CMOs Stress Levels Surge

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CMO Stress Levels Surge

Business is good. The best it’s been in recent memory. So, what’s the worry?

2019 marks the first time a large number of CMOs tell us the external factors are just as stressful as the internal issues. These law firm marketing leaders see outside threats and opportunities as being equal to the challenges within their firms.

My 30 years’ experience shows strategic changes are afoot when external and internal issues equalize. Let’s start with the newest and fastest growing stressors:

The Stress of the Future Soars

Perceived threats from The Big 4 moving into law (EY, PwC), legal technology, AI, and retaining clients caused an 8-fold increase in worries about the future. In fact, the future has become the top stressor. 24% of CMOs, up from only 3% last year, say the stress comes from their law firms’ apparent lack of concern about these issues. These CMOs don’t see a plan or anyone working on a plan with any sense of urgency. They see clear and exposed threats, and feel as if they, alone, are concerned about these issues.

CMO Workload

Just over 23% of law firm CMOs say workload is growing faster than their staff can scale. This is up from 20% last year. It seems business growth is driving new demands and needs—causing clients to hire new law firms. This brings more RFPs—especially in the Am Law 100. And, almost all law firms are changing their approach to marketing. The added coaching, staff training, and planning for new strategies are additive to the everyday job responsibilities for a CMO—pushing stress levels higher.

And Those Empty CMO Slots Are Causing Undue Stress

A number of high-profile law firms are operating without CMOs, Kirkland and Debevoise to name a couple. While it doesn’t impact current CMOs directly, it raises the open question of the need for CMOs in law firms. This is causing stress as it strikes at the existential need for such a role.

Some law firms like to give the impression they don’t have a CMO, but somebody is running the Marketing and BD show. These firms attract some good press and in an odd twist, attract a large number of good CMO candidates who want roles at firms with empty slots. Expect these roles to be filled—and a few more to open up.

Show Them the Money

15% of CMOs feel serious pressure to show their value. These CMOs are often forced to rely on murky metrics and face partners who take credit for any marketing wins. An over-focus on results leads to demoralization, stress, and burnout. It also prevents strategic thinking. Not good for these CMOs or their firms.

Not Worrying Causes CMOs to Worry

Complacency is the leading cause of sleepless nights for 20% of CMOs. They see lack of urgency spreading as their firms enjoy increases in business. Profits are strong, so there is little motivation to make things better. These CMOs tell us their firms believe strong profits cure all ills and prevent future problems—or at least underpin a lack of concern for future problems. 

CMOs give advice on how to deal with stress and pursue opportunity here. It’s worth another read and helps put things into context. And as any stress management teacher will tell you, stress is a sign you recognize something has to change—and can be helpful to our firms and ourselves when managed well. It’s not always easy to frame it this way—but it helps to remember.

MBR

Based on our survey of more than 160 marketing leaders, conducted between November 2018 and June 2019.

Here's Exactly How the Raytheon UTX Deal Impacts Every Single Law Firm

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Deals are getting bigger than anyone is thinking about. Way bigger.

Older established companies—Raytheon, UTX, Fiat Chrysler, and Renault come to mind—now see M&A as only 1 of a small number of strategies to drive growth, reduce costs, create the necessary scale to compete, or take on the massive R&D risk to develop transformational products. This is part of the new world order.

Newer companies—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and QUALCOMM—look to M&A to position themselves for the future. These companies don’t let size faze them. They may face strong political headwinds, but these organizations are smart and relentless. The headwinds just add to the complexity—making these deals high risk even if they are not mega-sized.

Clients believe only a handful of law firms are truly positioned to handle the size, scale, and complexity these deals bring. Ultimately, clients see the field of law firms able to play lead counsel on these deals as small—maybe 12 to 20 players total.

The Titan Deal Firms (TDF) will configure themselves, build the infrastructure, and staff up for the biggest deals to come. And, they will hunt this work down around the world. The successful TDFs will enjoy premier branding to attract inbound leads. TDFs will learn to hone their business development skills to position themselves to be hired 6 months before clients seriously start acting on any deal—which is how most M&A hires are made.

We also see this happening in the Private Equity world. Deals are getting bigger and more capital is being put to work. These shifts in deal size lead to unprecedented opportunity for law firms of all sizes and stature.

Great News for All Other Firms

As law firms in the M&A space migrate to the Titan deals in the market, there is unprecedented opportunities for new players to get into this lucrative space. Firms outside the mega-deal firms will win big. These firms will take on the deals the TDF firms leave behind or refer out. All firms will move up and have access to larger deals as they step in to fill the void in the market. The real winners will start to position themselves now—changing their pitches to engage large clients in dialogue about M&A. You can follow the playbook:

 
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I also recommend revisiting your strategic plans for M&A. The successful firms, the ones able to fill the void (and the TDFs) will design their strategy, resources, metrics, and goals to drive success. This includes deep and penetrating feedback on how clients are planning their M&A—as your clients are key drivers in your success.

There are few opportunities to witness, never mind participate in, a fundamental redefinition of the market. There is little downside risk for anyone with (or who wants) a meaningful M&A practice. The upside is enormous—and you can say you were there.

Congrats to Shearman & Sterling and Wachtell on their roles in the market-defining deal between Raytheon and UTX. And look for more to come.

Best of luck in the market ahead.

MBR

Clients Rank EY Law in Top 25% of Law Firm Brands

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Another first—a milestone for the Big 4 as well as law firms. 694 top legal decision makers rank the EY Law brand number 138 out of the 650 legal providers serving large clients in the US. Deloitte also makes a noteworthy appearance and is ranked in the top 35%. What makes these results even more significant is the rankings are all based on unprompted, open-ended responses from corporate counsel. BTI’s methodology does not probe on the names of specific legal providers and law firms cannot refer clients to be included in this research. Every law (or Big 4) firm earns its ranking on its own brand strength.

This ranking serves as another barometer of the Big 4 firms gaining traction in practicing law. EY Law’s brand performance is driven by the firm’s work with larger organizations—many of whom use EY Law outside the US. These clients don’t see the name, or experience, with EY Law as new.

EY Law is hitting the driving attributes clients use to assess law firms. Corporate counsel recommend the firm to peers and keep EY Law on their short list. These top legal decision makers note EY Law for its continuing innovation, tech savvy, and its efforts to improve the client experience—one of the most influential brand attributes. The only attribute the firm has yet to establish itself is as a bet-the-company firm. 

The Big 4 joining the ranks of best-branded law firms is only one of many changes in brand and client perception of law firms—all of which drive clients’ decisions to hire one law firm over another. You can see the other changes in the 9 key attributes driving law firms brands and hirability here:

Fewer Premium Worthy Law Firms

Clients’ Short Lists Get Longer

Fewer Bet-the-Company Law Firms

Clients See Fewer Movers and Shakers

Clients Say Tech Savvy Harder to Find

More Law Firms Making Changes to Deliver More Value

Clients See a Few Firms as Long-Term Leaders

More Law Firms Earning Client Recommendations

Fewer Firms Improving the Client Experience

 

You can learn more about these insights and detailed changes in your firm’s brand in the newly released BTI Brand Elite 2019: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available for purchase now.

 

Clients See a Few Firms as Long-Term Leaders

Clients keep a distant eye on law firm mergers—and have bias for firms who will emerge the winners—especially for big, and potentially long, litigation or regulatory work. Every client knows a merged firm can become conflicted—and this means work for the client. Top legal decision makers name 28 fewer law firms to the list than last year as survivors—firms who will emerge as the leaders over the long term. Note how the Best of the Best also match the firms law firm leaders believe will emerge as long-term leaders.

Please join us in congratulating the brands clients say will be among the last firm standing:

Best of the Best

• Baker McKenzie
• DLA Piper
• Jones Day
• Latham & Watkins
• Skadden

Leaders

• Cooley
• Cravath, Swaine & Moore
• Dentons
• Gibson Dunn
• Greenberg Traurig
• Hogan Lovells
• Kirkland & Ellis
• Mayer Brown
• Morgan Lewis
• Norton Rose Fulbright
• Sidley
• Sullivan & Cromwell
• Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
• White & Case

Clients See Fewer Movers and Shakers

After a solid 6 years of increase, clients see fewer law firms moving and shaking. Clients tell us more law are doing the same new things—making it less innovative. Overall, the number of law firms clients see as movers and shakers dropped 4.2%.

Clients named 3 fewer firms to the Best of the Best list and 9 fewer in total. This innovative attribute measures those adding value by delivering services or behaviors others do not.

Please join us in congratulating this year’s innovative movers and shakers:

 
 
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Learn what it takes to be a mover & shaker in the new BTI Brand Elite 2019: Client Perceptions of the Best Branded Law Firms.

Fewer Bet-the-Company Law Firms

The number of law firms clients think can handle bet-the-company matters fell by 16.1%, down to just 94 firms this year. As the complexity and stakes clients face grow higher, clients are becoming more selective and are dramatically raising their expectations.

Join us in congratulating the following firms with the best bet-the-company brands:

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Learn how to gain the coveted bet-the-company status in the new BTI Brand Elite 2019: Client Perceptions of the Best Branded Law Firms.

Fewer Premium Worthy Law Firms

Clients are facing more complexity and uncertainty than ever before—the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index is at an all-time high. Clients gladly pay premiums for the firms who are comfortable with uncertainty and can simplify the complex. The number of firms meeting this threshold dropped substantially—a steep 22.4% from last year.

Law firms enjoying a coveted spot on the premium worthy list in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2019 are:

 

Best of the Best

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• Davis Polk
• Gibson Dunn
• Kirkland & Ellis
• Latham & Watkins
• Morgan Lewis
• Paul, Weiss
• Skadden
• Sullivan & Cromwell

Leaders

• Arnold & Porter
• Baker McKenzie
• Cooley
• Cravath, Swaine & Moore
• Debevoise & Plimpton
• Dechert
• DLA Piper
• Fried Frank
• Hogan Lovells
• Jones Day
• King & Spalding
• Mayer Brown
• McDermott Will & Emery
• Pillsbury
• Sidley
• Weil
• White & Case
• WilmerHale

 

Learn how to earn premium worthy status, and keep it, in the new BTI Brand Elite 2019: Client Perceptions of the Best Branded Law Firms.

Who'll Collect the Win? 9 Firms Intent on Edging Out Kirkland and Latham

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Who’s next? Kirkland and Latham are in a class by themselves. So, which firms can get even bigger and create a new class? We asked more than 160 law firm marketing leaders and here’s who they think are the next firms to deliver blow-out growth:

DLA Piper and Dentons

These 2 merger-hungry firms lead the list of firms most likely to pass Kirkland and Latham in growth. Law firm leaders expect DLA Piper and Dentons to find new merger partners—and create 2 new, even larger firms to drive unmatched growth. Whether the mergers occur inside or outside the US remains to be seen—but—the competition expects each firm’s next moves to be big and impactful.

Baker McKenzie

The firm is undergoing major changes to bring together its many pieces into a unified growth machine. The firm closed comp, brought in a strong leader to drive client development, and is becoming much more aggressive in its innovation and thought leadership. This is the strongest effort yet to create the uniformity successful law firms need to scale past the current market leaders.

Hogan Lovells

With a collection of global clients which would make any law firm salivate, Hogan Lovells has the existing base to kick off blazing global growth. The firm’s proven experience in serving and managing global clients paired with its superior client service prowess has law firm leaders watching Hogan Lovell’s next steps—very carefully.  

Jones Day

Boasting one of the best brands and the highest levels of client service, Jones Day is positioned to leapfrog the market leaders. The firm brings one of the strongest cultures of strategic discipline and uniformity across the globe. The partners understand and believe in the firm’s strategy—and the changes in strategy as market demands change. Jones Day understands the legal world is all about its clients—and knows their clients better than most others. All this adds up to outsized growth waiting to happen.

Morgan Lewis

Morgan Lewis is one of the rare firms able to integrate its sizable lateral pool, deliver superior client service, change its approach to the market as needs develop, and is deeply committed to client-facing innovation (dating back over 20 years when Cisco used Morgan Lewis as the poster child for how to use AFAs). Look for the firm to take on more lateral groups and improve its already high-performing global client teams to drive leadership growth levels.

Paul, Weiss

Paul, Weis announced its new growth strategy by picking up Scott Barshay out of Cravath. Not only did it announce the death knell for lock step, it announced the firm was going big. The firm is one of the few with successful lateral integration. The firm’s lateral rainmakers are supported while growing the existing client base firmwide. A longtime client feedback advocate, Paul, Weiss is adding business (and profits) by leaps and bounds.

Quinn Emanuel

Quinn is nothing if not aggressive. Having passed $1 billion last year, you have to believe $3 or $5 billion in revenue is the next goal. The firm takes marketing and business development more seriously than most give it credit for. Quinn targets prime clients and goes after them with a vengeance. It understands how to win work without RFPs. The firm brings in rainmakers able to keep their existing clients while also finding new ones. Quinn is enjoying brand growth—driving more inbound leads. A growing group of clients is coming to terms with Quinn’s representing plaintiffs and defendants—and a few clients see it is a plus.

Skadden

Boasting one of the strongest brands, competitors expect the firm to gain the momentum to go right past Kirkland and Latham. The firm enjoys an institutional client base with large budgets and recurring needs. The brand generates significant inbound referrals. Skadden sits in the heart of the markets showing the most growth—providing a strong tailwind.

Skadden assigns a group of partners to look at business development and client related issues at regular intervals. These groups may not have long lives but a short life span can bring a more thoughtful approach. Our research detected 2 changes to it's business development and client development tactics—both relying on educating clients on leading-edge trends in transactions and litigation. While Skadden has a history of using their knowledge to keep clients current—the tactic is becoming more widespread – developing brand and new business across a wide swath of top legal decision makers.

The Big 4

A smaller number of law firm marketing leaders expect the Big 4 to eclipse law firms in size and growth. The Big 4 can only achieve this by acquisition; this would clearly redefine the business of law as we know it and require some regulatory wrangling.

Nobody No How

11% of law firm marketing leaders believe Kirkland and Latham have a lock on being the fastest to grow. They see these 2 firms as having the strategies to continue being unmatched market leaders.

We eagerly watch the competing landscape unfold. Paul, Weiss and Kirkland will not be the only firms to pluck the best laterals. Other law firms are making large investments in their growth which they believe in their heart of hearts will drive market-setting growth. These firms rarely get noticed during early implementation and “pop up out of nowhere” when they start to grow.

We wish all these firms luck as we track their growth and watch how they navigate one of the most attractive legal markets to appear in almost 20 years.

MBR

 

7 Ways BTI Business Development Badasses Are Different

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Attitude and behavior win you BTI Business Develop Badass status. It’s not only what you do, it’s how you do it—specifically. BTI research reveals 7 key differences between the BTI Development Badass (BDB) firms and everyone else.

1. Advance Notice of the Pitch

Knowing the pitch is coming before everyone else is a real advantage. BDBs carefully plan out the best team with both knowledge and chemistry. They know how to do the business development equivalent of synchronized swimming. These firms have a process and approach—and follow it when leads come in the door. They have more time to do it—because they knew before everyone else. And, they mostly don’t respond to surprise RFPs.

2. Mobilize Quickly

Swift and clarity are the only worlds to describe a BDB’s approach. They know who they want to lead the pitch (and it may not be the person who generated the lead) and who they want as the supporting cast. Everyone embraces their role. They spend little time sweating anything other than the best fit for technical skills, chemistry, and ability to win.

3. Play to Win

BDBs pullout all the stops and do whatever it takes to win the clients they want. And they pass on those they don’t.

4. Ignore the Rules

The RFP may say “don’t contact the client”, but BDBs don’t care. They reach out, ask questions, propose ideas and strategies - even ask what types of personalities clients prefer. Again, they do whatever it takes. As a side note - clients tell us they are surprised at how many law firms obey this rule.

5. Do Something Unexpected

BDBs focus on questions, strategies, goals, and issues. Any firm statistics about number of wins and deals closed are supplied in an appendix. In effect, BDBs treat the pitch as a kick off meeting - using information gained in the banned contact discussed in the paragraph above.

6. Differentiates Themselves

Telling a potential client a story with their needs as the center point is different. The themes include how a GC’s problem will be solved; examples of how life will be better, all the ways they deliver to budget, and new angles on old problems. The story includes the strategies to convince a client this firm won’t think of missing a deadline. Most importantly, they share industry and company insights and link these to legal issues their prospective client may face.

7. Rainmakers Lead–and Have Fun

BDBs bring in the rainmakers for the win. The pitch does not automatically go to the partner who gets the lead. The originator still gets the credit and rewards, but they may not be the best to close the business. The rainmakers share credit and love the pursuit. The thought of a big win is a source of energy and strength—and BDBs have found a way to put these partners out in front.

Your firm can be a BTI Business Development Badass law firm. It’s not as daunting as it seems. Most firms who make the changes ask themselves why they didn’t do it earlier. Contact me to discuss how to make this happen at your firm—and have your attorneys think it is a great idea.

 MBR

The 18 BTI Business Development Badasses

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A pitch is as much a mind game as it is a team sport. You go in focusing on your potential client. But there are always competitors. Some of these competitors are worrisome and others are not. Then, you catch wind you are up against a BTI Business Development Badass—the firms law firm marketing leaders single out as the most aggressive and hardest competitors to beat. The BTI Business Development Badass firms take no prisoners—and may make you change your approach. Often for the better.

BTI exclusive research with more than 160 law firm leaders reveal the BTI Business Development Badass law firms for 2019. Please join me in congratulating each of the following firms:

  • Benesch

  • Cooley

  • Covington

  • Cravath, Swaine & Moore

  • Fish & Richardson

  • Gibson Dunn

  • Hogan Lovells

  • Jackson Lewis

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Littler

  • McGuireWoods

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Ogletree Deakins

  • Quinn Emanuel

  • Ropes & Gray

  • Skadden

8 of these firms are repeat performers—able to maintain and even increase their aggressive business development posture. These consecutively badass firms are:

  • Fish & Richardson

  • Jackson Lewis

  • Jones Day

  • Kirkland & Ellis

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Quinn Emanuel

  • Skadden

10 of the 18 are longstanding members of the BTI Client Service 30, including:

  • Cooley

  • Gibson Dunn

  • Hogan Lovells

  • Jones Day

  • Latham & Watkins

  • Littler

  • McGuireWoods

  • Morgan Lewis

  • Ropes & Gray

  • Skadden

The Fearsome Foursome; Gibson Dunn, Kirkland, Quinn Emanuel, and Skadden, are also feared in business development.                                              

Business development is on its way to playing a bigger role in strategy, future growth, and culture. We are keeping a close watch on the Business Develop Badasses as the future market unfolds to see how it plays out against innovation and technology.

Next week we will discuss what these firms do differently and why.

MBR

(This research is based on more than 160 independent, individual interviews with leading law firm leadership between September 2018 and January 2019.)

98% of CMOs Would Do It All Again

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Successful CMOs know how to navigate the people and culture of their firm. They know what experience counts and what’s worth caring about. The most successful CMOs have 7 lessons they wish they had known earlier. 

What Advice Would You Give Yourself When You Were Just Starting Out?
We asked more than 150 law firm marketing leaders this very question. The messages are pretty compelling:

  1. Don’t take it personally. Everyone questions new ideas. The questioners are not attacking you, they are trying to get their head around your ideas. Their approach may be hard and gruff, and they may not be believers—but it comes with the territory.

  2. Persistence. Don’t give up the ship. People won’t really understand what you are saying until they hear it 7 times. This means the initial resistance and indifference are part of the process. Very few ideas get off the ground without at least 7 clear messaging events to the right audience(s).

  3. Adapt. Learn from all the feedback you get. Rejection, resistance, and lack of enthusiasm all tell you the message or approach you are proposing may not be on target. Change your approach to play to the issues and concerns you hear.

  4.  Don’t make the job bigger than you. Don’t care more about the job than the firm cares. There will always be a few law firms who fundamentally don’t respect or care about the marketing and business development function. These law firm marketing leaders advise a new CMO to jump ship and go to a place where marketing and business development is an accepted part of the firm.

  5.  Really get to know the attorneys. Attorneys have their priorities and preferences. Marketing leaders recommend taking the time to understand these people and their personalities. You are there to make the firm and the attorneys more successful. Your knowledge of the attorneys’ personas, and how they conduct business, helps you develop your roadmap—and helps you make sure you get to know the partners most likely to make you successful.

  6.  Dial down the website. New websites are a visible success—but they take time. And, attorneys have many opinions about the website. In retrospect, these CMOs would have taken on the task, but given it a lower profile and spent more time with leadership talking about business development than web pages.

  7.  Do It! Only 2% of law firm marketing leaders tell aspiring CMOs to go elsewhere with their careers. In short, CMOs like being CMOs.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Advice for the new may also apply to the most seasoned CMOs. Let’s all keep learning and getting better. Use these insights as a start.

Any lessons we left out? Let us know. mrynowecer@bticonsulting.com

MBR

Hurry, While You Still Have A Rare Second Chance

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With luck your client’s budget is approved. After all, your client submitted their first draft last summer. The budget got worked, changed, adjusted, and reconfigured. Now it’s real. So, what is your client focusing on as the New Year starts? Those who know the answer are in the minority—but clearly have an edge.

Time to hightail it to your top clients to find out—even if you think you know. You now have a rare second chance to confirm where clients are headed and why—and these second chances don’t come often.

Call or go visit your clients while the year is still fresh. Be the first to understand how your client is thinking about:

  • Changes to cybersecurity since the Marriott incident

  • How tariffs are impacting sales

  • What tariffs are doing to supply chain agreements

  • New goals and priorities

  • Surprise initiatives introduced by management

  • Changes in their litigation settlement rates—they are plunging overall

  • New matters coming up this year

  • What kind of complexity your clients face

  • Most pressing needs and priorities

  • Resources they have and need for the year

  • What informal things you can do to help

You will learn the direct route to getting new business and position yourself as the one who cares more than anybody else—the most influential factor in getting hired. The second chance doesn’t last long—because someone else just might get there first.

We will be discussing these issues and much more during our annual webinar BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2019 on January 17, 2019 at noon Eastern Time. Register now as space is filling up fast.

MBR

12 Top Trends Defining the 2019 Legal Market

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Buckle up. It’s going to be an exciting ride. Clients are spending more money on outside counsel than ever. Top legal decision makers are redefining their approach to hiring and managing their law firms. This translates into direct opportunity.

But you will find the biggest wins by targeting your client’s new needs and hiring plans, focusing on the industries where you can win, and getting there before other law firms. Please use these top trends to your immediate and lasting advantage—and join us for the BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2019 where we will discuss these and much more:

  1. Cybersecurity leads all outside counsel spending increases at 9%

  2. M&A spending closely follows Cybersecurity in planned outside counsel spending increases

  3. The number of clients reporting high-stakes matters more than doubled in the last 18 months

  4. Complexity and uncertainty dominate client thinking

  5. Clients are settling less than half as many cases as 2 years ago—increasing risk and outside counsel spending

  6. Clients are cutting internal budgets to fund increasing use of outside counsel for the 3rd straight year

  7. Top legal decision makers are hiring more new law firms than ever to find the firms who can meet their needs

  8. High tech clients plan to increase spending in 9 major areas

  9. Health care clients plan to increase spending in 7 major practice areas

  10. Pharma plans the 3rd largest outside counsel spending increases of all industries

  11. Clients now look for law firms who can scale into teams quickly to manage cases, which could become large or attract other matters—these teams can come from small, medium, and large firms

  12. Clients are most impressed by law firms using technology to provide core information (i.e., updates, budgets, access to current and historical documents)

Match these trends up against your business plans. These opportunities are here now and finally big enough to drive strategic growth in law firms. We have all been waiting for the market to return to the good old days—this is the closest we have seen in a long time.

Please join us for our annual webinar BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2019 on January 17, 2019 at 12:00 pm ET to discuss these trends and much more. You can also learn about these and more detailed trends and opportunities in BTI’s report BTI Practice Outlook 2019, available immediately.

Best in the market ahead and a happy, healthy new year!

MBR

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

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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

3 High-Performing Practice Leaders Share 5 Tips and Secrets

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Practice Leaders agree and disagree on a lot of things. But when 3 high-performing practice leaders agree, it’s a learning moment. I enjoyed having an insightful panel discussion with Rich Moche of Mintz, Tom Schulte of Clifford Chance, and Philip Sellinger of Greenberg Traurig at the Practice Management 2.0 Conference in Chicago. We focused on how to drive performance. Each of the 3 panelists presented a different perspective—but the following common themes emerged:

Prioritize

The move into practice leadership means an exponential increase in situations with an apparent need for attention. The solution—prioritize. Don’t limit yourself to taking a hard look at the list of items competing for your precious attention. Scrutinize and decide what you absolutely must do and can’t delegate—and what needs to be done now. Now does not mean just short term—now can mean starting strategic initiatives as well.

Prioritizing can become a second nature skill, enabling practice leaders—and their practices—to be more focused and get substantially more done.

Delegate

Delegation quickly follows prioritization in lessons learned. These practice leaders looked to see what they could delegate up, sideways, down, or to support staff in some way. Limiting yourself to downward delegation constrains the ability to leverage your time. Practice leaders are moving more towards using support and management staff to help get things done.

Embrace Other Professionals Within the Firm

Embracing other professionals is a key part of a practice leader’s strategy. This includes the Marketing/BD department as well as HR. But, the newest area of support is coming from practice managers. These individuals help with running the practice and ensuring associates are being utilized—both for associate careers and maximizing billable time. Some of these practice managers drive communications and act as the go-to person to try to resolve issues which may not need practice leader attention.

Learn Why Not What

As a relationship manager, partners want to know what their client really wants, needs—and how to make this happen. As a practice manager, your focus becomes: “Why did we win this work”? What can we learn from this to win more work? What did clients see as our strengths and why did we stand out? All the practice managers agreed—the only way to learn is to ask clients—whether they interview clients themselves or through 3rd parties.

Talk and Listen to Millennials

The generational divide is top of mind. Our panelists suggest the best strategy for understanding and getting the most out of your millennials is to talk to them—and listen to what they have to say. The millennials may or may not want to be lifers at your firm but—the more they are heard and believe their voice matters—the longer they will stick around. These practice managers also note millennials have a sense of how the business of law and delivery of legal services may be disrupted—as disruption is a routine part of their life.

Overall, these practice managers are optimistic about the future but don’t suggest it will be easy. Each is highly focused and has a clear idea on where their practices are headed—and what they want their practice to look like. Successful practices use different strategies than other practices. These tactics are among those defining the high performers.

The panel consisted of:

Richard H. Moche, a Member at Mintz Levin and Chair of its Public Finance, Real Estate, Bankruptcy, and Environmental Division

Philip Sellinger, who recently served as Co-chair of the Global Litigation Practice at Greenberg Traurig and currently serves as Managing Shareholder- New Jersey; and Regional Operating Shareholder

Thomas Schulte, Senior Counsel at Clifford Chance. Tom recently served as Head of the Americas Banking & Finance Practice and was a member of the Firm's Partnership Council, the supervisory board of the global firm.

I extend my deep appreciation to Rich, Tom, and Philip for their candor, time, and energy in sharing these thoughts with a captivated audience at the Practice Management 2.0 Conference held last week (October 4, 2018) at the Gleacher Center at the University of Chicago.

MBR