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.

MBR

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