How Clients Hire: Clients Using Attorney Bios in New Ways to Hire

HeLovesMeDaisy_header.png

Clients are using attorney bios as a selection vehicle—taking attorney assignments into their own hands.

Clients are going online, picking the attorneys they want on their matters—and telling law firms exactly who they want. Think of this new phenomenon as a self-service bar for clients. Corporate counsel used to use attorney bios to check out the people law firms proposed or want to use on a matter. No more. Now, the tables are turned.

Clients don’t want no for an answer when they select their attorneys. Few understand why the chosen lawyer behind the bio would not be available for their work. After all, they are a paying client. One top legal decision maker went as far as to call an associate after the partner indicated the selected associate was “too busy” to work on this client’s matter. When asked, the client savvy associate told the client they were never too busy to work on their matters. How many associates have the where-with-all to offer the only correct answer to this client query? Most would say it isn’t their decision or they are working on another matter.

Client Bad Behavior?

Some law firm partners say this is client bad behavior. Clients politely say bunk. They want what they want—when they want it. They are paying the freight.

Client’s new self-selection process is a direct result of law firms ignoring the most basic of client management strategies. These include:

  • Developing a client team with a dedicated group of attorneys meeting client needs—clients served by well-run teams rely on their team to pick their attorneys and don’t feel the need select from the firm roster.

  • Providing a single point of accountability who also acts as an ombudsman to find the right talent for their clients when and where they need it.

  • Staffing from across the firm. Clients selecting their attorneys from your attorney bios ignore offices, departments, and practices. They are unaware of reporting relationships within their law firms. Clients just pick the attorneys they want, where ever they may be.

  • Really knowing your client. We are talking deep, ongoing knowledge where you see new needs coming—and put the right attorneys in front of clients before they go shopping for attorneys on your site. Client feedback is one of the few proven vehicles to get this coveted, forward-looking insight.

  • Providing client-centric bios. Write all your bios through client eyes—focusing what they really look for and how they interpret what you have.

  • Asking clients what they want in their attorneys for different matters. Get ahead of their process and guide them through to the attorneys you recommend.

The law firms with client teams or dedicated client relationship executives rarely see their clients select their own attorneys. Clients will still check out the attorneys on your website and LinkedIn—but more with a mind towards learning instead of hiring.

Finally, value is destroyed when clients are picking their own attorneys. One of the many benefits of working with outside counsel is relying on these law firms to take over staffing responsibilities. The more work clients take on, the less value law firms provide.

Law firms protect client relationships and value by staying ahead of staffing and needs. We recommend enforcing client teams, single accountability, firmwide staffing strategies, and client feedback to ensure you know how to staff up for client needs before they ever ask. Law firms who let clients choose their staff before consulting you will start to be viewed as hotels for attorneys—inviting discounts, discussions of hourly rates, and logistics instead of solving client problems. Premium rates go to the problem solvers who make their clients’ lives easier.

Special thanks to Lisa Gasbarre Black, General Counsel, Catholic Charities, Alfred C. Perry Jr, General Counsel at Westfield Bank, and Ed Blakemore, Assistant General Counsel at Rockwell Automation for inspiring this blog post. I had the honor of moderating a panel with these dynamic individuals at the Practice Development Institute presented by The Legal Marketing Association and The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association on November 15, 2018.

MBR

How Clients Hire: Top Clients Impose Law Firm Hiring Moratorium

Not Hiring Sign-01.png

A group of forward-looking top legal decision makers have stopped hiring new law firms.

“I am tired of spending my time listening to the same old story. They all say the same things. There is no point. It isn’t like I don’t know what I am going to get. I’ll work with the firms I have,” explains an SVP of a large financial services company. If your firm hasn’t done any work for these clients in the recent past, you don’t exist.

While representing no more than 15% of clients—they control more than 30% of US legal spending.* Their plan: Drive the law firms with whom they want to work into better performance. These clients plan to:

  • Initiate discussions about legal strategy for key matters

  • Ask for options before getting too deep into a matter

  • Convince law firms to adopt tools to get things done with budget predictability

  • Keep their law firms advised of their plans to help them be prepared for what’s coming

  • Give feedback—regularly. Clients plan to point out inconsistencies in service and delivery and tell you exactly where and how to improve—mostly in process and communication

Your client is unlikely to announce this new change. And, they will only engage with a few of their firms. Clients don’t have the time or energy to drive change at all their law firms. Only a few firms will emerge stronger and larger as the decision makers gravitate to the top performers and those who embrace their changes.

You can pick up on the clues quickly through well designed client feedback. The non-feedback firms will have to pay close attention to every client request and communication to be able to try to figure out what clients want.

The only safe bet to be one of the chosen few is to behave as though your large client is going to develop a better and bigger relationship with you—and YOU initiate the feedback process. We recommend starting with fresh and broad feedback from everyone with whom you work at your large clients. This means many interviews at a single large client (our record at BTI is 39 individuals at a single client, so far).

Analyze the feedback and share the results with attorneys serving your client. Then—be daring—share the major findings with your clients along with suggestions for how you plan to improve. Ask your clients for their suggestions. Then—change.

If you need help developing the questions, tools to analyze the insight, or recommendations, please feel free to reach me at mrynowecer@bticonsulting.com.

At the same time, treat any requests to attend client meetings about operations, upcoming plans, and almost any other topic as a juicy invitation to be briefed on how to get more business.

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.

*Based on BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between February 2017 and December 2017. BTI conducted more than 350 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations.

How Clients Hire: Largest Legal Spenders Look for New Law Firms on LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s day has come. The most demanding and sophisticated Chief Legal Officers in the world are hiring new attorneys through LinkedIn.

Power Users Are the Power Spenders

Top CLOs’ hunger for new approaches leads them to LinkedIn—and to new attorneys. 21% of top legal decision makers are actively using LinkedIn to find new ideas, find new attorneys, network, and stay noticed themselves. But this is no ordinary 21%—these clients are the biggest spenders with the biggest needs. They spend twice as much on legal as other companies and 3 times the amount of those who don’t use LinkedIn.

Are you looking to get noticed? 15% of leading GCs are sharing knowledge and looking for knowledge in return. 1/3rd are looking for and reading articles. We expect these numbers to double in the next 3 years.

Firms can only attract the top decision makers with dynamic and original content—and spiffy attorney profiles. This compels law firms to beef up their content game. Attorneys can re-purpose content for LinkedIn but anything looking like an email alert is skipped over and gone forever. These decision makers only have time to scan headlines to select the articles worthy of their time.

Once read, your prospect now clicks on the attorney profile to check them out. These top clients expect to see a robust profile with lots of connections and something of interest to say. Sparse and stale profiles of an attorney not already known to them will stop these time-starved executives in their tracks. This should prompt every attorney spiff up their profile—now—and make it different from all others.   

More GCs on the Way to LinkedIn

Almost half of all GCs (48.4%) are using LinkedIn, just not to the extent of the power spenders/users discussed above. These early stage users rely on LinkedIn to research attorneys they plan to hire, and to maintain and grow their networks.

Leveraging the Growing Role of LinkedIn

LinkedIn started hitting GCs’ radars in 2015. The same recommendations apply today. Invite every single client you have worked with in the last 3 years to connect, and be sure to insert their name in the invitation to personalize the message. Send a LinkedIn invite to every potential client the same day you meet—not only will you be connected—you will appear committed, proactive, and responsive.

These connections give you the opportunity to go beyond networking to offering curated content—the tool of choice to reach the top decision makers. This alone is reason enough to handover all your contacts to your assistant and send invitations to connect with everyone you know or have met.

Showing You Have Your Finger on the Relevant Pulse

Start by posting short articles or thought pieces. All it takes is an insightful article or a connection to another respected CLO to come to the attention of these coveted potential clients.

No time? Comment on and share articles. Corporate counsel like connectors, too. Sharing articles rather than authoring them can also place you in the rarefied air of valued person to know—the first step in building a relationship.

Regular and continuous sharing will start you gaining traction. Over time, clients and potential clients will start to recognize you as having your finger on the relevant pulse and want to read the items you share. Then, and only then, will they reach out to learn more. 

MBR

*Based on in-depth BTI research conducted on a rolling basis between February 2016 and August 2016. BTI conducted more than 330 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations.

How To Be One of 6 New Law Firms Clients Audition for Big-Time Work

Top legal decision makers added 6 new law firms to their panels, bringing the total up to 42* from a record low 36 in 2014. While up a bit, 42 firms remains the second-smallest panel in the last 16 years.

Client service reached an all-time low in 2014 and the impact on law firms is showing up now. Clients tell BTI they are hiring new firms as part of a longer-term plan to phase out some of their non-performing law firms. These non-performing law firms are not meeting the new generation GC demands, not keeping up with client service delivered by competitors already on the panel, and show little inclination to invest in the relationship.

 
 

Clients have expanded their law firm rosters in 7 out of the last 15 years. They have cut rosters in 8. We expect to see clients continue to add and delete law firms as needs change and law firms change—or don't—as the case may be. Over time, the overall trend will continue to move slowly towards smaller panels.

Top legal decision makers are reshuffling their law firm decks to build a better hand. Clients are facing more matters, bigger risk and are shifting more work to law firms—a near perfect storm for law firm business development. The only missing component is a fast growing corporate legal budget. The law firms who win the new work are taking fees from another firm—which makes keeping and building existing clients vital to success

As in prior years, clients keep the names of firms to be erased from the panel to themselves—unless you are conducting in-depth client feedback—where you can not only learn about the pending departure, you can use the situation to stage a client intervention and swiftly turn things around as we have done for numerous BTI clients. Most law firms don’t realize they are being phased out until it is too late.

MBR

*Based on BTI research conducted between March 2015 and September 2015. BTI conducted more than 300 independent, individual interviews with CLOs and General Counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations.

How Clients Hire: 6 Demands and Rewards from the New Generation GC

25% to 30% of Chief Legal Officers have been in their roles for about 3 years or less. They are part of the new generation of GCs who are taking over from the baby boomers. And we expect this number to more than double over the next 5 years.

Now is the perfect time to learn exactly how different the new generation GC is from the legal decision makers they replaced. My conversations with more than 100 of these GCs reveal striking demands and expectations. 6 stand out:

1.  I’m Doing More Pre-hire Due Diligence Than You Can Imagine

The new generation GC is conducting due diligence on you before you ever meet. They will check you out with their peers,  see where you have been quoted in a credible, independent publication (hopefully in their industry’s publications). Your potential new client will have thoroughly read your website, your LinkedIn profile, and checked for common connections so they can dig deeper with people they know. Finally they will check your bio and Google you just to see what they can learn.

And again, all this will likely take place before you ever meet. The process will have started when they got your name from a peer.

2.  You Need to Earn Your Keep

You will always be expected to add to the relationship. You can bring new and unique knowledge, train client staff, give them tools and checklists and a whole raft of valuable add-ins. Your client fully expects you will make their life easier AND make them look good as a part of the ongoing relationship.

It’s about the experience and the results. Your new generation client will believe your counsel, promises and projections about a matter’s outcome. But this is only part of the equation. These clients place more weight on the overall client experience. They will ask themselves how smoothly the process went. Were there surprises or was my law firm always one step ahead? Did they tell me everything I needed to know—before I needed to know it? Did they make the process easier for me? And, what was the outcome?

3.  I Measure By Metrics and So Will You

New generation GCs have metrics they live—and often get paid—by. These clients not only report on total spending against budget, litigation matters settled, productivity (legal spend as a percent of revenue), but also where they were able to accelerate permits and regulatory approval, as well the status of major projects and products they support.

You will be expected to design your reporting systems and your metrics around their needs and requirements. Your goal is to provide as much of this information as you possibly can. Anything less causes your client more work.

4.   I Get Feedback on How You’re Doing—Do You?

Your new generation GC asks everyone on their staff—and business unit leaders—for feedback on your performance. They will rely on this feedback in assessing performance and in thinking about the next assignment they have. If you aren’t asking your client directly, they are left to wonder how law firms can operate and meet their needs without feedback. Not just leadership visits—but pointed feedback.

5.  My Boss Never Once Asked Me About Legal Risk—But I'm Asked About Business Risk All The Time

The new generation GC is tasked with translating legal risk into business risk. They need to anticipate questions about business implications and maybe even stock price. You will be expected to study their company’s business like they studied you before hiring.

6.  You Can Get More Business Than Ever Before

Less is more. The fewer law firms with deep knowledge on the new generation GC roster the smoother things will go, so these clients are inclined to give more business to fewer firms to help them meet their goals. This means more business for you than you saw from their predecessors—which could point to larger, ongoing relationships than law firms have seen before.


The first wave of new generation GCs suggests law firms will have more opportunity to develop bigger and deeper relationships. Those law firms who can embrace the new demands will do well with all general counsel—next generation or not—as they are all facing the same pressure. The big difference is the new generation is unrelenting. And as much as they are more inclined to develop larger law firm relationships than ever before—they are also willing to make changes quickly and are more skilled in onboarding new law firms. 

MBR

Why Clients Always Hire Pigs and Not Chickens

Question: In a bacon and egg breakfast, what’s the difference between the chicken and the pig?
Answer: The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

Most of the time, being called a pig is not a compliment. But if clients think you are a pig, it is the ultimate seal of approval.

The caller ID flashed on the ringing phone and Jonathan, the Chief Legal Officer of a Fortune 100 company, immediately tensed. The display showed 10:06 AM and Jonathan knew the number was his law school buddy, Lori, now working at the Securities and Exchange Commission. Jonathan picked up the receiver and said a friendly hello.

Lori shared pleasantries, but the tone quickly changed. Lori informed Jonathan that the agency, after months of study, was preparing to launch a formal investigation into the company's accounting practices. Immediately, Jonathan envisioned the disclosures, the inevitable drop in the stock price of his company, the exodus of customers, and the harsh scrutiny of the company’s shareholders. His face went white thinking of the bill attached to managing the investigation and follow-up rulings.

Jonathan wanted to move quickly and decisively. Once he hung up with Lori, he immediately called his go-to legal advisor, Bart. Bart was a litigator at one of the 20 largest law firms in the world. The 2 had worked together for more than 15 years and there was no voice Jonathan wanted to hear more. When Bart picked up the phone, Jonathan shared the news.

Bart, understanding the gravity of the situation, shared his sympathies and quickly reminded Jonathan, “SEC and accounting investigations aren’t in my wheelhouse. However, I don’t want you to worry. Last year, we brought on a new partner who has tremendous experience in these types of matters.” Bart went on, “This guy is based out of our West Coast office, so he’s a few hours behind us. I’ll give his assistant a ring and have an appointment scheduled for the 3 of us as quickly as possible.” Before they hung up, Bart confided, “Now, please understand. This partner’s going rate starts at $1,100 an hour—I just want you to be prepared for a little sticker shock.”

The 2 hung up. Jonathan stared at the phone, afraid it would ring again. He knew his CEO would be calling any minute demanding an action plan and Jonathan had nothing. He reached for the phone and dialed Deborah, another attorney he had worked with recently on a handful of major matters. Jonathon hoped Deborah would have some quick advice for him.

Once patched through to Deborah, Jonathan begain retelling the details of the SEC decision. Deborah quietly listened and afterwards asked if she could put Jonathan on hold for a few minutes. Jonathan placed the call on speaker, muted the line, and responded to a handful of emails while he waited. 11 minutes later, Deborah returned to the line and introduced Jonathan to Gary and Susan—2 experienced SEC attorneys ready to start brainstorming next steps with Jonathan.

Post Script: Later in the afternoon, Bart's assistant called back to schedule a meeting between Jonathan, Bart, and their West Coast SEC attorney. Jonathan was on his second conference call with Deborah and her partners and didn’t return the call.

Jonathan ultimately spent more than $33 million dollars with Deborah's firm.

This a true story and one I’ve heard many times—admittedly on a smaller scale than in the tale of Jonathan and Bart.

Poor Bart. He’s a pig in hiding. His heart was in the right place, but he sent out a bevy of unintended messages suggesting he was a chicken.

**********

Commitment to help is the single most important factor to C-level executives when they evaluate and hire professional services firms.

Your commitment to help clients will make—or break—the most meaningful client relationships.

Do your clients see you as a pig or a chicken?

In order to prove your pig-ness, a professional must go beyond the boundaries of a typical commercial relationship. Call it engagement, investment, or commitment—clients want you to match (or exceed) their own levels of:

  • Urgency
  • Energy
  • Perceived investment of time, money, and psychic energy

While Deborah, in the above anecdote, addressed Jonathan’s most pressing need in an urgent manner, Bart was talking about rates and overlooked the client’s need for immediate action. Bart was being helpful, not committed.

**********

This excerpt is just a snippet from my newly released book Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits. Already in use at over 100 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

Large Law Edges Out Mid-Sized Firms for New Work, with Higher Rates

The score is in: large law 60, all others 40.

60% of law firm hires went to larger law firms (650 lawyers or more) in the last year. Clients report hiring large law as a result of increased and more pointed attention—think industry knowledge and more specific discussion of company issues. Think less about your firm statistics and more about the people to whom you are talking.[1]

Rates Are the Red Herring

The winning larger firms are commanding 33.1% more per hour than their mid-sized competitors. We now have more proof clients do not shop for rates unless it’s a politically correct tool to say no. Clients believe they are getting something substantial for this rate premium—value. Large law has been able to develop a higher-calorie billable hour. 

Mid-Sized Firms Facing a Higher Hurdle

The onus is on mid-sized firms to do better. Clients expect mid-sized firms to bring more client focus and more business understanding than large law—but are not always getting what they expect. And, mid‑sized firms have to demonstrate vastly better understanding of their potential clients’ targeted objectives than large law.

Improve Your Win Rate Immediately

Clients consistently tell us they are stunned at the lack of pre-proposal engagement by law firms. You can conduct a more thoughtful interview with your potential client before completing your proposal. Your probes and questions set your baseline for exactly how much you understand your potential client and how much you want to understand—before you ever get hired.

Large law is under pressure to be hungry—and they are. Large law is more aggressive in their pitches and pursuits. These aggressive firms are standing out. Not because they are large, but because they are showing more interest in their potential clients. A place where any firm can shine—just by asking.

MBR

[1] This research is based on 280 in-depth interviews with corporate counsel at companies larger than $750 million in revenue as part of BTI’s ongoing Annual Survey of General Counsel.

How Clients Hire: Why New GCs Always Fire 1 Major Law Firm

It’s only taken 15 months. New GCs are making a serious and meaningful change in their legal departments—especially where their law firms are concerned. The result: 37.2% of large clients hired a new law firm—one with whom they haven’t worked (in recent history)—up from 23.5% last year.

About 16% of companies put a new GC in place over the last 15 months.

A new CLO comes in, looks around, learns what they have and what they want to do. Give them 6 to 12 months to get a handle on things. Then change emerges. A pattern develops where the new CLO issues an RFP—telling all major firms the goal is to make a few small changes in the law firm panel—to better meet new needs. The cold reality is someone's just not cutting the mustard and the new GC doesn't want them on their team. Inevitably this means the addition of one major firm—and the phasing out of a major firm. CLO’s are avoiding net additions to their law firm panels which are at a 15-year low.

Consider any announcement of a new GC a wake up call. Working styles, goals, objectives, and law firm preferences are going to change. The biggest complaint from new GCs: Law firms continue to work in the style their predecessor liked—and the newcomer doesn’t. This does not bode well for leaving a client-focused first impression.

As one GC told us: “It took me a little while to realize—this one partner (at a primary law firm) copied me on every email he sent to his team at the firm. I didn’t understand why. Apparently my predecessor asked for this, but to me it feels like death by paper cut.”

Every new GC will make time to meet with their top 5 or 6 outside law firms. Use this opportunity to ask about preferences and working styles. Also think about how you can succinctly brief the newly minted GC on key matters and issues: think bullet points with an option to go into detail if and when they ask for it.

Once you have your new working styles down and briefed your client on key issues—you have positioned yourself to ask about new objectives and goals. It’s all about your new GC before it’s about you.

The number of new GCs taking the legal helm at large companies will likely surge before it declines. The leap in new law firm hires says few firms are using the transition as a business development tool. Your client-focused welcome mat is stronger than any proposal you could possibly submit. 

MBR

Next week we'll share who's winning the work: large or mid-size firms.

How Clients Hire: LinkedIn Edition

LinkedIn is quickly moving up the hierarchy of potential attorney hiring activities.

30% of corporate counsel point to LinkedIn as the best website of all the sites they visit—6 times greater than any other. No other site registered more than 5%. Corporate counsel say LinkedIn offers a vetted source of analysis, opinions, and commentary from connections they know and trust—making them take notice and initiating dialogue with those attorneys with the most compelling insight.

Corporate counsel are actively expanding their network with the goal of broadening their knowledge base.

Read More

Business Development Lessons from Hannibal Lecter

The answer is right in front of you...”

—Hannibal Lecter to Clarice Starling, FBI Trainee, in The Silence of the Lambs

The key to new business is right in front of you. The typical law firm has about 23% of the business they could be getting from a top client. But, the real mind bender here is the number of General Counsel I interview who say:

“Don’t they want more business from us? They sure don’t seem to.”

“They [my primary law firm] never pitch me or introduce me to other partners or practices—and I’m trying to work with a lot fewer law firms. Frankly it’s frustrating.”

New business is sitting there, right in front of you, to grab while the getting is still good. You can go from capturing 23% to 75% of the work available to you by taking advantage of a single proven, powerful tool: Talk to your clients, and talk to your clients now.

But how?

Read More

The 3 Rules of the 80 Percenters

The typical firm wins just 1 out of 3 RFPs or pitches they participate in; a less than inspiring 31%.

When it comes to RFP and pitch win rates, the playing field is divided. On the low end of the scale is a group of firms with win rates hovering around 12%; on the other end is a select group of firms boasting win rates of 80%. 

What do the 80 percenters know—and do—that the 12 percenters overlook?

Pitching and the RFP process are an inevitable part of business development, but the key lies in approach.

The 12 percenters are proud of the number of proposals they issue and their quick, efficient responses. These firms rarely meet an RFP they don’t like and chalk up success rates to ‘you win some; you lose some.’

The 80 percenters avoid RFPs like the plague. Instead of spending valuable time and resources on a numbers game, these firms strategically develop their leads with clients.

Their approach to pitches and RFPs is calculated and direct.

The 3 Rules of the 80 Percenters:

Read More

Lawyer Directories Ride Crest of Social Media Wave

The increasing popularity of LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites has heightened interest in online sources of information about people and companies. Rare is the HR manager who does not turn to an online search engine to learn more about a high-prospect candidate. Rare too, apparently, is the in-house counsel who does not access insights online about the law firms and attorneys they hire.
Read More