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.