The Complex Employment Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

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

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

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



  • Gibson Dunn

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Reed Smith


  • Baker Botts

  • Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott

  • Carlton Fields

  • Day Pitney

  • Debevoise & Plimpton

  • Dentons

  • DLA Piper

  • Duane Morris

  • Hogan Lovells

  • King & Spalding

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Mayer Brown

  • McGuireWoods

  • Norton Rose Fulbright

  • O'Melveny

  • Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs

  • Pillsbury

  • Sidley

  • Sullivan & Cromwell

  • Troutman Sanders

  • Weil

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

The Complex Commercial Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

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

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

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



  • Gibson Dunn

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Reed Smith


  • Baker Botts

  • Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott

  • Carlton Fields

  • Covington

  • Day Pitney

  • Debevoise & Plimpton

  • Dentons

  • DLA Piper

  • Duane Morris

  • Hogan Lovells

  • Jenner & Block

  • King & Spalding

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Mayer Brown

  • McGuireWoods

  • Norton Rose Fulbright

  • O'Melveny

  • Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs

  • Pillsbury

  • Sidley

  • Sullivan & Cromwell

  • Troutman Sanders

  • Weil

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

The Securities and Finance Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

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

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

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



  • Jones Day

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Sidley

  • Skadden

  • Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz


  • Covington

  • DLA Piper

  • Gibson Dunn

  • Hunton Andrews Kurth

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Maynard Cooper & Gale

  • O'Melveny

  • Paul, Weiss

  • Pillsbury

  • Weil

  • Winston & Strawn

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

The Class Actions Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

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

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

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



  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Littler

  • Morgan Lewis


  • Arnold & Porter

  • BakerHostetler

  • Carlton Fields

  • Debevoise & Plimpton

  • Dentons

  • DLA Piper

  • Foley & Lardner

  • K&L Gates

  • Katten Muchin Rosenman

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Mayer Brown

  • McDermott Will & Emery

  • McGuireWoods

  • Morrison & Foerster

  • O'Melveny

  • Orrick

  • Pierce Atwood

  • Reed Smith

  • Sidley

  • Troutman Sanders

  • Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell

  • Winston & Strawn

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

The IP Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

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

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

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



  • Fish & Richardson

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Orrick

  • Perkins Coie

  • Sidley

  • WilmerHale


  • Alston & Bird

  • Duane Morris

  • Finnegan

  • Goodwin

  • Greenberg Traurig

  • Hogan Lovells

  • Kilpatrick Townsend

  • McGuireWoods

  • Morrison & Foerster

  • Pillsbury

  • Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

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

37 Law Firms Most Feared in Litigation

Advantage goes to the feared.

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

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


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

Show of Force

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

Cut Through Complexity

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


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

Please join me congratulating the following 37 law firms:


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


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

The Fearsome Foursome Honor Roll

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

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


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

3 High-Performing Practice Leaders Share 5 Tips and Secrets

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


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

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


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

Embrace Other Professionals Within the Firm

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

Learn Why Not What

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

Talk and Listen to Millennials

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

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

The panel consisted of:

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

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

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

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


Making Better Associates Faster

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

Ask associates to make decisions before you think they are ready

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

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

Find a reason to bring associates to clients

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

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

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

Give your top associate a specific role in client meetings

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

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

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

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

Train, train, train, and train

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Radical, Crazy and Off-the-Rails Moves to Expect from Law Firms

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Nothing—including robots, AI, and technology—is as exciting as law firm behaviors. Law firms will become emboldened, impatient, highly strategic, and desperate as the more aggressive law firms make ever-bolder moves on the market.

Stealing once untouchable laterals is commonplace. Grabbing practice groups is part of the new norm. Baker McKenzie openly states its goal of finding merger partners to build out the East and West Coasts. All this is going on while other law firms either believe bold moves are too risky or look to leap frog everyone else.

We are about witness a new round of old moves as firms jockey for position. Look for the more noticeable moves to include:  

1. No Charge for 1st- and 2nd-year Associates

A prestige law firm stops charging for 1st- and 2nd-year associates. The associates will work on matters governed by alternate fees or other arrangements to enable firms them to change the economics.

2. Law Firm Buys a CPA Firm

A major law firm buys a CPA firm with the intent of getting into the audit business and merging their tax business. Think of a reverse play on the Big 4—on a smaller scale.

3. Become Management Consultants, Too

Entering the management consulting business. McKinsey was started by partners who left Jones Day. This business offers non-conflicting growth. The management consulting-bound firm will recruit top partners from the established management consulting firms to build the business.

4. Dive into the Forensics Business

Firms will move into the forensics business. This market will grow. Law firms receive one of the first calls in situations where forensics are likely to be needed. Law firms could have the first shot at this work and be bringing the added benefit of client privilege.

5. Establish an Investigations-only Firm

The investigations market will grow more quickly than anyone expects. A few current rock stars will leave their posts in and outside of law firms and form a boutique—boasting prowess, client service, flexibility, and brand. They will use other firms to meet the need for big teams.

6. Conduct Post-win Debriefs Routinely

Law firms learn so much when probing why they won instead of why they lost. Win rates will increase, and any meaningful win will be followed by a debrief as to why.

7. Completely Redesign the Client Experience

A small number of large law firms are acting. These firms assign a small group of senior partners to completely redesign and redefine the client experience. Their goal: to make it drastically better than today’s standard. This experience will establish a new standard and be designed to change and evolve. The time has come. The time is now. Clients want a vastly better and different experience.

8. Secondments to be Standard

Select law firms will see secondments as the fertile training and business development ground it is. Every associate at these firms will spend at least 3 months at a client within their first 3 years.

9. Magic Circle Merger

The Magic Circle merger with a Wall Street/NY firm is inevitable. Between global demands, US‑style litigation slowly spreading around the world, and pressure for firms to grow—look for at least 2 mergers of this kind.

10. A Big 4 Accounting Firm Buys Law Firm with Scale

The Big 4 will set up clever vehicles to effectively own a law firm of size and substance.

Remember, the big accounting firms are the primary reason we have LLCs. This is the logical move to build a firm. The Big 4 know how to integrate and can streamline delivery. Everyone and no one will be surprised.

Admittedly, we have eluded to the last 2 before, but we just couldn’t resist saying it again.

These radical moves will get a lot of attention and will be copied. Some of these strategic moves will be real and outsized winners. Others will be winners for some firms and not others depending on culture,  mindset, commitment, and appetite for real change. All will happen and influence the market—making strategic planning more interesting, more demanding, and more impactful than ever before.


More Clients than Ever Cutting Law Firm Rosters; Sets New Record

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Clients are at it again. No sooner had clients cut their law firm rosters to record lows than they turn around and start cutting again. But on a much wider scale.

22% to 30% of clients are cutting, or about to cut, their law firm rosters. This sets a new record and is double the prior average of 13% of clients looking to cutback at any one point.

These top legal decision makers say the trifecta of a surge in shoddy law firm work, increasing complexity, and lackluster client service turns too many law firms into way too many law firms. Managing this many law firms costs way more than money—it costs money, cycle time, and increases risk.

Why They Do It

For clients, fewer law firms translates into better risk management. Fewer law firms means more uniformity in approach, overriding legal philosophy, and fewer people to understand and make understand. Communication is more streamlined and direct. In short, life is easier and work flows more smoothly. It also saves money.

As a result, clients are planning the biggest cuts to their rosters yet. These clients are planning reductions from hundreds or dozens of firms to fewer than 10. The fringe players will be gone or phased out. A few secondary providers will move up the ladder. The current primary firms will have to prove their worth to keep the coveted primary spot as the firm receiving the biggest portion of the work.

Clients are looking for firms who can deliver on the client service front. These same clients are looking for signs of collaboration within a firm as work streams grow in size. Currently, only 51% of clients believe their law firms show signs of collaboration, and only 33% recommend their primary law firm. The field is pretty open. Clients will rely as much on your pre- and post-pitch discussions as your initial pitch to see if your firm makes the cut.

After talking to 359 clients—here’s what we recommend you do:

  • Ask clients if and when they plan to shrink their law firm rosters—these are no longer public events and may be conducted with little fanfare

  • Help clients plan to use fewer law firms by segmenting work based on risk and complexity, business units in your client’s company, or other high-value categories

  • Develop a plan to perform the best work with a new approach, including regular budget and update meetings and training to better learn client objectives and sensitivities

  • If you have to pitch in a competition, talk all about client needs and risk—they know who you are and are eliminating firms who act like they are pitching a new relationship and are talking about themselves

  • Ramp up every aspect of client service to ensure you not only show improvement but also stand out

  • Get deep and meaningful client feedback about how you can improve and your clients’ plans—yes we do a lot of this, and clients are happy to share—especially if they want to keep you on their panel

Every client cutting their law firm panel is a major growth opportunity. Look for it, go find it, and use it to your advantage while other firms still see it as a threat. Your clients will welcome the help if you have a meaningful relationship—like the kind of client you want to keep. Those firms who don’t act like they already deserve the work are the first to fall by the wayside.


(Based on more than 350 in-depth interviews, with top legal decision makers conducted between March 2018 and August 2018.)

Top 7 Client Innovation and Technology Needs

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Two viewpoints dominate innovation—clients and law firms. The gap between the 2 is large. Clients say only half of all law firms are showing any sign of innovation. The law firms who are among the first to close this gap will win the innovation race, or at least take the lead.

BTI’s exclusive research with top legal decision makers uncovered 27 client needs and priorities—some demand technology, while a significant number don’t. We discuss 7 of these needs below:

  1. Online access to (and storage of) working and final documents
    Clients want their law firms to place their documents in a secure, easily accessible digital location. These clients want to see current work product and drafts but want history as well. They also want client-friendly naming conventions, clearly describing the content.

  2. Dashboards with budget status, timelines, and KPIs
    Clients routinely report financial performance for their department and selected matters to key individuals. The days of chasing law firms for this information are coming to an end. The innovative law firms are pushing this out to clients and provide near real-time access in user friendly formats—AKA—a dashboard.

  3. Remote access to work product through apps and cloud‐based systems
    Clients want simple to use apps to access the data on 1 and 2 above, just as they do in many aspects of their life.

  4. Online support
    Clients want to know where to call, knowing it’s not their lawyer, to get help using your website and accessing data.

  5. Contract development and management tools
    In what could be the first real client adoption of AI-based tools, clients see great benefits in using software to manage contract development and existing contract management.

  6. Process and workflow management strategies
    Clients tell us the real benefits in improving process and workflow are better quality, more clear communications, and shorter cycle times. The reduced billable hours and resulting savings are a strong 2nd place benefit.

  7. Artificial/Augmented Intelligence tools
    Top legal decision makers are looking for benefits in e-discovery and contract automation. Other tools such as AI-based legal research can bring benefits—but clients expect law firms to adopt these tools to improve quality and cycle time. The main message—top client needs are foundational—focusing on day-to-day activities and needs. AI becomes interesting when it hit daily operations.

The law firms standing out for innovation are talking to their clients, getting feedback, and putting innovation officers in direct contact with clients—as well as getting client feedback. These firms then build tools or change behaviors and apply these changes to the broader client base.

You can learn all the details behind the 27 client needs and priorities in BTI’s just released BTI Legal Innovation and Technology Outlook 2019: Clients Rank Their Needs and Law Firm Performance. This report also details 40 law firm actions and tactics clients see as the most innovative—in full detail. Learn more here.


(Based on more than 359 in‐depth telephone interviews conducted between February 20, 2017 and July 8, 2018)

The 52 Law Firms Clients Single Out as Best at Innovation

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Who knew. Law firms are innovative. Well, at least half of them are, according to top legal decision makers. Clients point to 338 law firms who bring a meaningful innovation or use of technology. But, most firms bring only select aspects of client needs and priorities. These firms are on the right path.

52 firms stand out as being able to put together the broadest, most impactful and robust innovation and technology strategies. These firms stand out as providing the most benefit as well as being the most innovative. Please join me in congratulating the following firms for their bold, client-centric, and practical innovation, which clients single out as best—in a completely unprompted manner:

You can learn exactly where your firm stands compared to the 52 above and 338 firms clients talk about in our just released report BTI Legal Innovation and Technology Outlook 2019: Clients Rank Their Needs and Law Firm Performance.

This is the only guide to rank firms on legal innovation and technology based solely on client input. You can also immediately discover: 

  • 27 specific client needs and priorities driving innovation and technology. Use this insight to immediately target clients’ most compelling needs and be seen as a market-leading innovator
  • 40 law firm actions and tactics clients see as the most innovative—in full detail

ORDER NOW and immediately receive your copy of this essential report to stay ahead of client needs, other law firms, and the market.


Based on more than 359 in‐depth telephone interviews conducted between February 20, 2017 and July 8, 2018

9 Reasons Practices Thrive While Others Struggle

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Law firm performance is lumpy.

A small number of practice groups thrive in up, down, and even hostile markets—while others dwindle in the best of conditions. You can see this within a law firm or across a spectrum of different law firms. Thriving practices use strategies and tactics the others don’t. The good news is, you can learn how to start using these tactics immediately to improve your performance—even if you’re already thriving.

These 9 strategies and tactics include:


Not to teach—but to bond and teach. Good training bonds the participants almost like boot camp. Bring your team together to learn and sweat over a never-before-seen problem and come to agreement over solutions. But the team-building could be more valuable than the learning. To practice, train everyone at least once a year in both hard and soft skills.

Continuous Informal Knowledge Sharing

No matter how big the group, the attorneys in the top practice groups are all talking to each other—and do it all the time. They talk about clients, legal issues, unusual circumstances, thorny problems, new ideas—and in this day and age—politics as well. Some of this time becomes billable—some not. But, the knowledge sharing results in better outcomes for clients—and this morphs into new business, cross-selling, client referrals, and a cohesive group who shares leads as part of this knowledge.

Ongoing Informal Dialogue

Unlike knowledge sharing, informal dialogue includes social talk, sharing about hobbies, families, and a whole other world outside law. While not the dominant topic over a year, a relevant topic providing the on-ramp for all the other conversations to take place. These practices also provide opportunities to foster this dialogue. We discuss this more in depth in this post: The 8 Habits of Highly Profitable Law Firms.

Shared Goals/Clear Strategy, Sense of Purpose

Top performers define clear approaches to the market and clients. Thriving practices have strategies for their largest clients, smaller clients, and set goals for growth. This contrasts with underperforming practices who rely on attorneys to develop their own individual strategies. This individual approach dilutes resources, prevents teamwork, and increases business development costs as each partner requires a unique support system to go to market.

Client-Centric Approach

So many practices rely on referrals from other practices (although they may never share this plan with these other practices), marketing to state bar associations, lawyers’ groups, and referral sources. While these can generate business—there is nothing more effective in building a practice than marketing to clients and decision makers directly.

Uniform Client Experience Through Client Service Standards

Every single client of the top-performing practices expects a uniformly high level of client service—and gets it. The top practices have client service standards which govern how each attorney interacts with clients. They can be as basic as informing clients of all filings to partners telling clients about change in scope within 48 hours of the change.

Client Feedback

High-performing practices embrace client feedback. They want to know how they are doing—exactly, how they can improve, and how client expectations are changing. These practices don’t care how good they already are; they care deeply about how good they can be.

Superior Client Service

Attorneys in the thriving practices deliver with anticipation and certainty. They know their clients and what they want to accomplish in each matter. Their clients have fewer surprises than others because their attorneys keep them up to date in near real time—and faster when needed. These high-performing practices work to always improve their client service—not just for their personal rewards—because clients expect their attorneys to always get better. This is one reason high-performing practices obtain client feedback.

Meetings and Retreats

Get togethers are the vehicles to create opportunities to meet, talk, and get to know one another. The more facilitated social time, the better. The more provocative speakers you offer, the more conversation you create. More conversation creates informal dialogue.

Any one of these tactics can improve your performance. As you adopt more tactics, you see benefits multiply. These tactics require time—no technology or size requirement stops any practice from embracing each individual step.

Hear More from Top Practice Leaders Live In-Person

I am honored to be discussing these topics and more with Philip Sellinger, Co-Chair, Global Litigation Practice, Greenberg Traurig; Thomas Schulte, Head of the Americas Banking & Finance Practice, Clifford Chance; and Kristian (Krist) Werling, Co-Chair, Life Sciences Practice, McDermott, Will & Emery in a panel discussion at the Law Firm Practice Management 2.0 on Thursday October 4, 2018. This one-day conference developed by my Co-Chair, Patrick McKenna, promises to be a high-impact and interesting event.

All BTI clients and friends are welcome to register at a 20% discount using this code: PMSPK20 as you register.

 Conference Agenda:

Law Firm Practice Management 2.0 Agenda

Event Details/Landing Pages:

Law Firm Practice Management 2.0 Event Summary

Law Firm Practice Management 2.0 Event Details

Hope to see you there.


10 Lessons from the 10 Most Popular Posts


The Mad Clientist, BTI’s blog, is just a few blog posts shy of 200 posts. Our goal is to make each post more insightful than the next—with an occasional break for insightful humor or offbeat topics. We also learn many lessons as to why some posts are more popular than others. Uncovering the reasons posts are popular teaches us as much as we hope the posts inform you. So now, we put it to the test. We went back to the first post on this site and measured readership of each over time. Here are the top 10 in order:

13 Unspoken Rules of Client Relationships (March 11, 2015)
Clients play by their own rules. Especially when it comes to outside law firms. This post discusses these rules based on more than 14,000 interviews with top legal decisionmakers. BTI clients and friends keep telling us how much sense this makes in thinking about their clients.  

The 8 Habits of Highly Profitable Law Firms (September 16, 2015)
Clients have as much to do with profits, maybe more, than managing costs. The most profitable firms have the right clients, the right client mix, and know how to manage these clients

Is $5,000 an Hour Next? (May 11, 2016)
This post marked the first time BTI uncovered law firms being paid $2,000 an hour. This was for super-premium work and we found only a few firms in this rarified air. Despite the increase in complex work, we have not seen this record broken. Yet.

5 Reasons Rainmakers Book 5 Times More Business Than Everyone Else (October 14, 2015)
Rainmakers do things differently and book 5 times more business than an average partner. Interestingly, this 5x ratio remains constant across all size firms. It pays to be different.

6 Killer Rules to Developing Business (April 18, 2018)
Clients say firms who win work don’t win by chance—they win because they do things differently than other firms. We discuss the 6 tactics allowing firms to dominate and develop serious business.  

Client RFPs Hit 15-Year High (January 27, 2016)
As law firms were deluged with RFPs, this post helped explain why. Clients had set a record for the number of RFPs issued. We also included a deep discussion of what it takes to win in this sea of competition.

Exactly When, Where and How the Big 4 Will Steal Your Firm’s Best Clients (October 4, 2017)
The Big 4 are practicing law all over the world. Speculation runs rampant about how—we think this post still tells the story.

The 16 Most Important Trends and Opportunities for 2018 (December 13, 2017)
2017 was the first time in 9 years law firms started to feel the impact of clients moving their budgets back to outside counsel—breaking an 8-year trend. This post discussed how, and where, the trend would continue—offering the first optimistic views in a long, long time.

Clients Name the Best Law Firms in Top Spending Industries for 2017 (July 26, 2017)
Law firms are starting to think about going to market by industry. BTI’s analysis is the only source of insight into where law firms stand by industry. This analysis also provided insight into law firm industry strength from the client perspective—helping law firms hone their marketing and business development strategies.

Please let me know which one is your favorite from this group or any Mad Clientist post. Also, please let me know about anything you would like to see—old or new. Many thanks for your support.


New York Firm to Merge with a Magic Circle Firm?

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A Brief Lesson in Modern History—How Lateral Rules Were Rewritten

Everyone knew you couldn’t pull laterals out of the big NY firms—until Kirkland, Paul, Weiss, and a few others did. Quinn grabbed partners out of Skadden who have now been plucked out of Quinn by Dechert. The new rules are: every partner is fair game everywhere. The previously unheard practice of recruiting big NY firms' laterals to new firms is almost routine.

Up Next? Mergers

Most law firms merge to gain market access, new geographies, and new practices. Some of the mergers are financial rescues, but even most of these bring market access. Firms still see mergers as a vehicle to extend reach.

The global tie-ups offer the merging firms international market access. They expect to market to each other’s clients, cross-sell, and otherwise develop what they hope is a preferred or captive market.

Now it’s time to rewrite the law firm merger rules. Two new kinds of mergers are coming:

The Consolidation Mergers

Look for law firms to consolidate markets instead of extend reach. Every city (except major financial centers) has 2 large players—each of whom will claim market leadership. You will see these firms merge. These market leader mergers immediately create economies of scale and mega clients for the newly created firm—the kind of formula proven to deliver superior profits.

Yes there will be conflicts, but like all good mergers, these will be overcome.

The Rock Star Mergers

In 1998 Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand merged to become PwC. They were an instant powerhouse with a plan to dominate the largest 200 companies in the world. Rock star law firms will merge and change the entire competitive landscape. These mergers will look like:

There may be other rock star mergers with the same impact, but these mergers will make every other firm rethink their approach to business and life.

Preparing Yourself and Your Firm

We expect these mergers to happen in the current planning horizon. You can incorporate these events into your current thinking through scenario planning and answering the following questions during a leadership retreat:

  • What would, and could, we do when the 2 biggest competitor firms in our markets merged?

  • How would we protect our client base if a NY firm merged with a Magic Circle firm?

  • Even though we don’t take in laterals, who are the 5 laterals we would want—by name—if we suddenly change our minds?

  • What would be the ideal criteria for a lateral partner?

  • Even if we don’t want to merge, which firms would make the ideal merger partner to help grow clients and boost profits with the lowest risk?

You could ask more questions, but these will bring you to the heart of the matter. And will keep you plenty busy with strategic thinking.

To circle back to where we started—all the rules are being thrown out the window. New rules apply. A few firms will redefine the rules while others scramble. If you don’t want to redefine the rules, which most don’t, then be ready to act when others do—and you can still jump ahead for the future.