The 21 Biggest Takeaways from BTI’s Annual Market Outlook and Client Service Review

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So many lessons, so many questions; but so little time. Here is a recap of our 10th annual BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review. We would like to thank the 1,682 individuals who joined us and appreciate all the feedback—especially considering how much client feedback we develop for our clients. Here are the highlights:

Uncertainty is the biggest driver in the market today. It is the reason clients are:

  • Increasing spending in outside counsel

  • Cutting corporate counsel’s internal spending

  • Demanding more engagement from their law firm

  • Ramping up RFPs

  • Paying higher rates for complex work while applying unrelenting rate pressure on their standard work

Where the Growth Is by Industry and Practice

  • High Tech boasts 9 practices with premium needs and growth—more than all others

  • Health Care, Pharma, and Insurance (non-defense) show 7 premium practice opportunities each

  • Energy and Financial service see premium needs in 6 practices

  • Telecom, Transportation, and Professional Services have the fewest premium needs

  • Demand for Cybersecurity, M&A, and Private Equity leads the growth charge with IP Litigation, Class Actions, and Regulatory close behind

The BTI Client Service 30 are using these new strategies across their client base:

  • Tapping into their largest clients’ needs through client feedback and customization

  • Pinpointing clients’ risk before they do

  • Developing tools for clients to better manage and identify risk

  • Helping clients manage uncertainty

  • Becoming more aggressive in business development

The Most Innovative Law Firms

  • Hail mostly from The BTI Client Service 30—suggesting client service gives you a better on-ramp to the most compelling client innovation and technology needs

  • Tackle the most basic needs—such as historical document access and performance indicators—with scale across the client base

  • Customize technology solutions for their largest clients

  • Ask clients about their specific needs and then build out solutions to meet these needs

Changes in Client Service Expectations

  • Your ability to deal with complexity is now a part of client service—the 17 activities clients use to evaluate law performance and hireability

  • You can’t fully understand risk without understanding your client’s business

Again, this is a brief recap, watch the full recording here to gain vital insights for your firm.

The law firms delivering on all these demands across the client base are outperforming all others. This shows consistency, ability to scale, and your commitment to help—the most influential aspect of client service.

You can use these insights to improve your performance tomorrow. No law firm on the planet can tackle all these demands and changes at once, but you can prioritize, reallocate resources, and focus on the ones which make the biggest difference. You are best served by picking a small number of high-impact tactics for your firm—and scaling across clients. Rogue acts of greatness can’t compete with systematic excellence.

MBR

6 Things the BTI Client Service 30 Do and Others Don’t

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Client service is anything but static. Sometimes client needs evolve over time and sometimes they change on a dime—with no notice. The BTI Client Service 30 follow the lead of world-class firms like PwC, McKinsey, and Accenture to use changing client expectations to their advantage.

Best-in-class law firms stay ahead of clients by tracking shifts in client thinking, problems, and priorities—and offer solutions before clients ever ask. They change their actions and interactions with top clients to solve problems before they happen. Most importantly, they scale their actions across the firm by providing tools and knowledge to relationship partners. The combination of scale and tools is vital. And, while every firm has rogue partners delivering superior client service—it’s not enough to match the growth or new business associated with a large-scale shift.

Here’s what top legal decision makers are telling BTI is helping most—and hard to find:

Managing Increased Complexity

The world is more uncertain than any client planned or thought about a year ago. Clients are worried about tariffs, geopolitics, #metoo, and the impact of the US government on the economy and their business. This is in addition to their day jobs.

The best-in-class law firms dive in head first to define and manage the uncertainty. These firms provide clients with checklists, assessment guides, and strategic counsel before clients ask.

Scalable Teams in Case Things Get Ugly Quickly

Today’s legal matters can turn from hard to complex in a heartbeat. Savvy firms are watching this trend and addressing it by placing attorneys on client standby. The team leader ensures these standby attorneys are actively kept abreast of client issues and can spring into action the moment the matter’s risk ratchets up.

New and Deeper Industry Understanding

Today’s increased complexity is industry specific. High tech is worried about IP litigation, supply chain, industrial espionage, and export controls. Oil & Gas companies are worried about geopolitical issues, pricing, and supply contracts. Retailers are worried about Amazon. Top performers do deep dive research into their clients’ industries to offer industry-specific counsel—and bring better insights.

Even Earlier Assessment

Clients are embracing early case assessment faster than ever. The bigger the risk, the earlier the assessment. The best-in-class law firms are developing protocols to evaluate risk early and often. And make sure clients benefit from this structured approach by making it accessible and part of every relationship manager’s tool kit.

Secondments—Despite the Risk of Losing a Great Associate

Capacity constrained corporate counsel love a good secondment. The top client service performers realize the client benefits outweigh the risk of loss. These law firms figure the associates who leave were likely to leave anyway—and it’s better to have friends in important places. These firms offer up secondments and are quick to say yes when a major client asks.

Custom Innovation

Clients recognize more than 70% of the BTI Client Service 30 as top innovators. They use dedicated individuals and 3rd parties to ask clients what they want and what would be helpful. Corporate counsel may not know exactly what innovation they need, but are quick to identify their pain points when asked. The top client service firms use this insight to drive solutions for these clients and as the basis for their innovation investments.

You can learn the new client service strategies and tactics in use now by The BTI Client Service 30 here, and during our annual webinar today at Noon Eastern.

MBR

Clients Single Out 30 Law Firms Best at Client Service

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The BTI Client Service 30 keeps putting more distance between themselves and everyone else. But, as in prior years, certain law firms manage to leap frog a whole group of competitors and land a spot in the BTI Client Service 30—knocking out others. Client service performance is dynamic, absolute, relative, and a source of real advantage—all at once.

The leap into the Top 30 is always the result of a set of strategies and tactics to improve client service—all having management backing and teeth (otherwise known as accountability, metrics, and funding). We can see the firms improving in the years prior to joining the best-in-class firms—moving steadily up the curve.

This year we congratulate the following firms on rejoining the BTI Client Service 30:

  • Arnold & Porter (15)

  • Ropes & Gray (21)

  • Willkie (26)

  • Goodwin (28)

  • Greenberg Traurig (29)

At the same time, only 3 law firms remain as a continuing part of the elite BTI Client Service 30 in each and every one of the 18 years we have conducted the survey. We congratulate the following 3 firms for their longstanding skill in delivering at the leading edge of client service performance on an ongoing basis:

  • Jones Day

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Sidley Austin

Jones Day is ranked number 1 in client service more than any other law firm for an impressive 11 out of 18 times. 2019 also marks Jones Day’s 3rd year in a row at number 1—a feat only accomplished when all the partners successfully work, firmwide, to improve all the time with every client.

Skadden is ranked at number 2 for the 2nd year in a row. Latham, DLA, Gibson Dunn, and Hogan Lovells all moved up to fill out the top 5—presented in rank order.

Each member of the BTI Client Service 30 takes their own approach to client service. You can see it built into the culture and the behaviors. You can learn the client service strategies and tactics used by the BTI Client Service 30 here. You can see where your firm stands by ordering your copy of the BTI Client Service A-Team 2019: 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 for 30 years. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how to improve your performance.

Please join me in congratulating the BTI Client Service 30 for 2019.

MBR

(Based on more than 350 in-depth interviews with top legal decision makers conducted between January 2018 and November 2018 conducted by The BTI Consulting Group.)