Marketing Budgets per Attorney Jump Nearly 11%

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Budgets may not be going up as a percentage of revenue, but per capita spending is. CMOs have been both clever and skilled in managing their budgets. Overall, increases in revenue are slightly outpacing increases in attorney headcount. Most CMOs have been able to keep their budgets untouched. This means the Marketing and Business Development (MBD) Budget per Attorney increases—in effect, resulting in an increase on a per capita basis. This is the most reliable indicator of MBD spend. 

The average law firm spent $18.9 thousand per attorney on MBD in 2017, up from $17 thousand in 2016. But, spending is no longer the main story. As legal marketing budgets as a percent of revenue converge around the 2.6% mark across firms—how the money gets spent has more impact.

CMOs continue to adjust budgets to drive revenue. Legal marketing tactics and strategies can now drive success—giving CMOs and marketing departments more visibility, more impact, and more voice. This is what many CMOs have been waiting for.


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(Based on BTI research conducted between June 2017 and December 2017. BTI conducted more than 160 independent, individual interviews with leading legal marketing executives at a range of law firms from Am Law 30 to Am Law 200.)

What Law Firm CMOs Love and Hate about Their Jobs

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Law firm CMOs are basically split—45% are happy and fully engaged. This leaves more than half who are not.

At 35%—the biggest segment of CMOs rate their jobs an 8 of 10. It’s good, they like it—but does not cross the line into thrilled, awesome, or fully engaged.

Another 20% put their job satisfaction at 7 of 10 or lower. This is the level where frustration breaks through. These CMOs may enjoy some aspects of their job—but the balance between happiness and frustration is out of whack. These CMOs are on the prowl for a new job.

CMOs from both halves of the spectrum shared what makes them so happy—or not.

Why CMOs Love Their Job

  1. Making a strategic impact
  2. Watching partners gain BD skills
  3. Improving client service
  4. Freedom to make decisions
  5. Engaging attorneys
  6. Feeling valued
  7. Intellectual challenge
  8. Strategic challenge
  9. Serving as voice of the client

Why CMOs Hate Their Job

  1. No respect for marketing and business development
  2. No voice
  3. Firm’s internal focus
  4. Perfunctory work
  5. Can’t engage attorneys
  6. Stress
  7. Workload



    How to Move Up the Happiness Scale

    Find your friends. Virtually every law firm has partners who value marketing and business development somewhere. Find these partners. Focus your energy on helping these individuals. You will feel valued almost immediately once you help someone. Once you help one attorney it becomes contagious. Others will seek you out.

    Think small victories. You are in a war which you can win by fighting battles. Think about all the choices in front of you—where can you create a win? No matter how small, victories help your firm and you. And, one victory begets another. Any victory can change your own world view.

    Don’t take it personally. The barriers and situations you face were there before you arrived. Separate out marketing and business development from yourself—most firms react to the function—not you.

    Speak your voice—and be prepared to speak it many times. You know your marketing and business development ideas cold—like no one else ever could. And they don’t. Each discussion you have is an opportunity to illustrate how you, and your skills, can help attorneys develop and win more business. If the message doesn’t resonate—find the partners where it does.

    Speak your voice again. Share your best ideas. Not all your ideas—but your best ideas. Find someone on your staff or a friendly partner to brainstorm with to get counsel on which ideas will have the most impact. And be prepared for the long selling cycle accompanying any new idea.

    Stop banging your head against a wall. Some CMOs just don’t click at some firms. If you can’t get anyone’s attention and get things to work—move on. You and the firm will be better off.

    Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

    CMOs are one of the least understood members of the law firm management team. Success demands you market yourself within your firm.

    Happy CMOs spend substantial time thinking about how they can make their voice heard and make the benefits they offer in their voice. It’s intuitive to many. They find, focus on, and fight for victories where they can make an impact. They engage with attorneys whenever possible and start with the partners who see value in MBD. They know their happiness, and success, lies in their ability to make things happen—and like all else in marketing—your clients (the firm) has to see the compelling value.


    (This research is based on interviews with more than 180 law firm marketing leaders conducted over the last 12 months.)

    Law Firms to Add Big to Marketing Budgets in 2018—Here’s How to Get Yours

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    13% of law firm CMOs are trying to hide their smiles. They snagged big increases in their budgets—just over $1 million per firm.* Their goal is simple—keeping clients, growing clients, and getting new ones. Their success in justifying their new budgets comes from emphasizing the risk of not spending the money. They made the elusive risk of opportunity cost real by:

    • Presenting a detailed year-over-year growth analysis of each major client going back 3 to 5 years, highlighting the clients where revenue is static or has slipped. These CMOs calculated the lost revenue as a percent of total revenue, and a few estimated lost profits. Each CMO analyzed at least 50 clients and some more than 100.
    • Calculating total new business developed per partner and per attorney over time. These CMOs were careful not to track names but wanted to show their firm was either becoming more or less productive in developing business.
    • Using strategically designed client feedback to uncover how often the firm is considered (or more importantly not considered) for new work—using the outcome to estimate new business sitting on the table—and the cost of not winning the work.
    • Surveying firm partners asking them to assess their own business development prowess and probing for the obstacles preventing improvement. In almost every case you end up with low self-evaluation of skills and many obstacles to success. This is your business development training outline and justification—especially when you present your results in conjunction with the client retention and business development productivity in the bullets above.

    The Real Secret to Adding Big

    The budget gains are based on way more than good analysis alone. The CMOs have been working on their efforts for 2 years or more. They sought out advice and counsel from friendly partners and were evangelists for their cause—able to preach at every available moment without crossing the line to being a pain. They lobbied hard within the firm. And, these CMOs presented the needs in digestible chunks which all fit neatly into a strategic framework when put together.

    The budget increasing CMOs jumped all over their firm’s strategic planning process. They made their voice heard so it could not be ignored—trying to own as much of the process as possible—even if it meant working outside the process and feeding their thoughts and data to key partners.

    What’s Happening to the Rest of the Marketing and Business Development Budgets

    Overall, the legal marketing budget outlook is stable and continues a very slow path forward. The typical law firm will spend 2.53% of firm revenue on marketing and business development up from 2.5% of revenue in 2017. This is an almost stunning contrast to the law firms making the big investments.

    The pace of change is slow. But as long as a measurable number of firms change their approach to investing in business development—everyone else has to worry. And the firms boosting their budgets have to execute while the race for clients throttles up a little bit more.


    *This new research is based on more than 159 in-depth interviews with law firm marketing leaders conducted from May 1, 2017 to October 20, 2017.

    7 Stages of the Best Marketing & Business Development Performances

    Law firm performance falls into 7 distinct stages based on how many of the 10 power marketing practices each firm adopts. Each law firm falls along a spectrum of marketing and business development behaviors defining how far you’ve come—or how far you have to go. The firms who have adopted more of the tactics show better performance—and in the case of the Pacesetters: vastly better.

    Setting the Pace for Law Firms

    The Pacesetters, at 10.8% of law firms, currently enjoy 8 times the growth with their top clients than other law firms. Most law firms are showing flat growth in the most important part of their client base; the Pacesetters are making substantial gains with the best and most important source of revenue. But the benefits don’t end here—these Pacesetters boast 4 times the growth in profits per attorney over the last 3 years. These firms are defining the leading edge of performance and show no signs of letting up.

    We found pacesetting performance at large, medium-sized, and smaller law firms. The common denominator: they adopt at least 9 of the 10 power practices and integrate these into their firms. The power practices include both infrastructure and behaviors, and Pacesetters have learned to integrate these tactics into revenue-generating machines.

    6 groups of law firms stand behind the Pacesetters. These are, starting with the stronger performances:

    BelieversClosing in on the Pacesetters

    Believers have progressed to adopt 6-7 of these tactics. These firms are in a position to catch the Pacesetters (who have adopted 9 or 10 of the pacesetting tactics) if they can add 2 more tactics to their MBD approach and integrate these new approaches into their firms. We found just as many Believers as Pacesetters at 10.8% of all law firms.

    The StridersPoised to Move Forward

    Striders are strong performers. The Striders build on their infrastructure and processes to position themselves to quickly move to a market-leading position—if they act. These firms have embraced 4 to 5 of the market-leading MBD tactics, which is just not enough horsepower to drive the firmwide growth or growth in the top client base. BTI’s analysis shows 16.2% of law firms are Striders.

    Task MastersReady to Commit

    At 24.3% of all firms—Task Masters are the single largest group. These firms have taken the first steps for law firms looking to grow, but have not pulled them together in a cohesive strategy. These firms have successfully implemented 3-4 of the core market-leading MBD tactics. They have focused on discrete strategies and tactics proven to drive pockets of strategic growth and would benefit greatly from adopting more of the 10 power practices.

    DabblersStill Getting Their Feet Wet

    As a group, Dabblers have adopted a few of the key strategic MBD activities (such as dedicated client teams and tracking client retention), but have not built out the infrastructure or depth market success demands. These firms are less formal in their approach with attorneys and MBD practices in general—only occasionally adopting one of the 10 power practices. Dabblers reap few of the financial rewards enjoyed by their cohorts.

    NomadsTrying to Find Their Way

    Nomads have adopted only 1-2 of the core MBD activities proven to drive growth and bigger client relationships. These firms are beginning to take steps towards a more advanced law firm growth strategy, but are informal, decentralized, and operate with a small set of tactics. The perils for this group are great as they begin their journey, but the opportunity greater. The risk of not moving forward dwarfs the risk of making changes  to move up the curve. Approximately 11% of law firm are Nomads.

    Cave People

    14% of law firms are have yet to adopt any of the 10 core marketing and business development tactics proven to drive growth—these are the Cave People. This group has neither a formal strategy nor an established set of tactics they rely on to drive growth. This group doesn’t believe in developing a systematic approach to marketing and business development. The Cave People will find success more and more difficult to achieve unless they change their approach.

    Where You Are and What This Means

    Almost every law firm is working to get an edge in the market. From adding laterals to launching new websites and adding a new CRM, law firms make changes to help them grow. These steps are valuable, but strategies and tactics sit at the epicenter of growth. 40% of firms (Striders and Task Masters) have some of the building blocks and infrastructure in place. This means about ½ of all law firms have significantly fewer power marketing practices in place—and, the firms with the most power practices will ultimately separate themselves from the pack. The number and nature of the tactics you adopt will define who you are, your growth—and your profits.

    Learn exactly what steps to take to make it to the top with BTI’s newest report, BTI Guide to Maximum Marketing & Business Development 2017, where you'll see the details on what the top performers are doing differently than everyone else—and step-by-step tactics for how you can implement, and improve, these programs at your firm.


    And don't miss the posts from this week's Marketing and Business Development Week:

    Climbing the Marketing and Business Development Mountain [Infographic]

    Learn exactly what steps to take to make it to the top with BTI’s newest report, BTI Guide to Maximum Marketing & Business Development 2017, where you'll see the details on what the top performers are doing differently than everyone else—and step-by-step tactics for how you can implement, and improve, these programs at your firm.

    Are You Pursuing the Right Clients?

    Cracking the code to business development offers significant financial benefits. So why have only a select few—10.8% of all law firms—figured out a marketing and business development strategy to drive faster growth and build bigger relationships than other firms.

    Jennifer Dezso, BTI Principal, walks through the first marketing & business development strategy to implement or improve on to join this elite group: selecting and pursuing specific target clients and prospects. 

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

    For more information or details on this new report, please visit:

    The 10 Secrets of Pacesetting Law Firms

    Only 10 marketing tactics really matter. Out of the dozens of tactics, protocols, and activities available—there are 10 driving superior performance. Time and money at every firm are always at a premium, and everyone—from Managing Partners to Marketing Coordinators—is looking for the secret sauce to stretch every last dollar and every last hour. The firms using the 10 marketing “must-haves” have found the formula to outperform everyone else.

    BTI analyzed 160 law firms using more than 25 performance metrics. We then analyzed performance over a 5-year period to eliminate luck and unique, nonrecurring events. Firms embracing a client-focused approach to the market enjoy 8 times the growth with their top clients than other law firms while also growing profits per attorney 3.7 times faster than other firms.

    The 10 strategies below drive these outsized performances:

    1.  Targeting the Best Clients and Prospects
    Revenue growth for firms targeting specific clients and opportunities is 10x–15x higher than it is for firms not taking this approach. Targeting specific clients enables firms to better understand the individual opportunities they are pursuing and craft customized messaging to these clients—increasing the odds of closing new business.

    2.  Client Teams—With the Money to Make Them Work
    While client teams have long been a structure used by firms to improve client relationships, only 44% of firms have given these teams dedicated budgets to invest real money and time in growing the client relationship. Dedicated budgets fund the activities helping firms make their largest client relationships even bigger—nearly 8 times larger than the firms who don’t make this additional investment in their client team program.

    3.  Listening to Clients with Systematic, Objective Client Feedback
    The ROI for law firms conducting formal client feedback is staggering: when firms conduct formal client feedback across a broad swath of their clients, relationships with the firm’s largest clients are 4x–6x larger than firms not taking the time to reach out and objectively listen to their clients. What firms learn from a formal client feedback interview gives them the information they need to exceed clients’ ever-rising expectations, better serve clients, and outpace competitors vying to get new business.

    4.  Client Service Standards—Words to Live By
    Client service standards are a small set of high-impact protocols defining what the client’s experience with every single person at a firm should look like. When firms adopt—and truly live by—these standards, their growth in profits per attorney is 1.5x higher than firms not applying a consistent client service experience across their firm.

    5.  Spending Money to Grow
    On average, the typical large law firm dedicates 2.5% of the firm’s revenue to marketing and business development. The best-performing firms boost this investment to 2.8%—nearly $8,000 more per attorney—in order to win more work than others.

    6.  Spending Time to Grow
    The Managing Partners at the top-performing firms spend more than 50% of their time on direct client development activities. The result of these efforts: nearly 2x higher revenue growth and 3.5x higher growth in profits per attorney. The amount of time a firm’s Managing Partner spends on client development is a proxy for how committed a firm is to soliciting input from clients and ensuring their clients’ needs are being met.

    7.  The Power of a Formal, Written Marketing & Business Development Strategy
    When firms have written objectives and definitions of success in place, relationships with the firms' largest clients are 5x larger than firms without a formal strategy. Additionally, revenue growth is more than 15% higher for firms with a plan for how they want to draw in and keep clients. Having a formal, written marketing & business development (MBD) strategic plan provides a sense of direction and outlines measurable goals for everyone within the firm to use as a guidepost.

    8.  Dogmatically Tracking Client Retention
    The firms measuring their success at keeping and developing existing clients enjoy 16.5% higher revenue growth and their client relationships are 2x larger than firms not tracking their client retention rates.

    9.  Including Goals for MBD in the Firm’s Strategic Plan
    Focus the energy, resources, and time of everyone at the firm around the marketing and business development actions required to successfully execute the strategic plan. The firms embracing this approach have seen nearly double the revenue growth of firms not including the MBD goals in the firm’s strategic plan.

    10.  The Buck Stops with a Single Individual
    Less than 15% of firms have a single individual accountable for the firm’s client service delivery. This often overlooked activity has substantial payoffs for firms. Having an individual committed to ensuring the firm is delivering the highest levels of client service results in 8% higher profit growth per attorney and larger client relationships—nearly 8x larger than firms without an individual assigned to this role.

    Each of the above activities on its own substantially impacts a firm’s financial performance, but putting them together forms the most effective toolkit of marketing and business development activities to drive the type of performance few firms achieve. Your competitors might be working on each of these right now. If you’re not, which activity are you going to start with?

    Learn exactly what steps to take to get started with BTI’s newest report, BTI Guide to Maximum Marketing & Business Development 2017. We share the details on what the top performers are doing differently than everyone else—and step-by-step tactics for how you can implement these programs at your firm.


    The Most Underrated Trends in Legal Marketing

    The best opportunity for growth lies in getting more business with existing clients. The typical law firm can triple the amount of business they get from a single top client. Yet, this is the least appreciated approach to the market.

    Client Development Is Used So Little and Offers So Much

    The single biggest underrated trend in legal marketing today is client development—by a factor of more than 2. This dovetails with the large number of CMOs who see broad market outreach as overrated and who want to be more focused in their approach. Client development includes the following key tactics:

    • Systematic objective client feedback
    • Client teams and team activities backed by a budget
    • Developing client-specific CLEs and tools
    • Training clients in key issues
    • Training the client team in client preferences and business issues
    • In-person client visits

    These may be viewed as underrated because the best-performing firms (from a revenue and profits standpoint) are using these tactics with great success. But, they are generally flying under the radar at most firms. You can start your client development initiative by finding the partners who believe—every firm has them—and build on your success.

    Social Media—Love It or Hate It

    Social media is the most polarizing of the trends. 13.1% of CMOs see social media as an underrated trend versus 21% who see it as overrated.

    Wondering who is right? Start following the attorneys who blog, tweet, or post videos on a regular and systematic basis—at least weekly. Then watch for those attorneys who are thematic and have a story to tell. If the social media outreach continues over time, then you can be sure some kind of high-quality lead flow is behind it. Social media is too much work for no results.

    Many legal marketers (and attorneys) have high expectations for their social media outreach—with more than one CMO expecting overnight success. The instant nature of social media defies the amount of time and effort success actually demands. Those who say social media is underrated have built the infrastructure to support the social media efforts and developed the ecosystem to bring in big-time results—including new clients they didn’t expect to get.

    Ultimately, we think a small number of law firms and attorneys will get big results from social media. These social media winners will carve out a differentiated brand, a following, and the most attractive clients—because the best clients make it their business to know who the legal thought leaders are—and want to do business with them.

    Where the Most Underrated Trend Is Internally Focused

    22% of law firm marketing leaders believe bringing work process redesign to their departments is bringing vastly unrecognized rewards. CMOs have too much work and too many deadlines. With processes in place they are able to unlock new levels of productivity. This, in turn, makes their work life happier and they’re able to find more time to devote to higher-level activities. They are using the time to help practices with their strategies and other client-facing initiatives.

    These internal work processes include embracing proposal automation, content management (especially for rankings and directories), embedding experience databases in proposal development tools, and more. Not every firm is willing to invest, but the investors can feel the boost.

    Is the Sun Setting on Broad Market Outreach?

    CMOs don’t want to rely on broad market outreach as their driving force. They clearly want to focus on clients—and specific clients. This includes strategic account programs, client teams, and industry teams. These tactics include strategic prospecting and much more strategic use of content than is in the market today. And finally, it is hard to see success without social media playing a role.

    BTI has been helping firms inside and outside of law develop and implement client-centric programs for 27 years. I welcome the opportunity to help you move the over/under to a winning bet. You can reach me directly at to discuss options for your firm. 


    *This research is based on interviews with more than 180 law firm marketing leaders conducted over the last 12 months.

    Surprise: Directories Not the Most Overrated Marketing Tactic

    Who knew?

    Common wisdom would tell you the annual holiday card and rankings are the bane of a CMO’s existence. Not true. It turns out broad market outreach is the single most overrated and underperforming trend in marketing today. Our research with law firm marketing leaders shows broad market outreach must be especially unproductive as they see this as more overrated than rankings, which come in 2nd, with social media coming in 3rd. Here’s why:

    1. Broad Market Outreach

    Shouting out to a wide range of potential clients is tiring and deceptively expensive; yet, it’s 43% of the legal marketing budget. CMOs will tell you it has to be done because partners demand it (and it is easy to confuse having a large crowd on a webinar with marketing success). CMOs know this is not success—it is the tip of the iceberg in the work required to actually attract a new, meaningful client.

    But let’s not pick on webinars solely. Broad market outreach includes brochures, sponsorships, monographs, and email alerts. If it’s nonspecific outreach it’s in here.

    CMOs who have managed to limit their broad market outreach do so in small steps. They’ve found ways to convert practice leaders and partners to their way of thinking—one at time. These law firm marketing leaders keep detailed records on outreach bringing in clients versus outreach generating attendance. They then argue the partner is better off with clients than attendance. It may be a slow approach—but this is the long game which will win. And, once you persuade one partner to convert broad outreach to something more targeted, your 2nd conversion will be less difficult—and the 3rd will be less difficult yet.

    2. The Biggest Surprise: Rankings Are Only the 2nd Most Overrated Trend

    Rankings will haunt CMOs for their whole career because of the level of preparation required. Partners like to send the listings to clients to help branding. Firm leadership use rankings to show attorneys where they stand and how things may have changed. Attorneys especially relish having rankings in their bios and for proposals—the winners see them as one more point of differentiation.

    Rankings can make certain clients feel better about hiring your firm or an attorney; however, rankings will rarely drive the hiring process. A number of clients may check attorney bios after they have made the hiring decision and feel a bit better when they see some sort of distinction. Rankings will increase a client’s confidence before they get to know you, and will also confirm they’re smart once you have the relationship.

    3. Social Media

    21% of CMOs can’t see a way to break through the clutter of content flying through the legal ether. These CMOs don’t believe clients pay attention to social media. They also don’t believe their attorneys have the discipline to implement the kind of systematic program which can break through the clutter in a meaningful way.

    Social media is still the Wild West for attorneys and corporate counsel alike. We also see more small firms embracing social media as a way to gain a big voice.

    Overrated Trends Point to New Thinking

    These overrated activities reveal new insight into CMO thinking. Law firm marketers are looking for ways to up their game—including finding places with better odds of generating business. A number of CMOs tell us the primary reason these activities are overrated is they play too big a role in their marketing mix. They want to move their firms to embrace more effective, innovative approaches to developing clients and marketing the firm.

    On the other side of the coin, law firm marketing leaders share their underrated trends—strategies which don’t get enough airplay but deliver better returns. We will discuss these next week—stay tuned or subscribe now.


    *This research is based on interviews with more than 180 law firm marketing leaders conducted over the last 12 months.


    Half of CMOs on Road to Burnout

    In some ways it’s a CMO’s dream—demand exceeds marketing supply. CMOs face a record level of RFPs and now carefully orchestrate between 50 and 500 directory submissions or more—all coming due at the same time. This alone can absorb major capacity—before adding in all the daily tasks of running the department, mentoring, partner requests, events, webinars, sponsorships, web updates, PR, client teams, a string of special projects, strategic initiatives—and life. The CMO cup runneth over.

    Unfortunately, the surging demand is taking CMO attention far, far away from ROI. More than 3 times as many CMOs (48%) worry more about getting their work done than showing ROI (14.9%).* Whenever the need to complete daily work exceeds all other priorities—you have all the makings of burnout.

    CMO Workload Stunting Growth Too

    Another 23% of CMOs also see resource constraints as the 2nd largest obstacle to law firm growth. CMOs have no time for the strategic and proven drivers behind revenue growth (think partner support, client feedback, client teams, industry programs, content marketing)—these law firm marketing leaders are too busy trying to get through the day without dropping any balls.

    The Urgent Drains the Strategic

    Thought-provoking strategic work provides the fuel to make dealing with the urgent easy. Take away the fuel and all of a sudden you are running on empty. The best CMOs thrive on the energy of making an impact. Focusing on the urgency created by lack of resources sucks the positive energy out of the most enthusiastic person—and leaves them with only a large, laborious to-do list.

    Beyond Grousing

    C-Level executives never have enough resources—typically, no more than 11% to 15% see this as an obstacle—it’s more a way of life they work around. But, law firms are facing almost half of their CMOs telling them resource constraints are hurting the business—3 times the number you would expect.

    Law Firms Facing a Tough Decision

    We know law firms spend substantially less on marketing and business development than other professions. Law firms are facing a decision point: the law firms who start adding high-caliber resources can and will develop an advantage over those who don’t.

    CMOs will have to take a break from the urgent to develop a strategic pitch for more resources. These CMOs can learn from the top legal marketers who have earned trusted advisor status.

    The firms who don’t feed the marketing and business development beast risk falling behind the 52% of law firms who don’t see themselves as resource constrained—and also run the risk of burning out their CMOs.


    *Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 150 law firm marketing leaders between June 2016 and September 2016.

    Only 20% of CMOs Trusted Advisors

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    Advisors bring deep knowledge and insight. Trust means you are relied on. Only 20% of CMOs feel like they are both. The bulk of law firm marketing leaders believe they are supported, respected, and well thought of—but—they have not yet gained the coveted trust.*

    CMOs who believe they are relied on for their knowledge act differently. Their advice and counsel to all others aspiring to become trusted advisors includes:

    1. Speak your voice. Don’t wait to be asked—offer your thoughts and opinions.
    2. Be ready—and welcome the chance—to defend your position against the kind of cross-examination only a world-class litigator can deliver.
    3. Be sure to construct your thoughts in a positive manner.
    4. Learn the art of being diplomatic and firm.
    5. Know the lay of the land—don’t argue and present ideas you know everyone is against.
    6. Sell your ideas to key partners individually and get their input before making formal recommendations to a committee.
    7. Say no when asked to engage in low value-added activities.

    Most CMOs need time to develop these skills, especially developing their voice. You will gain these skills by observing others who have attained trusted advisor status. You can practice your own skills in your department or smaller-scale meetings. Most of all, the trusted advisors build these behaviors into their daily life. You can start with one behavior or with all of them—but starting and building your skills is the key path to follow.

    Getting Close to Trusted Advisor

    41.7% of law firm CMOs, twice the trusted advisor rate, describe themselves as respected and supported by the partners in their firms—but have yet not made the leap to trusted advisor. Respect and support are precursors to becoming a trusted advisor. These CMOs have the challenge of converting respect into trust. Respect is hard enough to earn—but successfully transferring this into trust demands more to win over the partners. You can take the advice above and look for ways to spend more face time with partners.

    The overworked world of the CMO makes face time a rarity—but face time, dialogue, and helping partners be more successful will help you cross the divide in your favor.

    CMOs on the Market?

    Just over 1/3rd of law firm CMOs believe their relationship with their firm’s partners is somewhere between tentative to skeptical. These CMOs are fighting an uphill battle and feel like they get little accomplished. Many of these relationships are difficult to convert to a more productive status. Some will fight the good fight to make new friends and influence partners—but some, especially those where partners are skeptical, have one foot out the door.

    Law firms who add an element of skepticism or a tentativeness to the CMO relationship mix are putting their revenue streams at risk—if for no other reason than the firms with trusted CMOs are focusing their energy on clients and developing business, while the skeptics question why they should. 


    *Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with more than 150 law firm marketing leaders between June 2016 and September 2016.

    Attorneys Pose Biggest Obstacle to Law Firm Growth

    “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
    POGO, April 20, 1970
    Walt Kelly, Creator and Author

    Market forces pale in comparison to attorneys as the biggest obstacle to growth at law firms. Law firm marketing leaders believe no-growth markets and ever more demanding clients have less impact than attorney resistance.

    25.2% of CMOs and law firm marketing leaders name their lawyers as holding their firm back during more than 150 far-reaching interviews BTI conducted with them. This is up from 18.6% in 2014. We are in the 9th year of no growth. The pressure to develop business grows as the market becomes tougher. The attorneys who resist are fighting an increasingly uphill battle and it is the firm’s responsibility to provide the tools and training to overcome the resistance.

    Much of the resistance comes from attorneys having limited to no business development experience. They are concerned about how to initiate the process, questions they might be asked, and not knowing how the process is likely to unfold if they do reach out to clients. In addition, the resisters don’t realize delivering superior client service is a potent form of business development.

    The only proven tactic to remove the attorneys as obstacles to growth is to train them. We recommend training in 3 tiers:

    Tier 1 – Advanced Business Development Skills for only the high-potential business developers. This training focuses on the art and science of developing large chunks of business and developing new clients.

    Tier 2 – Core Business Development for the attorneys who show an inclination or interest in business development. This training introduces the tools and practicalities of developing business—including mock client meetings for conducting initial meetings and how to follow up.

    Tier 3 – Client Service Training teaches all client-facing partners the skills and provides the tools to deliver superior client service—with the understanding superior client service is a potent form of business development. There are few partners who would not benefit from this training.

    Your use of staggering the training by skill and inclination enables you to drive success with the attorneys most likely to be successful. It also changes the culture of the firm as the leadership illustrates how they invest in business development. Finally, the tiered approach to business development training creates incentive to become good enough to reach the most advanced training—creating a clear path to rainmaker and creating more rainmakers in the process.

    The Silver Lining

    We are the enemy and we are the solution. Every law firm has the power to change and overcome the obstacles in their way. And no one understands the problem better than the firms themselves. Now, every law firm can overcome these obstacles. 


    Reallocating Your Marketing and Business Development Budget

    The Mad Clientist discusses ways your firm can keep up with Big Law marketing and business development budgets in today's Mad Clientist Minute.

    And don't miss an extended discussion of law firm marketing and business development budgets, client service tactics, and our annual overview of today's market in BTI's Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2017 this Thursday, January 12.

    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.

    Targeting Clients With A Market of One Approach

    This week's Mad Clientist Minute takes a look at how focusing your marketing and business development on a specific client can generate a greater rate of return on your efforts.

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

    The previous video Jennifer Dezso references can be found 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.

    The Law Firms with the Most Marketing Mojo

    The legal world is even more exciting than we first thought. Not only is high-rate work reappearing but more law firms are getting their marketing mojo on—and some way more than others. Our exclusive in-depth interviews with 159 law firm marketing leaders reveal the law firms they most want to avoid pitching against are:

    • Cravath
    • Jones Day
    • Kirkland & Ellis
    • Latham & Watkins
    • Quinn Emanuel
    • Skadden

    4 firms—Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, and Skadden are all repeats from last year—showing continuous marketing mojo. Cravath and Quinn Emanuel upped their marketing mojo this year to join these high performing firms.

    We note Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, and Skadden are also are members of the BTI Litigation Fearsome Foursome for all 6 years BTI has published this analysis. Quinn has also been part of the Fearsome Foursome in 4 out of 6 years. Both Cravath and Latham are ranked as Awesome Opponents. This suggests these firms have a rare cultural ability (and brand) to make competitors take pause.

    Clients also rank Cravath, Jones Day, Kirkland & Ellis, and Skadden as longtime top client service performers.

    What’s Driving Marketing Mojo

    Clients and law firm marketing leaders alike describe the key attributes of marketing mojo as:

    1. Unabashed Hunger to Win—The law firms with the most marketing mojo believe winning is monumental. There is no room for just another pitch. If it were merely a routine pitch—they might not be pitching at all. They want to focus their resources on places where they can win—and win big.
    2. Over Prepare—Competitors report these firms show up more prepared and ready to discuss substance. Top legal decision makers note these firms talk less about themselves than competitor law firms.
    3. Going Off-Script as an Advantage—Any halfway decent pitch will provoke clients into throwing out some nugget of information or insight about themselves which is new and important. This happens every time. Most firms let this insightful comment slip by untouched because they don’t want to go off-script. The firms with the most marketing mojo realize this offhand comment is a gift and leap off script to learn more about their potential clients.

    Law firm marketing leaders name another 7 firms bring their strong marketing prowess to bear and come in close behind the Marketing Mojo firms. These law firms are:

    • Cooley
    • Hunton & Williams
    • King & Spalding
    • Littler Mendelson
    • Morgan Lewis
    • Perkins Coie
    • Wachtell Lipton

    You can learn more about the law firms marketing leaders would rather not pitch against in our new, complimentary report
    BTI Marketing Mojo 2017: The Law Firms Marketing Leaders Don't Want to Pitch Against.