The Pendulum Swings Back to Outside Counsel


What goes around comes around. Finally. Clients are sending substantially more work to outside counsel for the 2nd year in a row. The spending increases are widespread and across the board.

10 Practice Areas Slated for Growth. 5 to Shrink.

Cybersecurity and M&A Lead All Growth

Spending is increasing most in Cybersecurity as GDPR, California regulations, and public scrutiny skyrocket. M&A follows closely with the 2nd biggest increase in outside counsel spending in 2019. These 2 areas are leading in client mindshare as well as spending.

IP Litigation and Private Equity Slotted for 5% Gains

IP Litigation will see fewer matters but more spending. This means bigger matters and higher risk for clients—and more outside counsel need. Private equity firms see increased activity driving new and more spending.

Tech, Health Care to Lead the Spending

High Tech companies are planning the biggest and broadest increases. Look for these big spenders to be sending substantially more money to law firms in 9 practice areas—and expecting to pay higher rates. Health Care plans increases in 7 practice areas—as does Pharmaceuticals—and expects higher rates from outside counsel as well. Financial Services and Energy companies plan to increase outside counsel spending in 6 practices.

Plummeting Settlements Adds to Outside Counsel Spending

Clients tell us they settled 38% of their active matters—down substantially from 61% just 2 years ago. Fewer settlements means more legal fees. They face more complex and high-stakes matters than ever before—making these matters harder to settle.

Unintended Impacts and Outcomes

The shift to more outside counsel spending is placing unrelenting pressure on everyday routine and recurring matters. Clients realize they will be paying higher rates for the new more complex matters—but overall budget increases aren’t going up enough to cover the higher rate spending. This means they are forced to spend less on lower-risk matters. It also means more use of alternative fees for both new and existing matters.

Getting while the Getting Is Good

The new spending will go to the law firms who seek it out and develop the business early. Those who wait for RFPs will be left behind. This compels all client relationship managers to engage in deep discussions about strategy, current priorities, upcoming needs, and new strategies to improve settlement rates. The lion’s share of the gains will go to the firms who cannot only engage with clients but also get to clients first.

You can pinpoint where each and every practice will grow and command higher rates in the newly released BTI Practice Outlook 2019: Changes, Trends and Opportunities for Law Firms.


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

66 Law Firms Leading Litigation as Market Surges

2019 Litigation Powerhouses and Standouts_Linkedin.png

You are looking at the highest levels of corporate legal spending in a decade. High-stakes work is growing like a weed. Clients are expecting an influx of new matters and plan to spend more on existing matters. Clients are cutting their internal budgets to fund new outside counsel needs, Why? Increasing workloads and more complex needs clients don’t want to handle and don’t have the resources to handle in-house.

Here is what to expect in the 2019 litigation landscape along with 66 law firms best positioned for these new opportunities. The Powerhouse and Standout law firms in the links below are the ones corporate counsel tell us they are turning to for their most pressing litigation needs in 2019.

The IP Litigation Outlook: The Powerhouse and Standout Law Firms

Why GCs are Hiring: Fewer, but bigger and more complex matters.

The Class Actions Outlook: The Powerhouse and Standout Law Firms

Why GCs are Hiring: Increasing risk and exposure and ever more innovative plaintiffs.

The Complex Employment Litigation Outlook: The Powerhouse and Standout Law Firms

Why GCs are Hiring: Changes in regulations around wages; increased concern about wage and hour issues; a growth in investigations, spurred by sexual harassment and workplace culture.

The Product Liability Litigation Outlook: The Powerhouse and Standout Law Firms

Why GCs are Hiring: Increased caseloads, more complex matters as a result of increasingly complex products and data these products gather and rely on.

Clients are reevaluating who and what types of firms they want to use as the nature of Product Liability claims undergoes a fundamental change.

The Complex Commercial Litigation Outlook: The Powerhouse and Standout Law Firms

Why GCs are Hiring: Increases in 5 industries is enough to drive growth and increased spending on outside counsel.

Learn more about how your firm can take advantage of new spending and matters in 2019—and what your firm can do to adapt, in the new, just released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019: Changes, Trends and Opportunities for Law Firms.

The IP Litigation Powerhouses and Outlook for 2019

IP Litigation is poised to be the fastest growing segment within Litigation at 5.15% in 2019. The number of companies expecting significant IP Litigation dropped slightly. Increased spending plus fewer matters equals higher hourly rates and larger spending on each matter. These dynamics offer law firms opportunities to develop bigger relationships—more than offsetting the drop in companies with IP Litigation needs. Look for the biggest increases to come in Chemicals, High Tech, Manufacturing, and Pharmaceuticals. 

You can learn more details about the best opportunities, how client expectations are changing, and the 53 law firms clients recognize most in IP Litigation in the just released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.

You can also learn why clients recognize 7 firms as IP Litigation Powerhouses—and 11 firms as IP Litigation Standouts. Please join me in congratulating the Powerhouses and Standouts.



  • Fish & Richardson

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Orrick

  • Perkins Coie

  • Sidley

  • WilmerHale


  • Alston & Bird

  • Duane Morris

  • Finnegan

  • Goodwin

  • Greenberg Traurig

  • Hogan Lovells

  • Kilpatrick Townsend

  • McGuireWoods

  • Morrison & Foerster

  • Pillsbury

  • Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Learn more about the firms clients singled out for IP Litigation prowess in the newly released BTI Litigation Outlook 2019.