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:


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.


Law Firms Hyper Focus on Existing Clients: Only 1/3 Mean It

Fully 92% of law firms are targeting existing clients for growth. Only 33% of these same law firms are funding their client teams to invest in these prized existing clients. While client teams are a proven tool to gain market share in a flat market—unfunded client teams are a bit like firing blanks. These teams quickly lose ground to the fully armed, funded team.

The funded team can (and does) perform client research, develops client-specific tools and educational platforms, spends more time with clients outside the context of current matters—all key components of a client-centric growth strategy.

The most powerful ingredient in any client team is your client. Your ability to leverage your client’s needs, objectives, preferences and priorities drives success.

More than 500 law firms are competing for Fortune 1000 clients. These clients just reduced their law firm rosters. The best armed, best trained and best implementers will defy market conditions and gain share—and clients.

Click here to learn more on how to use world-class client feedback to drive growth from our most recent webinar.


Firms Acting on Client Feedback Perform 2.7 Times Better Than All Others

58% of law firms conduct client feedback. Virtually all benefit—but 20% of these firms are able to transform this feedback into outsized benefits. Specifically, these firms perform 2.7 times better than others in revenue generation, client retention and year-over-year growth.

What’s their secret?

The client feedback becomes part of the law firm DNA. These firms embrace the feedback; partners vie to get their clients interviewed. Changes are made at the client level and, more importantly, at the firm-wide level.

Their blueprint for growth includes building client-facing metrics into every action the firm takes:

  1. Place client-driven metrics in the strategic plan
  2. Include client objectives in partner annual goals
  3. Formally benchmark firm performance through ongoing, systematic client feedback
  4. Provide tools and training—across the firm—to drive change based on client input

Most law firms use client feedback to only make changes at the client level—overlooking how institutional changes have the potential to drive more partner enthusiasm, growth and improved financial performance.  

Click here for even more ways for firms can take advantage of World-Class Client Feedback from our most recent webinar.


BTI at LMA 2014—Clientelligence: The Cold, Hard Facts on What Your Clients Really Want from Your Firm

The strongest market driver for you is what your clients—and your potential clients—want. BTI draws on its unrivaled research and work with market leaders in virtually every major profession to define how superior client service accelerates profits for law firms. Michael B. Rynowecer not only paints a picture of exceptional client service at best-in-class law firms, he gives you the tools to help your firm thrive as a client-service leader. BTI brings together new research with over 600 corporate counsel, 120 law firm CMOs and 300 leadership partners to break down:

  • How law firms measure up on client service—by name
  • 8 practices plaguing client feedback initiatives
  • 9 success factors driving best-in-class client service programs
  • 8 trends driving the 2014 legal market—and how to use them to your advantage

Michael Rynowecer will lead this highly interactive session combining in-depth analysis of 2014 market trends and world-class client service programs at the best-run law firms.

See more from the session here: Clientelligence: The Cold, Hard Facts on What Your Clients Really Want

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Marketing speaks a different language than law firm leadership. Today's session at the ALA Annual Conference highlighted how core thinking differs between marketing and business development and law firm leadership, and provided lessons on closing the gap to boost performance. Using the results of brand-new joint research between members of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and The BTI Consulting Group, BTI President Michael Rynowecer discussed how law firms quantify marketing success, return on investment and top-line versus bottom-line results.

Click here to download a copy of the presentation.

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Leveraging Big 4 Consulting Best Practices to Bolster Your Business Development Strategies

Closing out the 2013 LMA Annual Conference to a packed room yesterday, panelists from Deloitte Services LLP, Ernst & Young and Thomson Reuters Elite discussed what legal marketers and business developers can learn from their colleagues in consulting, and what they see for the future of professional services marketing and business development. BTI Principal Marcie L. Borgal Shunk moderated the discussion which ranged from client service and client feedback to branding, company culture and big data.

Click here to download a copy of the presentation.

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