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

Webinar 21 takeaways 2019_header.png

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  • Tackle the most basic needs—such as historical document access and performance indicators—with scale across the client base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


Inward vs. Outward Innovation: What Your Clients Want from Your Firm

Inwardly motivated innovation and outwardly motivated innovation can lead to very different outcomes for your firm. The Mad Clientist shows how client-recognized innovation improves your firm's bottom line.

You can view the video below, or on YouTube directly here:

We’ll be releasing videos here on The Mad Clientist blog every Tuesday. Subscribe today (in the box at the upper right of your screen) and be sure you don't miss a single one.

How Clients Define Innovation

Clients define innovation by the most advanced technology, right? This week The Mad Clientist shares insights on what kinds of innovation clients are really looking for from their law firms.

You can view the video below, or on YouTube directly here:

We’ll be releasing videos here on The Mad Clientist blog every Tuesday. Subscribe today (in the box at the upper right of your screen) and be sure you don't miss a single one.

Innovation Runs Rampant in the Legal World

Innovation is rampant. Top legal decision makers recognize a whopping 40% increase in the number of innovative law firms over last year. This translates into 200 law firms—of the 650 who compete for business from Fortune 1000 and large companies—standing out in a noticeable way, up from 143 last year.

Clients are resetting their expectations and perceptions of innovation as they continue to see more innovative thinking from their law firms. But, 9 firms stand out with the most impressive and impactful innovation. 4 of these firms—Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, and Skadden—repeat their Best of the Best performances from last year, while the other 5 are newly recognized.

You’ll find the top Innovators—this year's Movers & Shakers—from the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 at the bottom of this post.

And, don’t miss out on the significant changes in the other 8 branding factors clients rely on to separate one law firm from another, make hiring decisions, and pick and choose who they ultimately work with—and who they don’t:

Big Growth in Firms Making Big Changes to Boost Client Service

Number of Law Firms Worth Premium Rates Continues to Climb

Clients Name More Tech-Savvy Law Firms in 2017

Clients See Fewer Bet-the-Company Law Firms as This Work Surges

Many More Law Firms Delivering More Value

Clients Name the Long Term Law Firm Survivors

Clients Keep Shrinking Their Law Firm Short Lists

A Downward Trend in Law Firms Earning Client Recommendations

Please join us in congratulating the below world-class innovators in the legal world.

The law firms climbing to the top of the Mover & Shaker ranks in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2017 are:

Best of the Best

Baker McKenzie
DLA Piper
Jones Day
Kirkland & Ellis
Latham & Watkins
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz


Bryan Cave
Cravath, Swaine & Moore
Davis Polk
Gibson Dunn
Greenberg Traurig
Hogan Lovells
K&L Gates
King & Spalding
McDermott Will & Emery
Morgan Lewis
Ogletree Deakins
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
Reed Smith
Ropes & Gray
Simpson Thacher
Sullivan & Cromwell
White & Case

Learn more about how your firm can influence both clients—and competitors—in the new BTI Brand Elite 2017: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

Law Firms Missing Best Source of Innovation

Innovation has a long and a short game. The long game is the sexy part. Few can argue how the ability to forever change, disrupt or even reinvent an industry isn’t a little exciting. But, as we wait for the long game to play out, we are all forced to play the short game. Today, we face clients who want new and never before seen ideas and approaches. Your clients love the long game, but earn their bonuses in the short game.

In the short game the only clear, constant source of innovation is your ability to bring truly new and original thinking to clients. This means you bring a continuing stream of new approaches to the previously unseen situations your clients currently face.

20% Higher Profits from the Short Game

The innovation short game is a client-by-client process. Each client offers you their own set of unique challenges in which you can invest your time and energy. Outside counsel delivering the newest, most novel and valuable approaches to client problems report 20% higher profits per partner than other firms.

Corporate counsel believe innovation will get them a better outcome. These better outcomes for clients translate into better outcomes for law firms, too, including:

New Business: Innovation is one of the few activities proven to attract new business. New and existing clients will seek you out once they learn you are doing something other firms don’t.

Premium Pricing: Clients are paying premiums for these innovative services. The value of your new approach or offering justifies a higher price tag.

Better Pricing across the Board: Your innovation creates a value umbrella. The innovation makes everything you do worth more to clients.

Clients Changing Definition of Innovation

Our 27 years of carefully listening to client feedback tells us innovation has become dramatically more important to clients than ever before. Today, client education—meaning customized for your specific client’s situation and delivered in person—dominates innovation. The top innovators also design continuing legal education sessions for their clients’ staff and provide tools—both online and offline—for clients to educate themselves. Client appetite for learning relevant information is insatiable.

4 years ago clients crowed about Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs). While still considered innovative, they don’t bring the same bang for the innovation buck as custom education.

Corporate counsel also value technological innovation centering on eDiscovery, document sharing, and project management—but not as much as they value education.

Finding the Best Sources of Innovation

There are few better sources of innovation than your clients—especially for the short game. Clients report the most impressive are client specific and designed for them. This makes talking to your clients one of the high-speed conduits to high-impact innovation. Probing clients for their needs and for the tools they would like to see developed or have developed themselves is a long-proven strategy for finding opportunities to innovate. The best-run firms bring this data together to find trends across the client base and help a large number of partners innovate—and inform their long game.

Industries and professions outside law are well known for reaching out to their customers and clients for sources of innovation. You can find numerous studies and statistics to drive this point home. Two of the more compelling examples include:

1.       A study of 1,193 commercially successful innovations across 9 industries, where 737 (60%) came from customers. (Users as Service Innovators: The Case of Banking Service by Pedro Oliveira and Eric von Hippel)

In their paper, Oliveira and von Hippel explore the histories of 47 functionally novel and important commercial and retail banking services. They find that, in 85% of these cases, users self-provided the service before any bank offered it. For example: “sweep” accounts (automatically transfer money between checking and savings accounts for max interest). Assets in such accounts grew from $20 billion in 1991 to $368 billion in 2005 and allowed banks to reduce their required reserves.

2.       “3M’s poorly performing Medical-Surgical Markets Division was looking for a way to kick start its lackluster innovation record in the 90s. Instead of taking the standard route (relying on internal, employee backed ideas), a separate team was formed to search for breakthrough innovation that consisted of the “lead users” (read: customers).

When the results of these two groups (users vs. employees) were compared side-by-side in terms of revenue generated, the differences were quite drastic:

        User-lead innovations had an average revenue of $146 million dollars (in 5 years).
        Internally generated innovations had an average revenue of $18 million (for the same span of time).

The results were clear: Customers were coming up with the winning ideas more often than not.”
(Courtesy of

Client feedback will make your short game more potent. Your skill in the short game will drive success in your long game, and reduce the time you need to develop your long game. Your ability to blend your long game and short game demands diligence and practice—just like any other sport. And, the more you and your partners practice, the higher your profits will go. Just ask the law firms getting the 20% premium now.