22% of Clients Bring on New GCs: New Game, New Rules, New Rates

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22% of clients are disrupting the market right now. These are the new GCs. Half of these have been in place for less than 12 months. Another half have been in place 23 months—just enough to get their sea legs. We see 2 big implications for law firms:

  1. This is only the beginning of a trend. The growth rate in retiring baby boomers will increase before it drops—expect a steady stream of new GCs. Plan ahead and develop a standard set of protocols to welcome all new GCs—and build yourself some serious relationships with this untapped source of new business.

  2. Almost every new GC puts out an RFP for legal services somewhere between 18 and 24 months into their tenure. Take control and offer to help write the RFP. Avoid the RFP by introducing yourself and befriending the new GC early on. Help with onboarding and start the conversation about complexity.

Here is what these new GCs are thinking and facing:

Starting When Risk is the Highest it’s Ever Been

The new GCs entire tenure started as the surge in risk and uncertainty hit the market. This is their version of normal. They look at life solely through a high-risk filter—quickly assessing situations, comfortable with intuition combined with data, and are looking for someone to share opinions with. They know their success demands they make decisions and make them quickly.

Comfortable with Complexity

The new GCs dive into complexity head first. They want to sort it out into its component parts and solve the core issues. They want outside counsel who is comfortable dealing with complexity and unequivocal in their approach—and advice.

Total Cost is More Important Than Hourly Cost

New GCs look at the big picture when it comes to cost. Hourly rates don’t mean low cost. These new GCs figure out which firms will deliver and what the total budget will be—the firm with the lowest hourly cost rarely offers the lowest total cost.

Working Smarter

New GCs know they are in the best position to spot redundancy, overlapping communications, and processes where their useful life is over but still in practice. They are diving in and making changes in the work process and communications with one goal—streamline. This ability to improve efficiency is unique to new GCs.

Double Whammy—an Acquired Company

A number of new GCs are stepping into merged companies who just made acquisitions. This dual challenge of being new to 2 companies brings out the best in these new GCs as they focus on integrating people and systems—on top of sorting out risks and legal issues.

You Can’t Get Me If You Don’t Talk to Me

New GCs tell BTI they are downright shocked at how few law firms reach out to them when they initially take the reins. These new GCs have their own agendas. Any law firm who fails to reach out is unintentionally telling new GCs they don’t want to get to know them.

Amazing Coaches

A few law firms step up and not only welcome and say hello to new GCs—they also work to provide a successful onboarding experience. The firms share current priorities, history, back story, and offer counsel on how to be successful. These partners are cherished.

BTI’s exclusive research shows the number of new GCs has doubled from 11% in 2014. As we discuss at the beginning of this post—this trend is on the rise. Use it to your advantage.

MBR

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

22% of GCs Unloved: Out of the Loop

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I’m the last to know and have to drive this thing to close. I don’t get all the facts, and everyone is waiting for me. It’s ass backwards.” VP and GC, Large Telecom Company.

The attorney able to show this GC how to change the dynamics and drive the results they want will earn a client for life. And not just this one client.

22% of all GCs feel like they are behind the 8 ball. They want to be out in front of issues; helping to get things done, or even things done faster, but these top legal decision makers feel stymied by their own organization. These GCs say they are excluded from relevant communications from upper management until the last minute. And then they’re playing catch up to deliver the results management expects. This is the biggest obstacle to getting what they want, and need, accomplished. These GCs tell us they can cope with being under appreciated; it’s being put in the position of bottleneck causing their personal frustration.

Law firms are in the unique position of being able to bring in an experienced partner, former GC, or a GC who is a friend of the firm, to help your client get out in front. Teaching these GCs how to anticipate issues, stay ahead, and add to the process creates lifelong friendships—and business.

This is only 1 of 5 obstacles GCs face in meeting their goals. The remaining 4 are:

Time

Unlike their stymied colleagues, these corporate counsel have more demands than time. They triage, prioritize, and delegate where they can. Ultimately, these decision makers focus on the top or urgent issues. They are master jugglers and are skilled in keeping many balls in the air.

This is 1 reason clients get so frustrated when they have to chase down outside counsel for budgets, updates, or key pieces of information. It creates even less time.

You can immediately help. Set up scheduled days and times where you will provide updates on matters and work for clients. Outline progress against the original scope and proactively notify clients of any changes before the scheduled update.

Resources

Resources come down to people and budget—and there just aren’t enough to go around. Like time scarcity above, this means prioritization and finding tactics to extend the budget.

Law firms are well served offering up AFAs, alternative staffing, secondments, or an occasional extra hand to add to the resource base.

Litigation

The growing complexity of litigation is stealing 10% of GCs psychic energy. Risk is growing to the point where it is all-consuming. Litigation attracts more and new litigation, and regulators. GCs have to stop and thoughtfully respond. The potential combined financial exposure from litigation is so large it has to be managed down—immediately.

Law firms who want to help their clients can offer strategic counsel and planning for these situations—both in the heat of battle and before with litigation prone clients.

Outside Counsel

A small but significant 4% of GCs say outside counsel is their biggest obstacle to getting things done. These GCs say their law firms are working towards cross objectives, don’t deal with uncertainty, and are being served by attorneys with no apparent leader. They make no progress and some law firms impede it.

Law firms holding their clients back probably don’t realize they are the obstacle—but these are the firms who do not ask for feedback and don’t provide timely updates. More formal and informal communication with clients is the number 1 way to ensure you are not your client’s biggest challenge.

Each client faces different obstacles. Your job is to understand which clients have what obstacles if you want to create a continuing stream of new business. You have many vehicles to ask clients about what holds them back, or BTI can ask for you. Your client’s obstacles are your opportunities. All you have to do is ask, and act.

MBR

(Based on more than 350 in-depth interviews with top legal decision makers conducted between September 2018 and January 2019 conducted by The BTI Consulting Group.) 

Clients have 2 big sources of insomnia. Law firms only cause 1.

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Top legal officers are questioning themselves and their strategies. Something they don’t often do. And it’s keeping them up at night. The decision makers are unnerved by their law firms’ behavior—as they are now relying on their outside counsel more than ever before.

Almost 30% of corporate counsel are unnerved because of the following experiences with their primary law firms:

  • Partner turnover—lateral movement is making clients less confident in their firm’s ability to deliver without gaps and turnover. Clients are also concerned about the loss of institutional memory and the additional labor and elapsed time required to bring a new partner up to speed.
     
  • Partner retirements—clients know when key partners at their primary law firms are nearing retirement—but clients believe their firms just passively react to the departures and let things take their course. These clients believe there is no formal plan or thought as to how their matters will be managed going forward. This has the same negative impact as partner turnover.
     
  • Loss of associates—just as clients are getting to know associates working on their cases, these associates seem to disappear. Clients are fully aware of the high associate turnover rate—but believe their firms will be figuring out how to retain their best associates—which, of course, is any associate your client really likes.
     
  • No support—clients are discovering their law firms just want to do the work. These firms have no apparent interest in helping their client think through new issues, initiate and carry on conversations to help clients sort out their thoughts, and engage at a level beyond the scope of work. Clients believe this type of dialogue is not only helpful but also crucial to understanding client goals and sensitivities.
     
  • No team—many attorneys are doing the work, and clients don’t see 1 single attorney as being in charge or accountable. Clients perceive the finger pointing among partners when things don’t go according to plan as evasiveness.
     
  • Inconsistency—clients experience superstars, mediocrity, and embarrassments all from the same firm. These corporate counsel openly worry the performance will sink to the lowest level delivered.

Virtually each of these behaviors is fixable and unintended—but are on their way to ruining a client relationship just as clients have cut their law firm rosters to the smallest number ever and are ramping up spending with the firms who remain.

The 2nd biggest source of GC insomnia is making sure the work gets done. And done right. Clients are not convinced their law firms will deliver. GCs have stopped adding to staff and are experiencing attrition within their ranks. The search for the right formula prevents 13% from sleeping soundly.

General Counsel report litigation, increased transaction activity, data privacy, compliance, and cost control round out the sources of insomnia—but pale in comparison to the 2 above.

Every law firm and every partner can help clients sleep better. Be the partner who always delivers, never leaves a seed of doubt, and is proud to be accountable—even when things go wrong. Offer secondments and thoughts on how clients can prioritize their workload. Maybe even suggest a few strategies where you can help get things done. You can only be this partner if you are talking to your client. And, these ongoing conversations will help you, and your client, get the best sleep of all while others toss and turn.

MBR

(Based on BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between March 2017 and February 2018. BTI conducted more than 350 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at companies with $1 billion in revenue or more, each of whom responded.)

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