Client relationships are the lifeblood of any law firm. Not just clients—but client relationships. Anyone can pick up cases—but building an ongoing relationship with robust energy and a continuing stream of work is hard. Very hard—but more than worth the effort.
The law firms with the best client relationships enjoy better performance than all others. This includes large firms, mid-sized firms, and small firms. Show me a firm with strong relationships (not matters but recurring relationships) and I will show you a high-performing firm.
BTI probed more than 650 top legal decision makers about all aspects of their law firm relationships. This enables us to dissect the strength and potential of each client relationship. No law firms submit clients and we don’t suggest names. The law firms and nature of the relationships all come solely from clients.
Latham & Watkins enjoys the strongest relationships of all law firms. This helps explain their meteoric growth and profits. The firm has been working at it for more than 10 years and has always been ever so close to the top—now the crown of best rests with Latham.
Jones Day, Skadden, Davis Polk, and Gibson Dunn round out the top 5. Mid-size firm Kramer Levin comes in at number 10—proving you don’t have to be a mega firm to have the best relationships. (Willkie with 700 attorneys comes in at number 28 to further bolster this argument.)
Some law firms have really upped their game in the 2 years since our last report, as 15 of the 26 firms in the BTI Power Elite are new this year. Please join me in congratulating the following 26 firms for developing the best client relationships of all law firms:
1. Latham & Watkins
2. Jones Day
4. Davis Polk
5. Gibson Dunn
6. Morgan Lewis
7. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
8. Arnold & Porter
9. Jenner & Block
10. Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel
13. Paul, Weiss
14. Kirkland & Ellis
16. DLA Piper
19. Sullivan & Cromwell
20. Hunton Andrews Kurth
21. White & Case
23. Reed Smith
25. Morrison & Foerster
26. Irell & Manella
The BTI Power Elite have more of the strongest relationships than any other firms. But they too have to look behind them.
Clients identify 34 law firms showing substantial underlying strength—BTI Power Players—who are right behind the BTI Power Elite. The Celebrities are the 9 firms garnering exceptional mindshare and clients are inclined to use them for substantive work. We found 27 trusted law firms (The Special Forces) are poised for special situations. These firms have more core relationships than 70% of all other law firms—but earn fewer unprompted recommendations—clearly an opportunity to boost client service and earn more business.
We found 188 law firms with the opportunity to truly leverage their client relationships into something bigger and stronger. The Underdogs are fighting all the firms above—but everyone likes a comeback story—so clients are not only likely to notice but are likely to embrace the new performance you can bring.
As we discussed last week, the law firms who know their position outperform those who don’t. Your standing with clients defines your strategy, the level of investment, and the effort required for success. You can map yours now in the just released report BTI Power Rankings 2016: The Client Relationship Scorecard—including a ranking in each of the 18 industries.
You can assess the strength of your firm’s client relationships through BTI’s in-depth client feedback—and use it to improve client strength and revenue.
Based on more than 650 in-depth interviews with top legal decision makers conducted between March 2017 and April 2018.