Skadden Reclaims Best Brand: 18 Firms Move Up in New BTI Brand Elite

Skadden reclaims its position as the best-branded law firm. Benefiting directly from the increased complexity and uncertainty clients face—clients rank Skadden as the firm to turn to in bet-the-company situations more than any other firm.

Fully 18 firms in the 28 Brand Elite firm improved their brand over last year. These firms include:


• Skadden
• Morgan Lewis
• Gibson Dunn
• Kirkland & Ellis
• Reed Smith
• Hogan Lovells
• McGuireWoods
• Davis Polk
• Seyfarth Shaw

• Orrick
• Paul, Weiss
• King & Spalding
• Covington
• Mayer Brown
• Norton Rose Fulbright
• Squire Patton Boggs
• Ropes & Gray
• Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan


Quinn Emanuel makes its debut on the BTI Brand Elite—the 28 law firms with the best brands. Quinn is on an ever-growing number of clients’ short lists and has improved its client experience to the point where the firm’s brand is among the elite—and attracts inbound referrals.

A total of 6 law firms return to the BTI Brand Elite:


• Seyfarth Shaw
• Orrick
• King & Spalding
• Covington
• Squire Patton Boggs
• Ropes & Gray

Only 7 law firms earn a place on the BTI Brand Elite for all 8 years we have ranked law firm brands. Please join me in congratulating:


• Skadden
• Jones Day
• Morgan Lewis
• Hogan Lovells
• Sidley
• Baker McKenzie
• Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

You can learn about the detailed changes in your firm’s brand and compare it to competitive law firms with your copy of BTI Brand Elite 2019: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

BTI conducted more than 694 interviews with top legal decision makers to single out the law firms with the best and strongest brands. Each of the CLOs provided detailed answers and explanations—and have deep opinions about law firm brands.

There's a Bull Market for Law Firm CMOs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


The B players outperform the A players.

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

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

B Players are Building with the Basics

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

A Players are Building Strategy before the Basics

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

Doing What Works – the Self-Ranked 7s

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

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

Influence by Osmosis

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

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

The Disenfranchised

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

Few Areas of Greatness

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Head of National Pursuits

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

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

National Business Development Partners

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

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

Vice Chair – Clients

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

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

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

Chief Digital Officer

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

Partner in Charge of Client Experience

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

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

Partner in Charge of Alliances and Teaming

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

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


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

Independent Board Member

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

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

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


11 Trends Reshaping Law Firm Marketing and BD

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Law firm CMOs are pushing change forward. Go-to-market strategies are starting to diverge. Law firm focus on client development is becoming more widespread. Twice as many CMOs think social media is overrated—as opposed to underrated—while the majority of CMOs are starting to use more targeted marketing tactics in attracting clients and new work. And, this is the tip of the iceberg.

Clear and Unmitigated Changes in Law Firm Marketing

BTI just finished analyzing the results of our 10th survey of law firm marketing leaders. We found clear and unmitigated changes in strategy, approach, views on the market, and strategic thinking which help define law firm marketing and business development moving forward. 11 findings immediately stand out:

  1. Dedicated salespeople return to the law firm marketing scene at 11% of law firms, up from a handful of firms 5 years ago.

    Only a small number of law firms have the balance of culture, temperament, respect and trust for BD and compensation systems, as well as support systems, to make this successful. A dedicated salesperson can be a powerful tool, but it rarely works unless the bulk of these elements are already in place when your dedicated salesperson arrives. We expect only a small number of firms will be successful—but, the successful firms will have great results.

  2. The biggest 30 law firms continue to increase the budget behind client development activities. Client development is now 37% of the marketing budget, up from 34% in 2016.

    The law firms under the most pressure to grow are budgeting to protect their client base. Their budgets are in the right place. This has 2 big implications:

    —  It makes it more difficult for every other law firm who wants business from these clients, and

    —  Success demands the right tactics and strategies to back these budgets—money alone does not win clients

  3. 59% of law firms see broad market outreach as the most overrated marketing strategy.

    CMOs see themselves getting diminishing returns from casting wide nets to catch new clients. Now they are trying to convince their firms the best strategy is to narrowcast to land the best clients.

  4. 9% of law firms are betting big on social media and making it the centerpiece of their go-to-market strategy.

    The law firm social media world has many players but only these 9% say they are in it to win big business. These firms have highly developed themes for their social media activity along with a well thought out ecosystem to support it.

  5. 20% of law firms see social media as overrated.

    They expect little from social media. These firms also have minimal, episodic, and sporadic presence in this world.

  6. CMOs no longer see themselves as resource constrained, as only 9% say it is an obstacle to growth. This is down from 23% in 2016.

    While every CMO wants more resources, they no longer see the lack of resources as being an obstacle to growth. 90% of law firms have crossed a strategic threshold where growth is determined by the ability to keep current clients and get new ones faster than everyone else.

  7. 19% of CMOs see no obstacle to their firm’s growth in 2017, up from a mere 3% in 2016.

    Strategic confidence grows dramatically. These CMOs believe in their strategies and ability to execute. Most of these CMOs had a hand in developing their firm’s strategy. Again, like the trend in 6, this signals the crossing of the strategic threshold where strategy rules.

  8. The number of law firms reorganizing themselves increased by a factor of 6 to 17% from 2.3% in 2016.

    With the resources they need in place, CMOs are changing their organizations to better support the firms and partners to drive growth. We see move to organize around industries, partners, clients, regions and firmwide—including combinations of the above.

  9. Virtually every law firm is spending less on seminars and events than they were 3 years ago.

    This serves as another piece of evidence law firms are moving to more targeted marketing.

  10. Only 16% of CMOs see Artificial Intelligence (AI) driving increased business. Another 25% expect AI will make MBD more productive. 21% don’t know what the impact of AI will be.

    We expect AI will eventually help CMOs develop highly personalized proposals and pitches with much less effort. AI will bring industry and product/service information—attorneys will have to supply the non-legal interactions to be able to use AI to develop the right tone and voice. And, a partner will still have to sell it.

  11. The typical CMO needs 2 years to learn how to work with the partners when joining a new firm.

    Swapping out CMOs is expensive. More than half of all law firm CMOs are not fully satisfied or engaged. We recommend law firms take a deep look at how they can engage their CMOs more—if not to make your CMO happier, then to save the precious 2 years it takes to bring a new one into the fold.

All these changes add up to opportunity for law firms and CMOs. As law firms develop more focused approaches to the market, marketing and business development are the tools of choice.

There has not been a better time to make a law firm marketing leader’s voice heard. Those who are heard may just become more engaged and want to stay put—and become a permanent part of the 45% of CMOs who are loving what they do. And, will be poised to gain new business and clients at competitor expense.  


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

What Law Firm CMOs Love and Hate about Their Jobs

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Law firm CMOs are basically split—45% are happy and fully engaged. This leaves more than half who are not.

At 35%—the biggest segment of CMOs rate their jobs an 8 of 10. It’s good, they like it—but does not cross the line into thrilled, awesome, or fully engaged.

Another 20% put their job satisfaction at 7 of 10 or lower. This is the level where frustration breaks through. These CMOs may enjoy some aspects of their job—but the balance between happiness and frustration is out of whack. These CMOs are on the prowl for a new job.

CMOs from both halves of the spectrum shared what makes them so happy—or not.

Why CMOs Love Their Job

  1. Making a strategic impact
  2. Watching partners gain BD skills
  3. Improving client service
  4. Freedom to make decisions
  5. Engaging attorneys
  6. Feeling valued
  7. Intellectual challenge
  8. Strategic challenge
  9. Serving as voice of the client

Why CMOs Hate Their Job

  1. No respect for marketing and business development
  2. No voice
  3. Firm’s internal focus
  4. Perfunctory work
  5. Can’t engage attorneys
  6. Stress
  7. Workload



    How to Move Up the Happiness Scale

    Find your friends. Virtually every law firm has partners who value marketing and business development somewhere. Find these partners. Focus your energy on helping these individuals. You will feel valued almost immediately once you help someone. Once you help one attorney it becomes contagious. Others will seek you out.

    Think small victories. You are in a war which you can win by fighting battles. Think about all the choices in front of you—where can you create a win? No matter how small, victories help your firm and you. And, one victory begets another. Any victory can change your own world view.

    Don’t take it personally. The barriers and situations you face were there before you arrived. Separate out marketing and business development from yourself—most firms react to the function—not you.

    Speak your voice—and be prepared to speak it many times. You know your marketing and business development ideas cold—like no one else ever could. And they don’t. Each discussion you have is an opportunity to illustrate how you, and your skills, can help attorneys develop and win more business. If the message doesn’t resonate—find the partners where it does.

    Speak your voice again. Share your best ideas. Not all your ideas—but your best ideas. Find someone on your staff or a friendly partner to brainstorm with to get counsel on which ideas will have the most impact. And be prepared for the long selling cycle accompanying any new idea.

    Stop banging your head against a wall. Some CMOs just don’t click at some firms. If you can’t get anyone’s attention and get things to work—move on. You and the firm will be better off.

    Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

    CMOs are one of the least understood members of the law firm management team. Success demands you market yourself within your firm.

    Happy CMOs spend substantial time thinking about how they can make their voice heard and make the benefits they offer in their voice. It’s intuitive to many. They find, focus on, and fight for victories where they can make an impact. They engage with attorneys whenever possible and start with the partners who see value in MBD. They know their happiness, and success, lies in their ability to make things happen—and like all else in marketing—your clients (the firm) has to see the compelling value.


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

    Surprise: Directories Not the Most Overrated Marketing Tactic

    Who knew?

    Common wisdom would tell you the annual holiday card and rankings are the bane of a CMO’s existence. Not true. It turns out broad market outreach is the single most overrated and underperforming trend in marketing today. Our research with law firm marketing leaders shows broad market outreach must be especially unproductive as they see this as more overrated than rankings, which come in 2nd, with social media coming in 3rd. Here’s why:

    1. Broad Market Outreach

    Shouting out to a wide range of potential clients is tiring and deceptively expensive; yet, it’s 43% of the legal marketing budget. CMOs will tell you it has to be done because partners demand it (and it is easy to confuse having a large crowd on a webinar with marketing success). CMOs know this is not success—it is the tip of the iceberg in the work required to actually attract a new, meaningful client.

    But let’s not pick on webinars solely. Broad market outreach includes brochures, sponsorships, monographs, and email alerts. If it’s nonspecific outreach it’s in here.

    CMOs who have managed to limit their broad market outreach do so in small steps. They’ve found ways to convert practice leaders and partners to their way of thinking—one at time. These law firm marketing leaders keep detailed records on outreach bringing in clients versus outreach generating attendance. They then argue the partner is better off with clients than attendance. It may be a slow approach—but this is the long game which will win. And, once you persuade one partner to convert broad outreach to something more targeted, your 2nd conversion will be less difficult—and the 3rd will be less difficult yet.

    2. The Biggest Surprise: Rankings Are Only the 2nd Most Overrated Trend

    Rankings will haunt CMOs for their whole career because of the level of preparation required. Partners like to send the listings to clients to help branding. Firm leadership use rankings to show attorneys where they stand and how things may have changed. Attorneys especially relish having rankings in their bios and for proposals—the winners see them as one more point of differentiation.

    Rankings can make certain clients feel better about hiring your firm or an attorney; however, rankings will rarely drive the hiring process. A number of clients may check attorney bios after they have made the hiring decision and feel a bit better when they see some sort of distinction. Rankings will increase a client’s confidence before they get to know you, and will also confirm they’re smart once you have the relationship.

    3. Social Media

    21% of CMOs can’t see a way to break through the clutter of content flying through the legal ether. These CMOs don’t believe clients pay attention to social media. They also don’t believe their attorneys have the discipline to implement the kind of systematic program which can break through the clutter in a meaningful way.

    Social media is still the Wild West for attorneys and corporate counsel alike. We also see more small firms embracing social media as a way to gain a big voice.

    Overrated Trends Point to New Thinking

    These overrated activities reveal new insight into CMO thinking. Law firm marketers are looking for ways to up their game—including finding places with better odds of generating business. A number of CMOs tell us the primary reason these activities are overrated is they play too big a role in their marketing mix. They want to move their firms to embrace more effective, innovative approaches to developing clients and marketing the firm.

    On the other side of the coin, law firm marketing leaders share their underrated trends—strategies which don’t get enough airplay but deliver better returns. We will discuss these next week—stay tuned or subscribe now.


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


    Half of CMOs on Road to Burnout

    In some ways it’s a CMO’s dream—demand exceeds marketing supply. CMOs face a record level of RFPs and now carefully orchestrate between 50 and 500 directory submissions or more—all coming due at the same time. This alone can absorb major capacity—before adding in all the daily tasks of running the department, mentoring, partner requests, events, webinars, sponsorships, web updates, PR, client teams, a string of special projects, strategic initiatives—and life. The CMO cup runneth over.

    Unfortunately, the surging demand is taking CMO attention far, far away from ROI. More than 3 times as many CMOs (48%) worry more about getting their work done than showing ROI (14.9%).* Whenever the need to complete daily work exceeds all other priorities—you have all the makings of burnout.

    CMO Workload Stunting Growth Too

    Another 23% of CMOs also see resource constraints as the 2nd largest obstacle to law firm growth. CMOs have no time for the strategic and proven drivers behind revenue growth (think partner support, client feedback, client teams, industry programs, content marketing)—these law firm marketing leaders are too busy trying to get through the day without dropping any balls.

    The Urgent Drains the Strategic

    Thought-provoking strategic work provides the fuel to make dealing with the urgent easy. Take away the fuel and all of a sudden you are running on empty. The best CMOs thrive on the energy of making an impact. Focusing on the urgency created by lack of resources sucks the positive energy out of the most enthusiastic person—and leaves them with only a large, laborious to-do list.

    Beyond Grousing

    C-Level executives never have enough resources—typically, no more than 11% to 15% see this as an obstacle—it’s more a way of life they work around. But, law firms are facing almost half of their CMOs telling them resource constraints are hurting the business—3 times the number you would expect.

    Law Firms Facing a Tough Decision

    We know law firms spend substantially less on marketing and business development than other professions. Law firms are facing a decision point: the law firms who start adding high-caliber resources can and will develop an advantage over those who don’t.

    CMOs will have to take a break from the urgent to develop a strategic pitch for more resources. These CMOs can learn from the top legal marketers who have earned trusted advisor status.

    The firms who don’t feed the marketing and business development beast risk falling behind the 52% of law firms who don’t see themselves as resource constrained—and also run the risk of burning out their CMOs.


    *Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 150 law firm marketing leaders between June 2016 and September 2016.

    Only 20% of CMOs Trusted Advisors

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    Advisors bring deep knowledge and insight. Trust means you are relied on. Only 20% of CMOs feel like they are both. The bulk of law firm marketing leaders believe they are supported, respected, and well thought of—but—they have not yet gained the coveted trust.*

    CMOs who believe they are relied on for their knowledge act differently. Their advice and counsel to all others aspiring to become trusted advisors includes:

    1. Speak your voice. Don’t wait to be asked—offer your thoughts and opinions.
    2. Be ready—and welcome the chance—to defend your position against the kind of cross-examination only a world-class litigator can deliver.
    3. Be sure to construct your thoughts in a positive manner.
    4. Learn the art of being diplomatic and firm.
    5. Know the lay of the land—don’t argue and present ideas you know everyone is against.
    6. Sell your ideas to key partners individually and get their input before making formal recommendations to a committee.
    7. Say no when asked to engage in low value-added activities.

    Most CMOs need time to develop these skills, especially developing their voice. You will gain these skills by observing others who have attained trusted advisor status. You can practice your own skills in your department or smaller-scale meetings. Most of all, the trusted advisors build these behaviors into their daily life. You can start with one behavior or with all of them—but starting and building your skills is the key path to follow.

    Getting Close to Trusted Advisor

    41.7% of law firm CMOs, twice the trusted advisor rate, describe themselves as respected and supported by the partners in their firms—but have yet not made the leap to trusted advisor. Respect and support are precursors to becoming a trusted advisor. These CMOs have the challenge of converting respect into trust. Respect is hard enough to earn—but successfully transferring this into trust demands more to win over the partners. You can take the advice above and look for ways to spend more face time with partners.

    The overworked world of the CMO makes face time a rarity—but face time, dialogue, and helping partners be more successful will help you cross the divide in your favor.

    CMOs on the Market?

    Just over 1/3rd of law firm CMOs believe their relationship with their firm’s partners is somewhere between tentative to skeptical. These CMOs are fighting an uphill battle and feel like they get little accomplished. Many of these relationships are difficult to convert to a more productive status. Some will fight the good fight to make new friends and influence partners—but some, especially those where partners are skeptical, have one foot out the door.

    Law firms who add an element of skepticism or a tentativeness to the CMO relationship mix are putting their revenue streams at risk—if for no other reason than the firms with trusted CMOs are focusing their energy on clients and developing business, while the skeptics question why they should. 


    *Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 150 law firm marketing leaders between June 2016 and September 2016.

    Attorneys Pose Biggest Obstacle to Law Firm Growth

    “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
    POGO, April 20, 1970
    Walt Kelly, Creator and Author

    Market forces pale in comparison to attorneys as the biggest obstacle to growth at law firms. Law firm marketing leaders believe no-growth markets and ever more demanding clients have less impact than attorney resistance.

    25.2% of CMOs and law firm marketing leaders name their lawyers as holding their firm back during more than 150 far-reaching interviews BTI conducted with them. This is up from 18.6% in 2014. We are in the 9th year of no growth. The pressure to develop business grows as the market becomes tougher. The attorneys who resist are fighting an increasingly uphill battle and it is the firm’s responsibility to provide the tools and training to overcome the resistance.

    Much of the resistance comes from attorneys having limited to no business development experience. They are concerned about how to initiate the process, questions they might be asked, and not knowing how the process is likely to unfold if they do reach out to clients. In addition, the resisters don’t realize delivering superior client service is a potent form of business development.

    The only proven tactic to remove the attorneys as obstacles to growth is to train them. We recommend training in 3 tiers:

    Tier 1 – Advanced Business Development Skills for only the high-potential business developers. This training focuses on the art and science of developing large chunks of business and developing new clients.

    Tier 2 – Core Business Development for the attorneys who show an inclination or interest in business development. This training introduces the tools and practicalities of developing business—including mock client meetings for conducting initial meetings and how to follow up.

    Tier 3 – Client Service Training teaches all client-facing partners the skills and provides the tools to deliver superior client service—with the understanding superior client service is a potent form of business development. There are few partners who would not benefit from this training.

    Your use of staggering the training by skill and inclination enables you to drive success with the attorneys most likely to be successful. It also changes the culture of the firm as the leadership illustrates how they invest in business development. Finally, the tiered approach to business development training creates incentive to become good enough to reach the most advanced training—creating a clear path to rainmaker and creating more rainmakers in the process.

    The Silver Lining

    We are the enemy and we are the solution. Every law firm has the power to change and overcome the obstacles in their way. And no one understands the problem better than the firms themselves. Now, every law firm can overcome these obstacles.