Corporate Counsel Single Out 335 Attorneys with the Best Client Service—By Name

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Corporate counsel point to 335 attorneys—by name—who deliver the best client service. These are the BTI Client Service All-Stars 2019.

Corporate legal decision makers single out each BTI Client Service All-Star—by name and in an unprompted manner. No attorney or firm can self-nominate, self-refer, nor pay to be included in this report. Clients have the final—and only—say.

This year’s BTI Client Service All-Stars lineup is robust. We see return performances as well as new All-Stars who make their debut. They are all bound by a single theme—the ability to stand above the rest. A few of note include:

We are particularly pleased to honor 1 BTI Client Service All-Star:

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H. Rodgin Cohen, Senior Chairman,
Sullivan & Cromwell

Mr. Cohen is named a BTI Client All-Star for an astonishing 16 years.

Only 17 attorneys manage to make the BTI Client Service All-Stars for more than 1 year. These individuals can read and stay ahead of client’s rising and ever-changing expectations:

4 Consecutive Years:        

Edward D. Herlihy, Partner
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

3 Consecutive Years:

Ron Chapman, Jr., Partner
Ogletree Deakins
A. Craig Cleland, Shareholder
Ogletree Deakins
Jonathan M. Moses, Partner
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

2 Consecutive Years:

Soumitra Deka, Counsel
Arnold & Porter
Daniel P. DiNapoli, Partner
Arnold & Porter
Marc O. Williams, Partner
Davis Polk
David E. De Lorenzi, Chair
Gibbons
Elizabeth A. Ising, Partner
Gibson Dunn
Brian J. Lane, Partner
Gibson Dunn
John W. Ursu, Attorney
Greene Espel



Monique A. Cenac, Partner
Jones Walker
Kelly C. Simoneaux, Partner
Jones Walker
Andrew S. Marovitz, Partner
Mayer Brown
Peter J. Covington, Partner
McGuireWoods
William P. Geraghty, Managing Partner
Shook, Hardy & Bacon
Sabastian V. Niles, Partner
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Super All-Stars—2 Attorneys Named by Multiple Clients This Year:

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William P. Aiken, Shareholder
Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel

Mark Filip, P.C., Partner
Kirkland & Ellis

Cultivating Firmwide Success:
16 firms manage to develop more BTI Client Service All-Stars than other law firms. Please congratulate the following firms with more than 5 All-Stars:

Learn exactly what these attorneys do different from everyone else to stand out with legal decision makers and earn a prestigious spot among the client service elite.

Join us as we congratulate each and every BTI Client Service All-Star for their unmatched client service delivery.

You can download the complimentary copy of the full report here.

MBR

Based on more than 350 interviews conducted between March 20, 2018 and February 8, 2019

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:

Training

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.

MBR

The 94 Law Firms Clients Recommend Most

Top legal decision makers have a time-honored code—they will recommend the law firms doing a much better job than anyone else. Even the most contentious competitors will share these recommendations for one simple reason—each one knows they could easily face a high-cost-of-failure circumstance—and want to know what the best options are. Their best and most reliable source of this law firm intelligence is the unprompted recommendation from a peer.

The peer-to-peer recommendation is serious business. Every recommendation is a personal statement about the type of provider—the commitment, service, quality, and demeanor—you are willing to entrust to a peer—from whom they would expect the same. We discuss this in more detail here. 

Why Recommendations Matter—Big Time

Your law firm’s recommendation rate—how often your clients recommend you to their peers in an unprompted manner—is one of the most powerful indicators of future growth potential and sustainable business development. More than half of corporate legal decision makers will hire a law firm based on a single, unprompted recommendation from a peer.

Only 15% of the law firms serving large clients earn this coveted recommendation. Please join us in congratulating the 5 law firms earning the absolute most unprompted recommendations:

In addition, please congratulate the following 10 firms who garner more unprompted recommendations than all other firms except the 5 above:

You can learn who the remaining 79 most recommended firms are by downloading our complimentary report BTI Most Recommended Law Firms: The Law firms Legal Decision Makers Recommend 2018.

Earning recommendations is no passing honor. Recommendation rates are one of the most powerful indicators of future growth potential—clients think highly of you—a real advantage when pitching or quietly developing business with your best clients. Learn about the drivers behind recommendations and why they are so powerful in our no-cost report or here.

Good luck.

MBR

Rainmakers Kicking Big Time Butt: Increase Their Books 4X Others

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A typical rainmaker added just over $1 million to their existing book of business since 2015. This increase is way ahead of any industry growth or other market-based phenomena. And it is 4.5 times bigger than the average partner's increased bookings.

Unrelenting

This performance comes from one thing—unrelenting focus on clients. They understand relationships are everything and don’t consider the possibility they won’t deliver. Their clients know when budgets will change in real time, and they exude confidence to be a “turn-over partner”—a client calls in the middle of the night, shares a crisis, and can then turn over and go back to sleep, confident their rainmaker has it covered.

7% of Rainmakers Hidden and Waiting to Be Found

BTI research shows only about 7% of all partners are rainmakers in the largest 600 law firms. By contrast, 86% of partners say they lack the skills to develop new business in a meaningful way. This leaves 7% unaccounted for—these are rainmakers-in-the-making. Find them in your firm. Cull them out. Train them. Give them tools, training, and most importantly—access to your most strategic clients—where they can really build a relationship—and new business.

Unleashing Your Hidden Rainmakers

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If you want to lose the 7% of up-and-comers, constrain them and don’t give them access to clients. Rainmakers and rainmakers-in-the-making hate to be constrained. They get their energy from clients—suppress the energy and you suppress the rain.

This 7% of up-and-comers are likely already high performers. But, they may not have the length of experience leadership typically expects. The risk of letting an up-and-comer loose on a strategic client is much less than the risk of keeping them from clients. Someone (think recruiter or another firm) will spot this talent and lure them away to the greener pastures of client access.

We realize this can mean hard decisions for law firms. What do to with your partner managing a strategic client but not booking new business? How to allow for more client-facing time and how to provide the infrastructure a rainmaker-in-the-making might need? And the advanced coaching, mentoring, and training up-and-comers crave. However hard the decisions, law firms will make them either passively through inaction or actively by preparing up-and-comers for outsized success. But the decisions need to be made.

MBR

Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 160 law firm marketing leaders and 150 law firm partners between September 2016 and May 2017.

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.

How BTI Client Service All-Stars Outperform Everyone Else

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It’s not just one thing. It’s everything—the total package.

The BTI Client Service All-Stars deliver better client service than everyone else. Their secret? They care about all things and everything client facing. For the first time, clients note total client experience as one of the top traits separating a BTI Client Service All-Star from the rest. The All-Stars are delivering a superior end-to-end experience, and this will set the new standard moving forward.

Clients single out the following practices, protocols, behaviors, and interactions separating their BTI Client Service All-Star from all others: 

  • Using both formal and informal communications to keep a continuing stream of dialog around legal and non-legal issues.
  • Advising clients on budgets and deadlines—before clients ask.
  • Talking about how to improve their performance.
  • Cutting to the chase.
  • Posing and answering billing questions—before clients ask.
  • Knowing and behaving as though there is a continuing stream of needs and business.
  • Writing RFPs for clients who are forced to put work out to bid.
  • Helping with things outside of clients’ legal work (managing bosses, career counsel, helping with personal and family matters).
  • Making themselves accessible—even when they are not.
  • Communicating new insights in a manner which makes clients feel special, like they are the first to be learning.
  • Sharing new ideas, thoughts, and insights and asking clients for their opinions.
  • Invoicing on a timely basis.
  • Educating themselves about clients’ business on a frequent, regular, and systematic basis, and discussing this insight with clients. They also build this insight into their legal counsel.
  • Using assistants and associates to ensure clients know their whereabouts and the status of deliverables.
  • Designing and sharing back-up communication plans to manage communication when they are hard to reach.

Don’t worry about delivering on all these actions. Start with a few. Even a couple is fine. But start if you haven’t—and add more once you work these into your normal routine. The more you add the easier these behaviors become. And, they not only get easier—they create more billable hours and boost productivity. You become more efficient, create demand for you and your firm, and deliver world-class client service—the trifecta of developing new and continuing business.

MBR

(Based on BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between February 2017 and January 2018. BTI conducted more than 350 independent, individual interviews with top legal decision makers at large organizations with $1 billion or more in revenue.)

Clients Single Out 326 Attorneys for Superior Client Service

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Corporate counsel point to 335 attorneys—by name—who deliver the best client service. These are the BTI Client Service All-Stars 2019. Corporate legal decision makers single out each BTI Client Service All-Star—by name and in an unprompted manner. No attorney or firm can self-nominate, self-refer, nor pay to be included in this report. Clients have the final—and only—say.

This year’s BTI Client Service All-Stars lineup is robust. We see return performances as well as new All-Stars who make their debut. They are all bound by a single theme—the ability to stand above the rest. A few of note include:

We are particularly pleased to honor 1 BTI Client Service All-Star:

H. Rodgin Cohen, Senior Chairman
Sullivan & Cromwell

Mr. Cohen is named a BTI Client Service All-Star for an astonishing 16 years.

Only 17 attorneys manage to make The BTI Client Service All-Stars for more than 1 year. These individuals can read and stay ahead of client’s rising and ever-changing expectations:

5 Consecutive Years
Tracy E. Kern, Partner
Jones Walker
E. Joshua Rosenkranz, Partner
Orrick

4 Years
John T. Baecher, Partner
Norton Rose Fulbright
Stephen I. Glover, Partner
Gibson Dunn
Kirk T. May, Founding Shareholder
German May

3 Years
Edward D. Herlihy, Partner
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Gregg M. Lemley, Shareholder
Ogletree Deakins
Randi C. Lesnick, Partner
Jones Day
Jennifer R. Mewaldt, Partner
Faegre Baker Daniels

 2 Consecutive Years
Ron Chapman, Jr., Shareholder
Ogletree Deakins
A. Craig Cleland, Shareholder
Ogletree Deakins
Gregory Carl Cook, Partner
Balch & Bingham
William Donovan, Jr., Partner
Cooley
Paula J. Morency, Partner
Schiff Hardin
Jonathan M. Moses, Partner
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Richard R. Patch, Partner
Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass
Rick Richmond, Managing Partner, Los Angeles
Jenner & Block

 

Super All-Stars—Attorneys Named by Multiple Clients This Year:

Anthony Alden, Partner
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
Alan W. Beloff, Senior Counsel
Morgan Lewis
David K. Callahan, Partner
Latham & Watkins

Jonathan L. Corsico, Partner
Gibson Dunn
Sean C. Feller, Partner
Gibson Dunn
Frank Layson, Partner
DLA Piper

Cultivating Firmwide Success
Only 13 law firms are home to 5 or more BTI Client Service All-Stars. These firms account for 92 BTI Client Service All-Stars—suggesting a culture of client service permeates each organization. These 13 firms are:

Jones Day 16 – a new record
Gibson Dunn – 11
DLA Piper – 9
Arnold & Porter – 7
Latham & Watkins – 7
Ogletree Deakins – 6
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz – 6

Cooley – 5
Morgan Lewis – 5
Polsinelli – 5
Seyfarth Shaw - 5
Sullivan & Cromwell – 5
Williams & Connolly – 5

8 of these 13 law firms are also singled out by clients in the BTI Client Service A-Team 2018, appearing on this year’s BTI Client Service 30.

We congratulate each and every BTI Client Service All-Star. They continue to exceed clients’ ever-rising expectations, as measured by the most demanding clients. Click here to see every attorney we celebrate for client service excellence as measured by clients—the sole and final judge.

MBR

Only 4 Years Until AI Hits Big Time

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Review your plans, make your decisions, and mark your calendars.

Clients have a schedule for when the future will arrive. Top legal decision makers see AI making an impact in 3.96 years. The outlook for how law firms develop and implement AI may be up in the air – but client thinking is pretty clear.

Strategic Decision Support Expected Even Sooner

Only 20% of corporate counsel expect to be using AI to help with decision making. They have high hopes – expecting AI to actually impact strategy and decision making in only 2.8 years.

These executives are looking for the data and insight to drive better outcomes, generate more effective strategies, and define the shortest path to reaching their goals. Virtually every one of them expects their law firms to bring this insight – believing their firms will possess both the data and knowledge. The very largest of companies are thinking of investing in systems directly but still plan to look to their law firms for strategic input.

Efficiency: Big Gains Anticipated within 4 Years

BTI research shows another 57% of clients expect AI’s impact on efficiency to arrive in just over 4 years – exhibiting considerably more patience than their peers looking for decision support. Initially, they anticipate gains on efficiency ranging from 25% to 33%. This translates directly into fewer billable hours and shorter time frames to deliver the equivalent work.

Client Expectations Are Everything  

Client expectations are as important, if not more so, than the actual result. Your AI success depends not only on your AI prowess but also on managing client expectations. We recommend:

  • Asking clients about their goals, expectations, expected benefits, and time frames.
  • Bringing clients into your plans. Share your approach, goals, and timetable – and ask for comments.
  • Sharing your client-facing technology roadmap – technology companies routinely talk to their clients about their roadmaps. Clients want to know where you are going before they invest in your approach – psychologically or financially.
  • Creating a technology advisory group made up of your largest and thought-leading clients. Bringing this group together will yield much more than insights into your AI strategy.
  • Keeping the dialogue going. Clients have high expectations, and your ability to lead the dialogue proves you can lead the path to AI.  

One of the major unspoken AI-related risks is the ability to meet and exceed client expectations. Firms who aren’t talking to their clients about what they expect, what to expect, when – and what they will get – may find their AI efforts not impactful at all.

Engage now. AI’s time is closer than you think – at least according to clients. 

MBR

Superstitions and Customs to Guide or Haunt Your New Year

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A certain rock star litigator will wear 1 of only 2 ties when delivering closing arguments. He may add a new tie to this elite collection, but, only if he has success in less serious matters enough times for it to earn its keep as a good-luck tie.

A top rainmaker confesses she always wears her good-luck pin when visiting clients. And she always leaves with work or a lead.

A lead M&A partner always wears purple somewhere in his clothing when he goes to visit clients to brainstorm and talk about possible new deals—he says it brings luck and is associated with creativity.

You get the idea—many successful people have their own superstitions and beliefs. People find big and small contributors to their success in many places—some more mainstream than others. Here are a few contributors for 2018:

A Year for Good Relationships

Astrologers and numerology suggest 2018 creates the right environment to make relationships function well. This includes cooperation, pulling together as a team, and the increased use of intuition. Contrast this with 2017, which was a year of self-sufficiency.

The Timing Is Perfect

The timing for a year of better relationships is perfect. Clients are about to send $3 Billion to outside counsel in 2018 while also reporting inconsistency in their law firms’ delivery—creating an opening for new law firms to strike and showcase their consistency. While every law firm can benefit from diving into client feedback, client teams, and firmwide client service programs to drive change—you’re better off starting while the universe is behind you.  

Superstitions and beliefs are only weird if they don’t work.

Wishing you the best of relationships in 2018.

MBR

PS. Don't miss out on our upcoming Market Outlook and Client Service Review webinar on January 18 at Noon Eastern. You can learn more or register here.

Clients Single Out 61 Law Firms Who Can Cut Through Complexity

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Clients have been on the receiving end of a continuous stream of increasingly complex risk and exposures. This stream of complexity is in its 4th year and shows no signs of abating. And, it’s changing what clients want in their law firms.

With equal parts tenacity, sheer will, smarts, and intuition—combined with confidence, savvy, conviction, and the nerve to go for the jugular—these cutting-edge law firms have the killer instinct clients want right now.

Clients see killer instinct as the secret sauce to get to the right answer faster. Most importantly, clients are willing to pay more for killer instinct because their total cost will be lower.

To be sure—clients want the unrelenting research and piercing analysis—but they see and reward firms with an intuitive (and seasoned) sense of direction about exactly how to reach their goals. Here are some the things separating those firms with killer instinct from everyone else:

  • Develop recommendations which carry more risk but may provide a measurably better outcome
  • Work on multiple strategies simultaneously with the goal of a substantially better outcome
  • Pointed and definitive recommendations
  • Fast follow-up—much faster than other firms
  • Willing to make decisions with less data than others

This has been a long time coming—but inevitable. Clients want better results and want value. Killer instinct solves this problem—and more.

Overall, clients identify 61 firms who display this killer instinct. Top legal decision makers single out 2 firms with the most killer instinct:

  • Latham & Watkins
  • Skadden

These top clients point to 6 firms who bring more killer instinct than most:

  • Cooley
  • DLA Piper
  • Greenberg Traurig
  • Jones Day
  • Squire Patton Boggs
  • White & Case

You can study the entire group of killer instinct firms and all those who stand out for traditional and new aspects of client service in the just released BTI Client Service A-Team 2018: Survey of Client Service Performance for Law Firms.

To some killer instinct comes naturally while others learn to develop it. Clients want it from you now—and they are paying premiums to get it.

MBR

Clients Add 8 New Firms to BTI Client Service 30

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It’s so easy to fall behind in client service. All you have to do is stay the same. But, 30 firms overcome the odds and perform 9 times better at client service than everyone else. These firms are The BTI Client Service 30 for 2018. While all firms in this elite group stand out for superior client service, the following firms are especially impressive:

  • Jones Day is ranked number 1—absolutely best with their 10th appearance in the top spot

  • Skadden—ranked at number 2—makes their 16th appearance in The BTI Client Service 30

  • Dentons, at number 3, continues to be as aggressive with client service as they are with growth

  • Latham moves up to number 4 by improving the value delivered to clients to best-in-class levels

We also note the 4 firms above are the only law firms corporate counsel rank Best of the Best in all 17 activities driving client service. Jones Day and Dentons have delivered on all 17 best-in-class cylinders for 2 years in a row.

  • Jones Day, Morgan Lewis, and Sidley show unmatched commitment—and success—in continually improving client service. These 3 are the only firms to land a coveted spot on The BTI Client Service 30 in all 17 years BTI has been conducting the research.

  • 8 law firms have been improving performance and rejoin The BTI Client Service 30:

    • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

    • Davis Polk

    • Pillsbury

    • Littler

    • Mayer Brown

    • King & Spalding

    • McDermott Will & Emery

    • O’Melveny

What Clients See in the Best Performers

Every firm on The BTI Client Service 30 has been here before—for an average of 8 times. They all have ongoing client service programs, as compared to so many firms who start a client service initiative and then change to a new initiative after a year is up. Superior performance demands client service improvement be a permanent part of daily life.

This year, top legal decision makers report superior client service is all about client-facing programs. We heard about dedicated client teams, law firms seeking out client feedback, industry knowledge, and deeply customized educational tools and sessions. We also heard how firms in The BTI Client Service 30 have become much more sensitive to the need for budget certainty—and are delivering.

You can learn the client service strategies and tactics used by The BTI Client Service 30 and see where your firm stands by ordering your copy of the BTI Client Service A-Team: Survey of Law Firm Client Service Performance, which includes a custom comparison of your firm with up to 8 competitors of your choice. This report is the only place you can learn exactly where your firm improved and where a competitor may have improved more—and recommends exactly what to do about it.

BTI has been helping our clients design and implement the most effective client service and business development programs in the world. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how to improve your performance.

Please join me in congratulating The BTI Client Service 30 for 2018.

MBR

The 4 Biggest Client Service Turkeys of 2017

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Next week we will give thanks for all our good fortune. This week, The Mad Clientist gives thanks for all we can learn from the most egregious acts of client service. While these may provide a few laughs, they also provide insight into how clients think about their interactions and their experience—and why they appreciate superior client service.

Sure I Have Time for an Important Update—or—Whoops, I Have to Go

My law firm called and asked me if I had time for some important updates on my case. I said of course and settled in for the unscheduled call. They promptly started giving me a very detailed briefing on what appeared to be delicate issues in a matter which was not ours. I told them this wasn’t my case. Then—they simply said they “had to go” and hung up.

— As shared by the General Counsel of a leading pharmaceutical company

My Attorney Really Hit It Off with Opposing Counsel

I decided to give one of our newer law firms a complex but manageable case after they lobbied hard for more work. We had a good kick-off meeting—I felt they understood my key concern about risk and the need to contain the other side with language I wanted them to develop. They performed the work well.

The lead lawyer called me and asked if the partner who performed the work did a good job. I was immediately impressed—they had never asked for feedback before. I told the lead lawyer his firm did a good job. I’ll always remember—his next words were: “Then you wouldn’t mind if the lawyer who performed the work teamed with opposing counsel to work on a matter together at a nonprofit in which both attorneys have an interest—because the 2 attorneys really hit it off.”

— Shared with me during an in–depth interview with a partner at a private equity firm

My Accounting Department Won’t Let Me

“One my new goals was to provide better reporting to top management,” explains the Deputy General Counsel of a global bank, “I met with my partner at the firm who does the bulk of our litigation. I took the most recent invoice the firm sent me and marked it up with comments to show the changes I needed in order to be able to prepare my reports. He listened and acknowledged what I said. The next invoice came through and it looked just like all the other bills. No changes I could see. I sent my partner an email asking what happened. Two days passed and I had no response to my email. I called and left a message. We talked a day later at which point my partner explained he would investigate. Again no response until I called him a couple of days later. My partner told me: “my accounting department won’t let me make the changes you want.” I had to wonder to myself how he would stand up to my adversaries if he wouldn’t stand up to his own accounting department.

— As explained by the Deputy General Counsel for Litigation of a global bank

I Know the CEO

One of the attorneys (at Law Firm X) was so obnoxious that we actually told the firm we would only work with certain attorneys and not this particular attorney on any of our cases. He is very rude and abrasive. But we didn't hold this against the firm because there are so many very good attorneys there. He actually went behind our backs to complain about us to our CEO. After that, no one trusted him, not even our CEO, who asked that the firm never work on any of our cases again.

— Detailed by the EVP/General Counsel of a large power generation company

The moral of these stories: Don’t be a turkey—gobble gobble.

Happy Thanksgiving!

MBR

How The BTI Client Service 30 Outperforms Everyone Else

This week The Mad Clientist shares 6 key things The BTI Client Service 30 do to outperform their competition and deliver the very best client service to their clients—and potential clients.

You can view the video below, or on YouTube directly here: https://youtu.be/JPw-5twKjSM

We’ll be releasing videos here on The Mad Clientist blog every Tuesday. Subscribe today (in the box at the upper right of your screen) and be sure you don't miss a single one.

Separating Fact from Fiction: Why Attorneys Are Never Responsive Enough

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Your clients think in terms of minutes and hours when looking for responses to their questions. Just over 80% of clients expect an immediate response to their texts and emails. Immediate, in their minds, means 1 to 2 hours*.

The majority of calls to attorneys are prompted by a question or issue posed to your client. Think about your client’s boss, a C-level executive colleague, or business unit leader who wants an answer to an important question your client doesn’t have. And, these colleagues want answers when they ask—not hours later.

Your client wants to be the problem solver—not the source of delay. So they want answers from you now. Your client’s response is in full public view at their organization—their colleagues are acutely aware of how long it takes to answer their question.

Attorney’s Immediate Is 2x as Long as Client’s Immediate

Lawyers routinely think of their client response time in 4- to 8-hour blocks. Between all their commitments, court dates, filing deadlines and a consistent stream of client inquiries, most attorneys see 4 to 8 hours as appropriate. This is twice what clients expect, as we learned from our work in developing client service standards and related initiatives with law firms.

You can close this gap immediately and move your response with little disruption to your routine—big time rainmakers and BTI Client Service All-Stars rely on these techniques to make clients unflinching in their belief you are always immediate and helpful in your response. We recommend:

  1. Asking clients about their preferred response time. You will learn exactly what your client thinks is reasonable by asking directly, which may change their expectation and boost your client service.
  2. Agreeing to have your client identify truly urgent issues in their outreach.
  3. Leaving a detailed out-of-office message or voicemail which states how long you will be out—and more importantly—when you will be back or checking messages. (Clients tell us they are infuriated by open ended messages which merely state you are out of the office.)
  4. Ensuring your assistant and anyone answering your phone can communicate when you will be available and when you will be checking messages.
  5. For your very best clients—letting them know in advance if you will be hard to reach and sharing your plans for availability.

The good news is you can pause the response time clock by letting clients know when they will hear from you. Once clients know, they can manage their own situation and look like everything is under control. You may still have to rush to get an answer but at least your client will be smiling.

MBR

*Based on BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between February 2017 and September 2017. BTI conducted more than 325 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations.

How Client Focus Can Go So Wrong

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The quest for the best solution can make even the most savvy, thoughtful professional tone deaf.

Clients think of client focus as you working towards meeting their targeted objective, which may or may not be the perfect solution. 70% of lawyers define client focus as coming up with the best possible solution. And while clients can appreciate this, if the solution doesn’t meet their specific needs, it is a failure.

You can argue both clients and their lawyers are essentially saying, “do what’s best,” but the distinction is in who gets to decide what’s best. The search for the perfect answer often drowns out a client’s targeted outcome. You can see this clearly in the true story below:

World Law enjoyed a strong relationship with long-term client, Sweet Tech Corp, where billings averaged just over $20 million annually. The senior partner at World Law, Lou, was preparing to retire. As the primary contact with Sweet Tech, he openly shared his retirement plans with Sweet Tech’s CEO, Jason. To ease the transition and ensure work was not interrupted, Jason requested a succession and transition plan from World Law.

World Law conducted an exhaustive internal search. Lou, the retiring partner, developed a job specification sheet including technical skills, interpersonal aspects, personal chemistry, and communication style. The firm set up a committee to vet the potential candidates. After a thorough matching of skills and assessment of availability, World Law decided upon Gus as the logical successor to Lou. Lou immediately began incorporating Gus into the relationship—training him on all the processes, bringing him to client meetings, and sharing all the nuances of Sweet Tech one builds from a long-time relationship.

Within the year, Lou retired and Gus took the reins.

6 months later, Jason at Sweet Tech called the managing partner of World Law. Jason was not happy with Gus. Jason acknowledged Gus’s technical prowess, but there were numerous chemistry and personality issues eroding the previously strong relationship. Jason expressed respect for Gus and the value World Law brought, but requested a new partner be assigned to manage Sweet Tech’s account.

World Law responded quickly. The managing partner went to meet with Sweet Tech to demonstrate concern and understand Jason’s every concern and suggestion. World Law initiated a new search.

After several weeks of new partner analysis, the firm reached what it thought was an insightful and telling observation—Gus was in fact the right partner for Jason and Sweet Tech Corp. Every piece of objective evidence—from his location, expertise, past experience, and even understanding of Sweet Tech’s operations—supported Gus remaining as partner.

World Law’s managing partner, Barbara, took Jason to an outstanding lunch—wonderful food, great view, and the restaurant’s well-known power table. Barbara thanked Jason for being such a long-time client and shared the firm’s view on how important Sweet Tech is to World Law. Jason was feeling reassured and sensed he would soon be enjoying a relationship with a new partner. At one point, Jason thought he would be invited in to interview potential partners.

But suddenly, Jason felt empty. He was stunned. World Law was recommending Gus remain as the partner in charge of the relationship. Barbara explained how Gus met every criterion and was clearly up to the task. In World Law’s opinion, Gus was the best partner for Sweet Tech Corp.

Jason politely shared his disbelief and suggested the firm reassess the assignment. Barbara reiterated she was acting in best interest of Sweet Tech Corp.

Jason thanked Barbara for her time and effort. He went back to his office to develop a transition plan to work with one of the 8 other law firms on his roster.

Jason’s targeted outcome was a new relationship partner. This 100-year-old, 1,000-lawyer firm was so focused on the perfect solution they missed the core issue—Jason and his team couldn’t work with Gus.

But maybe the real lesson is different—when a mega client likes your firm enough to tell you they want a new relationship partner—their goal is clear and your only answer is an unequivocal yes.

**********

This excerpt is just a snippet from my best-selling book Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits. Already in use at over 150 law firms, the 17 activities within Clientelligence are proven drivers of superior client relationships. Based on 14,000 in-depth interviews with clients, this consistent and systematic approach to developing superior client service skills gives you unparalleled access to your clients' most complex—and premium-rate—work.

I hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about how you can use these activities to create and maintain superior client relationships of your own while fueling growth and profits—or order your copy—here.

MBR