How to Get Rid of BD Skeptics and Directories in One Swoop

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Easy. Just wait.

24% of law firm marketing leaders say the BD skeptics will disappear in 2 years. Why? These CMOs think the combination of heightened competition, dwindling client retention, new client demands, and new GCs shopping for law firms will convert the unbelieving. And, they add, the baby boomers keep retiring so the skeptics in this group are dropping out of the system.

You are best served avoiding the skeptics at all costs and spending your time and energy on your BD believers. You can read more about CMO advice on dealing with the BD skeptics while they are still in your ranks here.

We asked more than 160 marketing leaders what trends would disappear from the legal marketing and business development world. While BD skeptics were the number one answer—here is the rest of the story:

Directories

15% of CMOs tell us directories will disappear. They point to 3 main reasons: 1) law firms will decide to stop using them as they did Martindale-Hubbell in 2007; 2) firms will no longer want to the fund the resources to support the effort; and 3) strong prayers by CMOs wishing they will disappear.

But, in an interesting twist—BTI sees more and more law firms embracing rankings as a measurement tool—so—this may be one of the last trends to disappear.

Old School Marketing

Another 15% of law firm marketing leaders say the last vestiges of traditional marketing communications including printed brochures, generic branding, mass-market webinars, and widespread broadcast messaging will disappear.

New School Marketing

A small group of CMOs predict social media marketing will vanish—as it is much less effective than personal interaction with clients and potential clients. Their point about personal interaction is well taken, but digital marketing can be to personal contact what spinach is to Popeye.

Nothing Will Disappear

25% of CMOs tell us nothing will disappear. They believe law firms will cling to their ways—printing brochures, sending mountains of aseptic email alerts to clients and prospects, and embracing their directories and rankings.

And the Point Is…

3 of 4 CMOs see (or hope) key aspects of the marketing mix going away. This is an undercurrent for change. It’s not enough of a wave to change direction completely—but enough to change course a bit.

MBR

12 Tactics Branding Your Law Firm and Boosting Hirability

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A better brand means better hirability—a strong brand makes you much more attractive to clients.

BTI’s brand new research with corporate counsel shows 28% of law firms are strengthening their brand in the eyes of clients. Of these, more than half improved their brand to be ranked at all-time highs—making them the firms to beat to win new work.

36.8% of law firms suffered a drop in their brand, as ranked by clients. Top legal decision-makers see the brands of these firms as having less impact on decision making—so getting hired is harder. A weaker brand means you do more work to get access to new business.

The most common way law firms dilute their brands is inaction; particularly in the face of more aggressive firms actively building the strength of their brand in the market.

Only a few actions truly impact the strength of a law firm’s brand in the eyes of clients—these are broken into 3 categories:

  1. Direct Experience

  2. Transferred Experience

  3. Indirect Experience

Direct Experience

Direct experience will always be the strongest driver in leaving your brand imprint on a client. This includes:

  • Delivering legal services

  • Well-designed websites

  • Client service initiatives; including client feedback, client teams, and client service standards

  • Your pitches

  • Watching your firm from the other side of a matter

  • Attorney bios

  • Interactive thought leadership (such as custom CLEs, webinars, and training sessions)

  • Value-driven digital conversations (typically social media and blog interactions where clients learn new approaches to better manage risk)

  • Memorable encounters where clients and prospects quickly see the direct impact you can have on their business; typically, these occur by active participation in:

    • Trade Associations

    • Industry networking opportunities

Transferred Experience

Transferred experience is the 2nd most powerful way your brand is built up in clients’ minds. This type of strength is built through:

  • Referrals and recommendations

  • Client-to-client conversations about law firms

  • Client comments about law firms in:

    • Articles

    • Social Media Posts

Indirect Experience

Indirect experience ranks 3rd in the small set of activities able to leave a positive imprint on clients, including:

  • Passive, but relevant, thought leadership, such as:

    • White papers

    • Speeches at industry events

    • Quotes in publications

    • Email newsletters—with personal commentary on the relevance to the client

    • Non-custom seminars and events

    • Generic websites

On the other hand, there are a number of activities proven to have a limited impact on clients and prospects—and can sometimes even confuse and dilute brands. These low-impact experiences include:

  • Traditional advertising

  • Brochures

  • Single sponsorships

  • Entertainment

The law firms with improved and better brands are going out of their way to drive more direct experience with clients and prospects. Look for more on exactly how they are doing this in a future post.

You can learn exactly where your law firm stands, including a history and comparison to 8 law firms of your choice, in the about-to-be-released BTI Brand Elite: Client Perceptions of the Best Branded Law Firms 2019.

MBR

Who'll Collect the Win? 9 Firms Intent on Edging Out Kirkland and Latham

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Who’s next? Kirkland and Latham are in a class by themselves. So, which firms can get even bigger and create a new class? We asked more than 160 law firm marketing leaders and here’s who they think are the next firms to deliver blow-out growth:

DLA Piper and Dentons

These 2 merger-hungry firms lead the list of firms most likely to pass Kirkland and Latham in growth. Law firm leaders expect DLA Piper and Dentons to find new merger partners—and create 2 new, even larger firms to drive unmatched growth. Whether the mergers occur inside or outside the US remains to be seen—but—the competition expects each firm’s next moves to be big and impactful.

Baker McKenzie

The firm is undergoing major changes to bring together its many pieces into a unified growth machine. The firm closed comp, brought in a strong leader to drive client development, and is becoming much more aggressive in its innovation and thought leadership. This is the strongest effort yet to create the uniformity successful law firms need to scale past the current market leaders.

Hogan Lovells

With a collection of global clients which would make any law firm salivate, Hogan Lovells has the existing base to kick off blazing global growth. The firm’s proven experience in serving and managing global clients paired with its superior client service prowess has law firm leaders watching Hogan Lovell’s next steps—very carefully.  

Jones Day

Boasting one of the best brands and the highest levels of client service, Jones Day is positioned to leapfrog the market leaders. The firm brings one of the strongest cultures of strategic discipline and uniformity across the globe. The partners understand and believe in the firm’s strategy—and the changes in strategy as market demands change. Jones Day understands the legal world is all about its clients—and knows their clients better than most others. All this adds up to outsized growth waiting to happen.

Morgan Lewis

Morgan Lewis is one of the rare firms able to integrate its sizable lateral pool, deliver superior client service, change its approach to the market as needs develop, and is deeply committed to client-facing innovation (dating back over 20 years when Cisco used Morgan Lewis as the poster child for how to use AFAs). Look for the firm to take on more lateral groups and improve its already high-performing global client teams to drive leadership growth levels.

Paul, Weiss

Paul, Weis announced its new growth strategy by picking up Scott Barshay out of Cravath. Not only did it announce the death knell for lock step, it announced the firm was going big. The firm is one of the few with successful lateral integration. The firm’s lateral rainmakers are supported while growing the existing client base firmwide. A longtime client feedback advocate, Paul, Weiss is adding business (and profits) by leaps and bounds.

Quinn Emanuel

Quinn is nothing if not aggressive. Having passed $1 billion last year, you have to believe $3 or $5 billion in revenue is the next goal. The firm takes marketing and business development more seriously than most give it credit for. Quinn targets prime clients and goes after them with a vengeance. It understands how to win work without RFPs. The firm brings in rainmakers able to keep their existing clients while also finding new ones. Quinn is enjoying brand growth—driving more inbound leads. A growing group of clients is coming to terms with Quinn’s representing plaintiffs and defendants—and a few clients see it is a plus.

Skadden

Boasting one of the strongest brands, competitors expect the firm to gain the momentum to go right past Kirkland and Latham. The firm enjoys an institutional client base with large budgets and recurring needs. The brand generates significant inbound referrals. Skadden sits in the heart of the markets showing the most growth—providing a strong tailwind.

Skadden assigns a group of partners to look at business development and client related issues at regular intervals. These groups may not have long lives but a short life span can bring a more thoughtful approach. Our research detected 2 changes to it's business development and client development tactics—both relying on educating clients on leading-edge trends in transactions and litigation. While Skadden has a history of using their knowledge to keep clients current—the tactic is becoming more widespread – developing brand and new business across a wide swath of top legal decision makers.

The Big 4

A smaller number of law firm marketing leaders expect the Big 4 to eclipse law firms in size and growth. The Big 4 can only achieve this by acquisition; this would clearly redefine the business of law as we know it and require some regulatory wrangling.

Nobody No How

11% of law firm marketing leaders believe Kirkland and Latham have a lock on being the fastest to grow. They see these 2 firms as having the strategies to continue being unmatched market leaders.

We eagerly watch the competing landscape unfold. Paul, Weiss and Kirkland will not be the only firms to pluck the best laterals. Other law firms are making large investments in their growth which they believe in their heart of hearts will drive market-setting growth. These firms rarely get noticed during early implementation and “pop up out of nowhere” when they start to grow.

We wish all these firms luck as we track their growth and watch how they navigate one of the most attractive legal markets to appear in almost 20 years.

MBR

 

7 Ways BTI Business Development Badasses Are Different

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Attitude and behavior win you BTI Business Develop Badass status. It’s not only what you do, it’s how you do it—specifically. BTI research reveals 7 key differences between the BTI Development Badass (BDB) firms and everyone else.

1. Advance Notice of the Pitch

Knowing the pitch is coming before everyone else is a real advantage. BDBs carefully plan out the best team with both knowledge and chemistry. They know how to do the business development equivalent of synchronized swimming. These firms have a process and approach—and follow it when leads come in the door. They have more time to do it—because they knew before everyone else. And, they mostly don’t respond to surprise RFPs.

2. Mobilize Quickly

Swift and clarity are the only worlds to describe a BDB’s approach. They know who they want to lead the pitch (and it may not be the person who generated the lead) and who they want as the supporting cast. Everyone embraces their role. They spend little time sweating anything other than the best fit for technical skills, chemistry, and ability to win.

3. Play to Win

BDBs pullout all the stops and do whatever it takes to win the clients they want. And they pass on those they don’t.

4. Ignore the Rules

The RFP may say “don’t contact the client”, but BDBs don’t care. They reach out, ask questions, propose ideas and strategies - even ask what types of personalities clients prefer. Again, they do whatever it takes. As a side note - clients tell us they are surprised at how many law firms obey this rule.

5. Do Something Unexpected

BDBs focus on questions, strategies, goals, and issues. Any firm statistics about number of wins and deals closed are supplied in an appendix. In effect, BDBs treat the pitch as a kick off meeting - using information gained in the banned contact discussed in the paragraph above.

6. Differentiates Themselves

Telling a potential client a story with their needs as the center point is different. The themes include how a GC’s problem will be solved; examples of how life will be better, all the ways they deliver to budget, and new angles on old problems. The story includes the strategies to convince a client this firm won’t think of missing a deadline. Most importantly, they share industry and company insights and link these to legal issues their prospective client may face.

7. Rainmakers Lead–and Have Fun

BDBs bring in the rainmakers for the win. The pitch does not automatically go to the partner who gets the lead. The originator still gets the credit and rewards, but they may not be the best to close the business. The rainmakers share credit and love the pursuit. The thought of a big win is a source of energy and strength—and BDBs have found a way to put these partners out in front.

Your firm can be a BTI Business Development Badass law firm. It’s not as daunting as it seems. Most firms who make the changes ask themselves why they didn’t do it earlier. Contact me to discuss how to make this happen at your firm—and have your attorneys think it is a great idea.

 MBR

The 18 BTI Business Development Badasses

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A pitch is as much a mind game as it is a team sport. You go in focusing on your potential client. But there are always competitors. Some of these competitors are worrisome and others are not. Then, you catch wind you are up against a BTI Business Development Badass—the firms law firm marketing leaders single out as the most aggressive and hardest competitors to beat. The BTI Business Development Badass firms take no prisoners—and may make you change your approach. Often for the better.

BTI exclusive research with more than 160 law firm leaders reveal the BTI Business Development Badass law firms for 2019. Please join me in congratulating each of the following firms:

  • Benesch

  • Cooley

  • Covington

  • Cravath, Swaine & Moore

  • Fish & Richardson

  • Gibson Dunn

  • Hogan Lovells

  • Jackson Lewis

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Littler

  • McGuireWoods

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Ogletree Deakins

  • Quinn Emanuel

  • Ropes & Gray

  • Skadden

8 of these firms are repeat performers—able to maintain and even increase their aggressive business development posture. These consecutively badass firms are:

  • Fish & Richardson

  • Jackson Lewis

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Quinn Emanuel

  • Skadden

10 of the 18 are longstanding members of the BTI Client Service 30, including:

  • Cooley

  • Gibson Dunn

  • Hogan Lovells

  • Jones Day

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Littler

  • McGuireWoods

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Ropes & Gray

  • Skadden

The Fearsome Foursome; Gibson Dunn, Kirkland, Quinn Emanuel, and Skadden, are also feared in business development.                                              

Business development is on its way to playing a bigger role in strategy, future growth, and culture. We are keeping a close watch on the Business Develop Badasses as the future market unfolds to see how it plays out against innovation and technology.

Next week we will discuss what these firms do differently and why.

MBR

(This research is based on more than 160 independent, individual interviews with leading law firm leadership between September 2018 and January 2019.)

Hurry, While You Still Have A Rare Second Chance

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With luck your client’s budget is approved. After all, your client submitted their first draft last summer. The budget got worked, changed, adjusted, and reconfigured. Now it’s real. So, what is your client focusing on as the New Year starts? Those who know the answer are in the minority—but clearly have an edge.

Time to hightail it to your top clients to find out—even if you think you know. You now have a rare second chance to confirm where clients are headed and why—and these second chances don’t come often.

Call or go visit your clients while the year is still fresh. Be the first to understand how your client is thinking about:

  • Changes to cybersecurity since the Marriott incident

  • How tariffs are impacting sales

  • What tariffs are doing to supply chain agreements

  • New goals and priorities

  • Surprise initiatives introduced by management

  • Changes in their litigation settlement rates—they are plunging overall

  • New matters coming up this year

  • What kind of complexity your clients face

  • Most pressing needs and priorities

  • Resources they have and need for the year

  • What informal things you can do to help

You will learn the direct route to getting new business and position yourself as the one who cares more than anybody else—the most influential factor in getting hired. The second chance doesn’t last long—because someone else just might get there first.

We will be discussing these issues and much more during our annual webinar BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2019 on January 17, 2019 at noon Eastern Time. Register now as space is filling up fast.

MBR

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

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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.

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.

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.

“DātAttorney”

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.

MBR

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?

JPD

The 17 BTI Business Development Badasses

Business development is turning law firms into hawks and doves. The hawks seek out the clients they want. They invest more time and thought into winning and have a strict go/no go policy for RFPs. The hawks show up more prepared than anyone one else and way more than clients expected. More than competitors expected, too.

13% of law firm leadership partners characterize their firm’s business development as aggressive. This means 87% don’t; they are BD doves. Some doves will turn into hawks. And some will rise above the hawks and become the Business Development Badasses who rule the world of acquiring new business.

We asked more than 150 law firm leadership partners, including the self-proclaimed hawks, who is at the pinnacle of being strategically aggressive—these are the firms to beat to win at business development.

These 17 firms are today’s BTI Business Development Badasses:

 

•       Davis Polk
•       Dechert
•       Fish & Richardson
•       Fried Frank
•       Honigman
•       Jackson Lewis
•       Jones Day
•       King & Spalding
•       Kirkland & Ellis

•       Latham & Watkins
•       Lowenstein Sandler
•       Mayer Brown
•       Morgan Lewis
•       Paul, Weiss
•       Quinn Emanuel
•       Skadden
•       White & Case

These firms go deep—bringing strategy, knowledge, and resources to bear. They think in terms of proposing teams with the right skills and chemistry. The BTI Business Development Badasses communicate with clients early and often, blatantly ignoring the rules about not contacting clients before the pitch. They follow up with thoughtful, targeted information based on these communications.

The best of this group start an informal dialogue—as if they have already won the client. An approach worth adopting no matter how aggressive you are.

It has never been more difficult to keep existing clients and acquire new clients. And it will only get harder from here. This will make the difference between the hawks, the doves, and the Business Development Badasses so important.

MBR

(This research is based on more than 150 independent, individual interviews with leading law firm leadership between June 2017 and January 2018.)

Marketing Budgets per Attorney Jump Nearly 11%

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Budgets may not be going up as a percentage of revenue, but per capita spending is. CMOs have been both clever and skilled in managing their budgets. Overall, increases in revenue are slightly outpacing increases in attorney headcount. Most CMOs have been able to keep their budgets untouched. This means the Marketing and Business Development (MBD) Budget per Attorney increases—in effect, resulting in an increase on a per capita basis. This is the most reliable indicator of MBD spend. 

The average law firm spent $18.9 thousand per attorney on MBD in 2017, up from $17 thousand in 2016. But, spending is no longer the main story. As legal marketing budgets as a percent of revenue converge around the 2.6% mark across firms—how the money gets spent has more impact.

CMOs continue to adjust budgets to drive revenue. Legal marketing tactics and strategies can now drive success—giving CMOs and marketing departments more visibility, more impact, and more voice. This is what many CMOs have been waiting for.

MBR

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(Based on BTI research conducted between June 2017 and December 2017. BTI conducted more than 160 independent, individual interviews with leading legal marketing executives at a range of law firms from Am Law 30 to Am Law 200.)

Anatomy of a Client Development Plan

20% of clients will drive 80% of your firm's financials. BTI Principal Jennifer Dezso shares how focusing on developing a comprehensive file on your star clients helps better manage your future business development efforts.

You can view the video by clicking the image below, or on YouTube directly here: https://youtu.be/NfXmphZgyNA

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

Clients Shatter 2 Records Helping Latham Shatter $3 Billion in Revenue

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Clients are on pace in 2018 to record levels for spending the largest amount ever on outside counsel. At the same time, they rely on fewer law firms than ever.

Latham, which has just posted the highest revenue of any law firm, has been following and using these shifting client and market trends to its advantage for more than 10 years—it’s one reason Latham’s growth is in overdrive. 

Latham’s unprecedented growth is turbocharged by the firm understanding why clients are consolidating their work and then positioning the firm to pick up major chunks of new business with existing clients by delivering what clients are seeking.

Latham’s winning approach? Adopt the ‘provide-the-best-value’ approach, not the low-cost provider approach—and clearly this tactic is working.

This strategy becomes clear once you understand why clients are consolidating work.  

Improving Risk Management

The current round of consolidation is all about risk management and adding value. Clients have been cutting their law firms in an especially aggressive manner—dropping more than 19% of their firms over the last 3 years. On average, clients now have a record low 34 law firms on their panel, down from 42 firms in 2015. Clients’ goals with consolidation are to:

  • Streamline outside counsel management
  • Stop working with firms not adding measurable value
  • Have law firms build institutional knowledge about the company
  • Develop uniform understanding of their preferences among their law firms
  • Create uniform understanding around the risks they face

It’s Not About the Fees

Cutting your fees won’t keep you on the roster anymore. What clients are looking for most in their panel firms is: 

  • Knowledge about their specific risks and exposures
  • Vehicles to share and discuss this knowledge
  • Candor—how can they do things better and smarter
  • Tools—budget/progress dashboards and other tools where key information is now on-demand
  • Education on issues they need to know—going well beyond e-alerts

These criteria have big implications for how to develop big client relationships: 

  • Clients teams who don’t offer client-specific education programs will miss a major opportunity to upgrade the relationship. 
  • Play an active role in helping clients streamline their legal operations. 
  • Use client feedback to learn what tools clients have, what they want, and then give them more. 
  • Always be in an informal discussion with your client. Informal discussion provides the context for the formal requests— giving you knowledge no one else has, and you will learn about new needs before anyone else, too.
  • Offer to perform the work you know is coming down the pike—don’t wait for it.
  • Stick it out. Client growth is anything but linear. It will take more time to develop than you expect—and will then grow faster than you expect.

Clients have never been more serious about using their law firms in a more clever way. The market is still ripe for firms to execute this low-risk/high-return strategy, but success demands commitment, training, tools, and embracing the art and science of pulling all the pieces together to make it sing. Latham serves as highly visible proof of this concept. What more evidence do you need? 

BTI has helped some of the most successful firms in the world develop client growth plans. We would be happy to answer questions or discuss your approach.      

MBR/JPD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MBR

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