The Goblins Ruining Law Firms’ Halloween

A stealth bomber jaggedly progresses along an undetectable path through the night sky. Ultra-sophisticated infrared and other technology map its course through the darkness. An intricate combination of materials, ultra-smooth surfaces and technology shield the remarkable machine from radar detection. Inherently unstable, early stealth aircraft seemed to wobble as they flew. Pilots affectionately called these aircraft Wobblin’ Goblins.

To the naked eye, the F-117 Nighthawk attack aircraft is a non-aerodynamic black mass of jutting plates. Yet to the enemy, the Wobblin’ Goblin is an omnipotent threat—real, unseen and unannounced.

A small, unseen yet just as real group of law firms is almost imperceptibly emerging as the Wobblin’ Goblins of the legal world. This clandestine crowd—using more advanced marketing and business development strategies than others—are picking up new business while few other law firms notice. A couple of examples:

  1. A major NY law firm reviews a client filing covering the announcement of a large restructuring. The restructuring involves divestiture of 7 major facilities. After the filing, a Midwest firm, who also provides meaningful services to the same client, listens in on the analyst call announcing and discussing the company changes.

    Sensing opportunity, the Midwest firm offers poignant insight into new regulations which may impact the sale and—unsolicited and at no cost—delivers a blueprint to navigate the best course of action. This Wobblin’ Goblin usurped $3,000,000 in transactional work from an entrenched competitor. No bidding.
  2. The savvy litigation boutique, who astutely analyzes the litigation portfolio of a one-time client. This stealth firm proactively schedules an in-person meeting with the General Counsel, who invites the CFO. At this meeting the firm presents alternative approaches to limit liability and reduce financial exposure. This Wobblin’ Goblin won $1.2 million in litigation fees in 14 months from new cases.

Do you know the Wobblin’ Goblins who are attacking your client base? Your biggest threat may be the one you cannot see.

Despite advanced techniques creating stealth threats, the only known defense is the tried and true tool: client feedback. Asked the right way in the right context—clients are happy to tell you who is trying to steal the business—and how. Your challenge is to put up your defenses before the Wobblin’ Goblins arrive.


4 Innovative Actions to Add Outsized Value Today

You can start the march to add outsized value and boost client service today. Ok, maybe Monday.

Start slow and be selective. Focus on your largest clients. You can mix and match where you feel comfortable—but no matter how you move ahead—embrace at least one of these client building strategies:

  1. Offer to sit in on your client’s new product development and planning meetings. 
    Your goal is to spot IP protection opportunities early and look for regulatory issues early in the process to speed time to market.
  2. Meet with clients to triage new matters coming in the door on a regular basis. 
    Clients report a jump in new matters. You can help with very early case assessment and streamline the path to reduce cost with better outcomes.
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6 Secrets to Becoming an All-Star

You may think you have what it takes to be a Client Service All-Star, but clients—the only true judge of client service excellence—are the gatekeepers to this exclusive list.

Each year, BTI interviews more than 300 corporate counsel to identify the individual attorneys best at delivering superior client service. Clients provide their feedback unprompted—meaning BTI doesn’t provide a list of law firm or attorney names; we simply ask them “Who provides you with the absolute best service?”

BTI’s Client Service All-Stars, currently in its 13th year, tracks exactly why clients single out one attorney over another.

6 Secrets to Becoming a BTI Client Service All-Star

1.  Client Focus Reigns Supreme
There is no faster way to earn client loyalty than providing truly client-focused service. The trick lies in understanding how the client defines client focus. Hint: it’s not about providing them with the best legal advice. More than half of the BTI Client Service All-Stars earn recognition through their unequivocal dedication to client focus.

Next time you start a matter, ask yourself these questions to check your client focus alignment:

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13 Striking Opportunities for 2014

Silver linings are often lost in the headwinds of difficult market conditions. BTI’s in-depth interviews with more than 300 corporate counsel ferret out the opportunities offering rays of sunshine—and new business.

The 13 best opportunities to drive growth in 2014 include:

  1. Corporate counsel expect litigation matters to surge by 62%
  2. Global companies’ legal spend grows at 7.2%
  3. IP Litigation will lead the market in growth and rates
  4. Regulatory work will rival IP Litigation in growth and rates
  5. Corporate counsel embrace early case assessment—with a vengeance
  6. Clients move work in-house—a hidden opportunity to help clients recruit and train their new senior staff
  7. Larger companies harbor a healthy appetite for mid-size companies who can add revenue or technology
  8. Labor & Employment shows increasing strength for the 5th year in a row
  9. Law firms are providing more marketing and BD support to partners
  10. Savvy law firms offer top clients concierge-level service tailored to individual clients—and clients love it
  11. Corporate counsel show heightened interest in the unintended impacts of social media
  12. Law firm marketers—and partners—are using more targeted marketing and BD tactics
  13. Only 31.4% of clients are truly satisfied with their primary law firm—now’s the time to unseat the competition

Law firms can use each opportunity to develop more business and improve client service at the same time.

We will be discussing these opportunities and more in our upcoming webinar on January 16 at Noon Eastern. You can learn more or register here.

US Legal Spending Soars: Growth at 7%

US spending by global companies is soaring—and 75% of their US law firm hires are outside the Am Law 50.

Global company spending now accounts for 40% of US corporate legal spending, up from 30% in 2010. We find global companies are more active in developing markets, building sales channels, and creating and filling product pipelines while investing in infrastructure and talent. The global companies operating in the US have become a market unto themselves.

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In the Zone: Your Litigation Opportunities for 2014

With litigation matters surging and spending flat in 2014, law firms who can pinpoint the areas where clients have the most acute needs will fare better than most. BTI research with nearly 300 corporate counsel shows some of the most acute needs in 2014 will be:

Class Actions and Torts:  Manufacturing / Industrial Manufacturing

IP Litigation: Chemicals and High Tech

Securities and Finance Litigation: Banking / Financial Services

Commercial Litigation: Financial Services

Labor and Employment Litigation: Consumer Goods / Retail Trade

Product Liability Litigation: Pharmaceuticals

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After 5-Year Upward March, Client Satisfaction Plummets

Things were going so well. Client service levels rose for 5 straight years. What happened?

Now, only 31.4% of corporate counsel recommend their primary law firm, down from 35.9% last year and 42.3% the year before. Clients attribute the decrease to the following reasons:

  1. “Secondary law firms now provide substantially better client service than my primary law firm.”
  2. “Primary firms do exactly what is asked—nothing more.”
  3. “Primary law firms are married to their own ways of doing things and won’t change.”
  4. “My law firm used to be much more flexible….”
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Corporate Counsel Shift $5.8 Billion In-House

Unlike Ben Bernanke, corporate legal departments are taking dollars out of the system. Corporate counsel shifted $5.8 billion from their outside counsel budget to internal spending—the equivalent of keeping 2 Latham & Watkins’ in-house. The shift drives a paltry projected 2013 growth of 1.8% in outside counsel spending instead of a 5.1% compound growth rate had corporate counsel spent the money on outside law firms.

Corporate counsel’s top goal is to wring more value from their scarce legal dollars. Shifting money in-house from law firms...

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48.1% Replace Primary Law Firm—Clients Expand Law Firm Rosters

The world’s largest companies added 8 new law firms to their rosters in 2012. The typical large company uses 54 law firms, up from 46 in 2011. The additional law firms are a poignant reminder of the hyper-competitive nature of the legal market. With only 1.8% growth in outside counsel spending projected for 2013, we remain in Predator’s Paradise. Law firms are either predator or prey—and clients just invited 8 new predators into the fray.

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Value Trumps Cost Control as Corporate Counsel’s Top Goal—Corporate Counsel’s 7-Year Itch

For each of the 6 years prior to 2013, corporate counsel’s top goal was to control legal costs. The 7-year itch struck in 2013—cost control dropped to number 2. The number of corporate counsel who now see delivering value as their top goal soared to 31.8% from 18.7% last year.

These corporate counsel seek to add value to the business by adopting new tactics to meet their goal, including:  

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Marketing (Mis) Alignment: Close the Gap Between Marketing and Law Firm Leadership

Marketing speaks a different language than law firm leadership. Today's session at the ALA Annual Conference highlighted how core thinking differs between marketing and business development and law firm leadership, and provided lessons on closing the gap to boost performance. Using the results of brand-new joint research between members of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and The BTI Consulting Group, BTI President Michael Rynowecer discussed how law firms quantify marketing success, return on investment and top-line versus bottom-line results.

Click here to download a copy of the presentation.

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Leveraging Big 4 Consulting Best Practices to Bolster Your Business Development Strategies

Closing out the 2013 LMA Annual Conference to a packed room yesterday, panelists from Deloitte Services LLP, Ernst & Young and Thomson Reuters Elite discussed what legal marketers and business developers can learn from their colleagues in consulting, and what they see for the future of professional services marketing and business development. BTI Principal Marcie L. Borgal Shunk moderated the discussion which ranged from client service and client feedback to branding, company culture and big data.

Click here to download a copy of the presentation.

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Law360 Quotes BTI CEO Rynowecer on Budgets and Budget Overruns

5 Surefire Ways to Lose a Client

(A Law360 except by Keith Goldberg)

Law360, New York (March 27, 2013, 8:19 PM ET) -- While losing a high-stakes case might sour a lawyer's relationship with a client, plenty of other missteps can prove far more deadly, attorneys tell Law360.

Clients are likely to seek new counsel if they feel their current counsel doesn't respect their relationship, whether it's through overstuffing a legal bill, falling off the radar for days at a time or not doing homework on client business…

Attorneys say budgeting smart is a must. For example, if you're the lead partner on a matter, you'd better be in on every high-level strategic decision, but leave mundane tasks such as discovery to associates or contract attorneys. Don't send multiple attorneys to a deposition if only one is going to be doing all the talking…

And if you are going to blow your budget, don't wait to let your clients know until sending them their final invoices, experts say.

"Generally speaking, your clients are more tolerant of overrunning a budget if they know ahead of time," Michael Rynowecer, president of the BTI Consulting Group Inc., told Law360. "If you see it coming, that's treated completely different than if it's a surprise."  Continue reading at Law360.