as you might to manage, control, focus, and provide clarity—ultimately clients define your brand based on their experience with you. Law firm brands are volatile. Clients change their perceptions of law firms based on their direct and indirect experience.

Despite this, or perhaps because of these changes—clients identify 4 new law firms as part of the 2018 BTI Brand Elite 28—the law firms with brands 7 times stronger than all other law firms. 14 firms within the BTI Brand Elite moved up—all edging for the number-one spot—because they will get the most inbound referrals.

4 New Firms Join the 2018 BTI Brand Elite 28

Akin Gump, Paul Hastings, and Paul, Weiss make their debut appearances in the BTI Brand Elite 28 while Mayer Brown returns after a brief absence. Clients note an increase in client service and innovation at Akin Gump, Paul Hastings and Paul, Weiss. Clients credit increasing innovation from Mayer Brown for the return to the BTI Brand Elite 28.

Jones Day Takes the Top Brand

Top legal decision makers rank Jones Day as the strongest brand for the 2nd year in a row. The world’s most demanding clients rank Jones Day as Best of the Best in all 9 branding attributes. The firm has been able to continue to improve its client service, innovation, and can be relied on for the truly bet-the-company work. This is not a random set of events. Improving on an already best-in-class performance demands vision, a plan, implementation, commitment, and the will.

14 Firms Moved Up

Brands are more volatile than most people give them credit for, resulting in lost deals and lower rates. Despite this we are pleased to report half of the BTI Brand Elite 28 from 2017 moved up at least one place in 2018. The firms below demonstrated the behaviors behind the 9 factors driving brand hirability. Please congratulate the 28 law firms with the best brand according to the most demanding clients.


You can learn about the detailed changes in your firm’s brand with your copy of the BTI Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Any change in client experience can easily change the brand. Some of these changes are strategic and intentional—others are the result of unintended branding events.

BTI conducted more than 686 interviews with top legal decision makers to single out the law firms with the best and strongest brands. Each of the CLOs provided detailed answers and explanations—and have deep opinions about law firm brands.


9 Differentiators Driving Your Brand, Hirability, and Rates

So many things brand your law firmsome intentional, some not. But, despite the plethora of actions and inactions your firm engages in every day9 rise to the top. These 9 branding attributes define your hirability, your brand, and your ability to garner premium rates.

9 factors are proven to break through the noise and elevate a firm’s brand and positioning with legal decision makers.

BTI draws on 18 years of primary research with top legal decision makers data to develop the framework for measuring your  brand imprint and hirability

We uncovered 9 key factors leaving the biggest brand imprint. Each of which defines how clients perceive a law firm’s performance and influences hiring. These fall into
3 groups: 

Client Experience

  • Recommended
  • Short-Listed

Premium Worthy 

  • Premium Worthy
  • Bet-the-Company
  • Survivors


  • Movers & Shakers
  • Tech-Savvy
  • Value Drivers
  • Client Service Strategists
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Stay tuned, next week BTI will release client rankings of law firms' brandsall based on these 9 client-driven factors in the BTI Brand Elite 2018. Don’t miss it.


Brush Up Your Resume, Here Are the Best Jobs in the Future of Law

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Every law firm, every company has a tell. New positions at your firm tell the world so much about your strategic intent. You can tell if the firm is bold, passive, locked in the past, or unsure about the future—but everyone will know what story you’re telling with these positions, if they examine them closely.

New job titles are one of the most reliable indicators of real change. Bold new strategies create new responsibilities. They demand new skills and create original titles. If and when you start recruiting outside the firm, you are broadcasting your plan.

Keep a keen eye on new hires, new positions, and listen closer when your phone rings—it could be about one of these strategic leadership positions destined to change the future of law. And, it will change the nature of client relationships for the better, especially when the following positions appear:

Head of National Pursuits

Responsible for driving the success of large-scale, strategic pursuits, this role takes ownership of all activities from the moment a partner says, “I want this client” to the follow-up and ultimate win. The HNP assembles their business development team using resources from across the firm, sets the strategy, and shapes the story and the pitch. The HNP also can say no, if it looks like a prospect is not worth the firm’s time and effort to pursue.

The HNP is responsible for all pursuits over a certain threshold amount (in revenue or potential fees), and actively pursues potential clients from the firm’s strategic target list. The HNP cuts across all organizational boundaries to secure a win. The HNP mostly defines strategy and approach—but will pitch at the mega opportunities.

National Business Development Partners

These are the firm’s best business developers who are also practicing attorneys. Firms have reallocated their billable hour targets, so these partners spend more time on business development activities. These partners operate nationally and globally to win the most important clients. They work with the HNP and local partners but clearly take the lead on pitches, briefings, and front-line business development. This team includes rising stars as well as rainmakers—the primary qualification is a strong ability to quickly engage and educate clients.

Like the HNP, this team develops business with potential clients over a certain threshold amount in revenues or potential fees, or targeted clients from the strategic target list.

Vice Chair – Clients

Responsible for all client-facing activities, this senior leader ensures the firm puts clients first in all its systems, protocols, practices, and activities. The Vice Chair – Clients makes sure the firm’s relationship partners receive and promptly act on feedback. This includes feedback from the countless interviews the Vice Chair – Clients conducts, as well as 3rd-party objective feedback to add granularity and depth to firm-gathered feedback. This role requires strong analytical skills to translate the data into actions the firm can use to drive revenue growth.

This Vice Chair individual is also responsible for managing the firm’s most important clients—those who are so important they are “house accounts”—truly a firm client. These are the largest 50 to 200 clients and are managed by senior partners who report to the Vice Chair.

The Vice Chair also works with relationship partners to develop detailed strategic account plans, identify the best resources from across the firm, and provide training in the care, handling, and development of the firm’s largest and most important clients. (This training is often a template for client service training throughout the rest of the firm.)

Chief Digital Officer

Law firms can easily drown in digital opportunities. The Chief Digital Officer ensures their firm thrives and harnesses opportunities in a strategic manner. The CDO drives growth for a law firm by integrating digital strategies, tactics, and investments to ensure each activity supports the others. These strategies include internal processes, legal work, knowledge management, client-facing processes, and recruiting, at a minimum. The CDO evaluates, anticipates, and plans for new digital strategies to ensure the firm is always one step ahead.

Partner in Charge of Client Experience

Looking beyond client service, this partner ensures clients receive the appropriate attention between matters, after cases, and throughout all points from matter inception moving forward. Client experience includes planned interactions, education, and value-added touch points every partner can use to keep relationships growing—even during downtime. Expect this partner to provide tools and templates for discussion, coaching in continuing client conversations, and a roadmap of when to reach out to clients with what.

A key component of this role is working with the Vice Chair – Clients to obtain ongoing, measurable feedback from clients to ensure the clients have a consistently superior experience with their team.

Partner in Charge of Alliances and Teaming

Kirkland doesn’t want small matters. So, they are building a network of firms they can refer to their clients to send the smaller deals. This is informal now, but will evolve. Law firms looking to drive profitability with this highly strategic approach look to team up with alliance partners and collaborators in key practices where small matters are intermingled with large matters. This is a two-way street. Huge benefits can be had for referrers and referees.

The most successful law firms will pick the alliance partners in advance and develop a network where smooth and easy transitions are the norm.


AI in legal isn’t coming—it’s already here, and is creating new types of lawyers. These attorneys learn and develop AI/knowledge-mining tools. From making legal services more efficient to being able to predict legal issues before they arise, dātAttorneys merge law and technology to vastly improve the client experience.

Independent Board Member

You can count the number of law firms with independent board members on 1 hand, maybe 2, if you look hard. Independent directors provide objectivity and outside perspective. Law firms will start to embrace these independent directors as a source of strength—and will use them to help develop more robust strategic plans.

PwC added 2 independent directors to their Board in June 2017. They set the precedent for all other professional services firms.

These positions (or equivalents) already exist in almost every other profession. They not only exist—but are critical components of success. Law firms can let these positions evolve or map out the positions and dive in now. Those diving in now will set the benchmark for everyone else—and clients will be the first to note the difference.


Clients have 2 big sources of insomnia. Law firms only cause 1.

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Top legal officers are questioning themselves and their strategies. Something they don’t often do. And it’s keeping them up at night. The decision makers are unnerved by their law firms’ behavior—as they are now relying on their outside counsel more than ever before.

Almost 30% of corporate counsel are unnerved because of the following experiences with their primary law firms:

  • Partner turnover—lateral movement is making clients less confident in their firm’s ability to deliver without gaps and turnover. Clients are also concerned about the loss of institutional memory and the additional labor and elapsed time required to bring a new partner up to speed.
  • Partner retirements—clients know when key partners at their primary law firms are nearing retirement—but clients believe their firms just passively react to the departures and let things take their course. These clients believe there is no formal plan or thought as to how their matters will be managed going forward. This has the same negative impact as partner turnover.
  • Loss of associates—just as clients are getting to know associates working on their cases, these associates seem to disappear. Clients are fully aware of the high associate turnover rate—but believe their firms will be figuring out how to retain their best associates—which, of course, is any associate your client really likes.
  • No support—clients are discovering their law firms just want to do the work. These firms have no apparent interest in helping their client think through new issues, initiate and carry on conversations to help clients sort out their thoughts, and engage at a level beyond the scope of work. Clients believe this type of dialogue is not only helpful but also crucial to understanding client goals and sensitivities.
  • No team—many attorneys are doing the work, and clients don’t see 1 single attorney as being in charge or accountable. Clients perceive the finger pointing among partners when things don’t go according to plan as evasiveness.
  • Inconsistency—clients experience superstars, mediocrity, and embarrassments all from the same firm. These corporate counsel openly worry the performance will sink to the lowest level delivered.

Virtually each of these behaviors is fixable and unintended—but are on their way to ruining a client relationship just as clients have cut their law firm rosters to the smallest number ever and are ramping up spending with the firms who remain.

The 2nd biggest source of GC insomnia is making sure the work gets done. And done right. Clients are not convinced their law firms will deliver. GCs have stopped adding to staff and are experiencing attrition within their ranks. The search for the right formula prevents 13% from sleeping soundly.

General Counsel report litigation, increased transaction activity, data privacy, compliance, and cost control round out the sources of insomnia—but pale in comparison to the 2 above.

Every law firm and every partner can help clients sleep better. Be the partner who always delivers, never leaves a seed of doubt, and is proud to be accountable—even when things go wrong. Offer secondments and thoughts on how clients can prioritize their workload. Maybe even suggest a few strategies where you can help get things done. You can only be this partner if you are talking to your client. And, these ongoing conversations will help you, and your client, get the best sleep of all while others toss and turn.


(Based on BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between March 2017 and February 2018. BTI conducted more than 350 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at companies with $1 billion in revenue or more, each of whom responded.)

6 Killer Rules to Developing Business

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The best business developers play by different rules than everyone else. Some rules come naturally and others are learned. Aspiring rainmakers can learn from the best. BTI isolated rules which serve as guideposts for those who bring in the most business. These are the 6 rules for killer business development.


1.       Know your client

2.      If you don’t have a solution, stop

3.      Leave the sales pitch at home

4.      Link to business

5.      Every question matters

6.      Relationships are king

The best part of these 6 rules is almost anyone who wants to adopt them can. You can start with one—the one feeling most natural to you. Then add another, and another, until you get to the six. These rules will not only add to your business development prowess but also will add to your billable hours as well—how do you think the top rainmakers bill so much time?


The Mad Clientist: Shoveling Snow Unlocks Market Feedback for Start Up


Around the age of 8, I started to shovel snow to earn extra money in Lynbrook, NY, a suburb of New York City. I had 2 main competitors: my friend from across the street and another at the end of the block. We each charged $2 to $3 per house, and we all used the same strategy.

The natural marketing strategy was to leave the house and knock on doors to offer our services. We would visit the closest houses first and then fan out, skipping houses where there were kids our age. We made a good living for our age and kept ourselves in baseball cards and other essentials of the time.

As one particular storm was ending, I decided to change my strategy. I went out early and could see I was the first one out. I skipped my own house and walked 3 blocks away before I started knocking on doors. I started with Marjorie’s house, named for the high-school girl who lived there. Marjorie’s mom answered the door and promptly hired me.

I went to work and tried to do an especially good job. I am not sure of the reason, but I was pumped. I shoveled the entire length and width of the 20-foot long sidewalk. I shoveled outside the decorative rails going up the steps as well as the inside where people walked.

I finished the job, promptly ringing the doorbell. I received a nice thank you and compliment. Marjorie’s mom also handed me a crisp 5-dollar bill and told me to keep the change. I was in heaven. This was serious money.

I went away trying to spot more homes who would pay premiums, wondering why they would. I changed my whole approach with the next snow storm.

I made sure I would get to Marjorie’s house first, even before shoveling my own walk. I worked the outer fringes of the neighborhood first instead of treating my home as the starting point. I kept a list of the people who tipped and paid premiums. One customer asked me if I would take on shoveling their snow for the entire winter – my first long-term contract. I offered this same arrangement to other premium payers who all agreed.

I shoveled snow until the age of 14, when I was living in Poughkeepsie, NY –  where there was a lot more snow than in Lynbrook. This extra snow, and 6 years of experience, brought another realization: I was better off paying a neighborhood kid to shovel my own driveway while I was out getting paid for 2 to 3 shoveling jobs, instead of performing a non-revenue assignment.

I quit the snow shoveling business and found other ways to make money. I look back and think about how much guidance I got from my clients and the market itself, much as I do today. I am a bit of proud of the idea of hiring someone to shovel my own driveway to leverage my time. And every time a storm hits in the western suburbs of Boston where I live, I am reminded how much can be learned by listening to your clients.


Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference - New Orleans

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The Legal Marketing Association’s annual meeting is always a great conference and a valuable learning experience. BTI Principal, Jennifer Dezso, will be attending and presenting a not to be missed session for firms targeting new business from existing clients. Wednesday, April 11, 3:30 – 4:30

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The Best Source of New Work — Training Your Attorneys to Use Everyday Client Interactions and Informal Client Feedback to Develop More Business

Did you realize 80 percent of your firm’s future profits will likely come from existing clients? Your attorneys are on the frontlines of driving this business development opportunity. But, BTI’s latest research shows 86 percent of attorneys think their approach to business development is not aggressive enough to win new work from clients.

The primary obstacle is not knowing how to talk to clients outside the context of current work in order to build ongoing business and cultivate bigger relationships. This interactive, train-the-trainer session will teach you how to get your partners comfortable talking shop with clients as a gateway to winning new work. You’ll leave with an agenda and discussion guide to share with your attorneys.

Topics include:

  • Five ways attorneys can develop business without having to “sell”
  • How attorneys can adopt a comfortable communication style to transition from formal matter communications to informal conversations with clients
  • Six questions attorneys should be asking about their client’s business and how to use the answers to identify new opportunities
  • How to lead a post-matter meeting and fill your business pipeline at the same time