Aggressive client-facing initiatives—the one reason why 15 firms are new to the BTI Power Elite 2019. These firms are acting on a targeted set of high-impact strategies—with teeth behind them. The BTI Power Elite are driving their client service and client development initiatives further than all other law firms. This includes:
Adopting and posting relationship strength and client service performance indicators
The firms with the best client relationships rely on powerful indicators to track strength and momentum. These indicators include:
Client service performance—quantitative and qualitative measures—including BTI’s 17 Activities Driving Superior Client Service
Net effective billing rate by client (total fees collected by total hours billed)
Client retention annually for each major client
Annual and 3-year growth for each major client
New business generated from each existing major client
Number of practices delivered
Meetings to discuss issues outside of current work
Self-assessment by the lead relationship partner
Number of new client needs
Number of unsolicited proposals submitted
Net effective rates from unsolicited proposals
These indicators look at the client relationship from all angles, including client service and business development. BD is important because the best relationships grow. The financial indicators are essential as you make more money, and enjoy the higher productivity, resulting from strong relationships. An increasing net effective rate can also be a leading indicator of a strengthening relationship.
Training in client relationship development
The BTI Power Elite don’t leave much to chance. These firms train their attorneys in client service—some splitting into beginners and advanced. In most firms, attorneys learn from each other—but training ensures all the attorneys are working with the best knowledge base and strategies.
These same firms also train their attorneys in business development. BD skills not only generate revenue, they also build client relationships and keep competitors out.
Adopting client service standards across the firm
Client service standards define how attorneys interact with clients. These are the rules of client engagement. The standards govern communication, project management, client visits, and the steps to take to better understand your client’s business. These standards define excellent performance for all to understand—including clients. Client feedback is the most effective tool in serving as the basis for developing client service standards—this ensures the standards speak to client expectations and demands.
Enforcing client service standards in a meaningful manner
Client service standards are just nice promises without a meaningful commitment to meet these standards. The typical BTI Power Elite firm has tools to enforce the client service standards including:
Self-reporting of the activities and deadlines defined by the standards
Internal publishing of activities
Client feedback to rank firm performance in the client service standards
Performance audits by attorneys and/or staff
Advanced client teams
The BTI Power Elite rely on highly developed client teams going beyond the typical client team. These advanced teams develop long and short-term client plans. The team has a clear leader accountable to the client, with designated lieutenants.
The client is part of the team—providing input into certain aspects of the plan such as staffing, strategic objectives, budgets, billing protocols, communication protocols, and defining business risk. Larger clients also take part in law firm led strategic planning for the legal department. The best firms deliver all this in a coordinated, highly orchestrated manner. Everyone works together.
Large-scale systematic client feedback
The typical firm leader conducts an average of 12 client interviews per year. The BTI Power Elite firms conduct between 30 and 150 or more. One conducted 40 interviews at a single client. Client feedback doesn’t just inform—it drives action, improves performance, and engages clients. The benefits of larger-scale client feedback initiatives are vast. They include:
Generating ⅓rd more business per client with their top 50 clients than other firms
35% higher client retention
More than double the fees from a single client
7% rate premiums across all staff levels
Adopting and training attorneys in client communication protocols proven to improve relationships
You can’t have a strong relationship without strong client communication. These firms define the most critical aspects of client communication including:
Matter start up
Staff changes and additions
Your communication around these issues can make or break any client relationship. These firms provide sample dialogue, case studies, mock client discussions, and tools such as meeting outlines to ensure meaningful and timely client communication. This robust communication drives client confidence and, in turn, drives higher rates and stronger relationships.
Using activity-based metrics in addition to quantitative metrics to change and improve partner tactics to build deeper client relationships
Activity-based metrics define behaviors known to produce good outcomes. Examples of activity-based metrics include:
In-person client meetings to discuss issues
Taking a client facility tour
Offering unsolicited proposals
An activity-based metric ensures attorneys are engaged in the most effective and impactful behaviors. We recommend providing a menu of proven activities and ask each attorney to pick 2 they are comfortable with. Provide the training and the tools, ensure the attorneys implement in a timely manner at 2 of their top clients—and watch client relationships start to strengthen and grow.
Adopting any of the strategies above improves client-facing performance. You are best served by investing big in a smaller, but targeted list. Each of the strategies above brings big impact. Not every firm in the BTI Power Elite is doing everything here, but each is deeply invested in a few strategies—and a few is all it takes. Learn more about these firms in the newly released BTI Power Rankings: Client Relationship Scorecard.
We have advised, designed, and helped implement some of the best client relationship-building programs in the world. I am happy to talk these through with you.