Clients' Short Lists Get Longer

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Everyone wants to be on the short list. And clients are adding to them, lengthening their lists by 6.4% this year over last. The short list is the first stop before clients make a hiring decision. The process starts with the firms on the short list and moves on from there.

The law firms enjoying a strong position on clients’ short lists in the just-released BTI Brand Elite 2019 are:

 
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Learn how to earn and keep a spot on clients’ short lists, 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.

Skadden Reclaims Best Brand: 18 Firms Move Up in New BTI Brand Elite

Skadden reclaims its position as the best-branded law firm. Benefiting directly from the increased complexity and uncertainty clients face—clients rank Skadden as the firm to turn to in bet-the-company situations more than any other firm.

Fully 18 firms in the 28 Brand Elite firm improved their brand over last year. These firms include:

 

• Skadden
• Morgan Lewis
• Gibson Dunn
• Kirkland & Ellis
• Reed Smith
• Hogan Lovells
• McGuireWoods
• Davis Polk
• Seyfarth Shaw

• Orrick
• Paul, Weiss
• King & Spalding
• Covington
• Mayer Brown
• Norton Rose Fulbright
• Squire Patton Boggs
• Ropes & Gray
• Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

 

Quinn Emanuel makes its debut on the BTI Brand Elite—the 28 law firms with the best brands. Quinn is on an ever-growing number of clients’ short lists and has improved its client experience to the point where the firm’s brand is among the elite—and attracts inbound referrals.

A total of 6 law firms return to the BTI Brand Elite:

 

• Seyfarth Shaw
• Orrick
• King & Spalding
• Covington
• Squire Patton Boggs
• Ropes & Gray

Only 7 law firms earn a place on the BTI Brand Elite for all 8 years we have ranked law firm brands. Please join me in congratulating:

 

• Skadden
• Jones Day
• Morgan Lewis
• Hogan Lovells
• Sidley
• Baker McKenzie
• Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

You can learn about the detailed changes in your firm’s brand and compare it to competitive law firms with your copy of BTI Brand Elite 2019: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.

BTI conducted more than 694 interviews with top legal decision makers to single out the law firms with the best and strongest brands. Each of the CLOs provided detailed answers and explanations—and have deep opinions about law firm brands.

12 Tactics Branding Your Law Firm and Boosting Hirability

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A better brand means better hirability—a strong brand makes you much more attractive to clients.

BTI’s brand new research with corporate counsel shows 28% of law firms are strengthening their brand in the eyes of clients. Of these, more than half improved their brand to be ranked at all-time highs—making them the firms to beat to win new work.

36.8% of law firms suffered a drop in their brand, as ranked by clients. Top legal decision-makers see the brands of these firms as having less impact on decision making—so getting hired is harder. A weaker brand means you do more work to get access to new business.

The most common way law firms dilute their brands is inaction; particularly in the face of more aggressive firms actively building the strength of their brand in the market.

Only a few actions truly impact the strength of a law firm’s brand in the eyes of clients—these are broken into 3 categories:

  1. Direct Experience

  2. Transferred Experience

  3. Indirect Experience

Direct Experience

Direct experience will always be the strongest driver in leaving your brand imprint on a client. This includes:

  • Delivering legal services

  • Well-designed websites

  • Client service initiatives; including client feedback, client teams, and client service standards

  • Your pitches

  • Watching your firm from the other side of a matter

  • Attorney bios

  • Interactive thought leadership (such as custom CLEs, webinars, and training sessions)

  • Value-driven digital conversations (typically social media and blog interactions where clients learn new approaches to better manage risk)

  • Memorable encounters where clients and prospects quickly see the direct impact you can have on their business; typically, these occur by active participation in:

    • Trade Associations

    • Industry networking opportunities

Transferred Experience

Transferred experience is the 2nd most powerful way your brand is built up in clients’ minds. This type of strength is built through:

  • Referrals and recommendations

  • Client-to-client conversations about law firms

  • Client comments about law firms in:

    • Articles

    • Social Media Posts

Indirect Experience

Indirect experience ranks 3rd in the small set of activities able to leave a positive imprint on clients, including:

  • Passive, but relevant, thought leadership, such as:

    • White papers

    • Speeches at industry events

    • Quotes in publications

    • Email newsletters—with personal commentary on the relevance to the client

    • Non-custom seminars and events

    • Generic websites

On the other hand, there are a number of activities proven to have a limited impact on clients and prospects—and can sometimes even confuse and dilute brands. These low-impact experiences include:

  • Traditional advertising

  • Brochures

  • Single sponsorships

  • Entertainment

The law firms with improved and better brands are going out of their way to drive more direct experience with clients and prospects. Look for more on exactly how they are doing this in a future post.

You can learn exactly where your law firm stands, including a history and comparison to 8 law firms of your choice, in the about-to-be-released BTI Brand Elite: Client Perceptions of the Best Branded Law Firms 2019.

MBR

Law Firms Embrace Funky Billing, Go Rogue

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Clients are seeing the funkiest and even what they describe as “slippery bills” from their law firms. We are not talking about isolated incidents; fully 38% of clients tell us about slipshod bills—doubling the 19% of last year. Why are clients using such strong language? Judge for yourself:

 
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And then consider:

 
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Law Firms Going Rogue

Clients reporting rogue law firms triples to 20%, up from a mere 6.8% last year. These top legal decision makers point to law firms performing what they sincerely believe to be unauthorized work. This includes research, negotiating with the other side, agreeing to new terms and conditions, and communication to the other side without pre-authorization. And, clients learn about the work in the worst ways—from the other side or through deciphering invoices and figuring it out.

Clients realize scope changes happen and law firms may have to do work not easily anticipated. What they don’t understand is why they learn about it through invoices or by accident. Clients believe most of these changes can be seen in advance and they have a right to know— it’s an entitlement—not a courtesy.

The Antidote

Unfortunately, this impacts all law firms as clients up their scrutiny and question scope more. There is no better antidote than keeping your clients in the loop. Update clients before they ask. Share any new events in real time, inform clients when there is no change in circumstances, and even when things are going just fine. Don’t use invoices to communicate progress or staffing plans—over communicate to make sure your client not only knows—but hears what you are saying.

MBR

Only 7 Things Drive Law Firm CMOs Crazy

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CMOs are quick to point out how the attorneys are the best part of the job. But, some attorneys do a good job of driving them absolutely crazy.

4 of the 7 sources of CMO frustration start with attorneys—a small number of attorneys, but attorneys none the less. Attorneys don’t have an exclusive on driving CMOs to the brink—daily life and strategic issues play their role too.

Let’s talk about the attorneys first.

4 types of attorneys are driving CMOs crazy. They break down into the following groups:

Marketing and Business Development Skeptics

About 10% of attorneys are true Marketing and Business Development (MBD) skeptics. These attorneys don’t see how CMOs can help them—and show no interest in learning. Some are loud and vocal, and openly question your plans and attempts to help. Other MBD skeptics question CMOs in private because they are in the clear minority—but take up too much air time in the CMO world—and drive them crazy.

The Apathetic

Worse than MBD skeptics, these attorneys just don’t care about MBD initiatives. They go along as if the MBD department isn’t there. They interact only when they absolutely have to—and sometimes even then they ask not to be included.

The Jerks

They still exist—and do a great job of driving CMOs crazy. The jerks bring unpleasant, and sometimes nasty comments. They are more troublesome than the 2 groups above because they are loud, active, and go out of their way to share their thinking. The best CMOs learn to let this water run off their back and move on. Fortunately, the number of jerks has decreased to less than 5% of all partners, but their impact is much larger than their footprint suggests.

Distracted Attorneys

Attorneys can have short attention spans. But the distracted attorneys bring new meaning. These often well-meaning attorneys, move from one topic to another with lightening speed. They don’t stay in place long enough to get any traction—and they request individualized help to support their ongoing stream of ideas.

Moving away from attorneys, CMOs point to the following 3 issues as driving them crazy:

Directories and Rankings

The workload and high attorney demand drive CMOs crazy. Attorneys bring a high emotional investment in making the rankings—but most of the workload falls squarely in MBD department. This can be a double whammy because a small but measurable number of the attorneys not making the rankings become jerks and skeptics.

No Strategy

These CMOs are working hard but are not sure where they are going. They see no sign of a firm strategy or vision. This not only dilutes the CMOs’ efforts but takes away guiding light. These CMOs are among the few who have a bird’s eye seat to multiple strategies and wasted resources. These same CMOs see the power of using the resources for a limited number of strategically coordinated initiatives.

Workload

Think of it as a form of job security. Demand exceeds marketing supply. CMOs face a continuing stream of RFPs before adding in all the daily tasks of running the department—mentoring, partner requests, events, web updates, PR, special projects, and a string of strategic initiatives like client teams, client feedback, and industry teams. Simply put, the CMO cup runneth over.

BTI’’s exclusive research shows the largest firms (think Am Law 30) are adding staff, as are the Am Law 31 to 100, and the Am Law second 100. This is not enough staff to fuel the demand. But the resource-short departments learn to prioritize and manage expectations to deliver what their firms need and expect.

The Good News

Successful CMOs know how to successfully navigate these frustrations—and they would do it all again. They know what experience counts and what’s worth caring about. As we discussed a few weeks ago, the most successful CMOs also shared 7 lessons they learned to make sure they don’t let their responsibilities or people they deal with drive them crazy. You can’t read this advice too many times.

MBR

22% of Clients Bring on New GCs: New Game, New Rules, New Rates

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22% of clients are disrupting the market right now. These are the new GCs. Half of these have been in place for less than 12 months. Another half have been in place 23 months—just enough to get their sea legs. We see 2 big implications for law firms:

  1. This is only the beginning of a trend. The growth rate in retiring baby boomers will increase before it drops—expect a steady stream of new GCs. Plan ahead and develop a standard set of protocols to welcome all new GCs—and build yourself some serious relationships with this untapped source of new business.

  2. Almost every new GC puts out an RFP for legal services somewhere between 18 and 24 months into their tenure. Take control and offer to help write the RFP. Avoid the RFP by introducing yourself and befriending the new GC early on. Help with onboarding and start the conversation about complexity.

Here is what these new GCs are thinking and facing:

Starting When Risk is the Highest it’s Ever Been

The new GCs entire tenure started as the surge in risk and uncertainty hit the market. This is their version of normal. They look at life solely through a high-risk filter—quickly assessing situations, comfortable with intuition combined with data, and are looking for someone to share opinions with. They know their success demands they make decisions and make them quickly.

Comfortable with Complexity

The new GCs dive into complexity head first. They want to sort it out into its component parts and solve the core issues. They want outside counsel who is comfortable dealing with complexity and unequivocal in their approach—and advice.

Total Cost is More Important Than Hourly Cost

New GCs look at the big picture when it comes to cost. Hourly rates don’t mean low cost. These new GCs figure out which firms will deliver and what the total budget will be—the firm with the lowest hourly cost rarely offers the lowest total cost.

Working Smarter

New GCs know they are in the best position to spot redundancy, overlapping communications, and processes where their useful life is over but still in practice. They are diving in and making changes in the work process and communications with one goal—streamline. This ability to improve efficiency is unique to new GCs.

Double Whammy—an Acquired Company

A number of new GCs are stepping into merged companies who just made acquisitions. This dual challenge of being new to 2 companies brings out the best in these new GCs as they focus on integrating people and systems—on top of sorting out risks and legal issues.

You Can’t Get Me If You Don’t Talk to Me

New GCs tell BTI they are downright shocked at how few law firms reach out to them when they initially take the reins. These new GCs have their own agendas. Any law firm who fails to reach out is unintentionally telling new GCs they don’t want to get to know them.

Amazing Coaches

A few law firms step up and not only welcome and say hello to new GCs—they also work to provide a successful onboarding experience. The firms share current priorities, history, back story, and offer counsel on how to be successful. These partners are cherished.

BTI’s exclusive research shows the number of new GCs has doubled from 11% in 2014. As we discuss at the beginning of this post—this trend is on the rise. Use it to your advantage.

MBR

7 Ways Client Service All Stars are Different: You Can Implement Them Now

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Each year, The BTI Client Service All-Stars manage to up their game. They know how to push client service beyond its current limits. They know how to break through not only the clutter of competition, but the self-imposed client service limits some attorneys face. Here are 7 examples of superior client service you can learn from, emulate, or just copy.

1. “She knows how to break complexity down into its simplest parts.”

All-Stars sit with their clients and point out where they need to make decisions and where they don’t. They help evaluate the risk with each decision and share their opinions. The Financial Times Uncertainty Index is at an all-time high—corporate counsel face more complexity than ever before—making those who can simplify complexity truly prized.

2. “She always helps me see the business risk and then helps me shape the message to management.”

Top executives never ask corporate counsel about legal risk—they ask about business risk and exposure. Probing executives want answers in these same terms. This is where the BTI Client All-Stars step in—they help articulate the business risk and the current state of exposure. They will test the message and help their client prepare a response.

3. “Any and every commitment is set in stone. He just delivers.”

Certainty in delivery eliminates one big worry for top legal decision makers. Clients want their deliverables so they can be reviewed, changed and thought about before passing them on. The BTI Client Service All-Stars always deliver when they say they will—if not earlier. This certainty is the difference between clients feeling fully prepared or not.

4. “He is down to earth and knows how to get things done.”

No over studying here. The BTI Client Service All-Stars use their experience, insight, analytical skills, and their client’s knowledge to get things done. Things don’t become ethereal and everything is geared towards decision making and action.

5. “She provides pointed and unequivocal advice.”

My recommendation is to be unequivocal—like The BTI Client Service All-Stars. The All-Stars play it straight. They voice their opinion, give their reasons why, and help their clients think things through to completion. These All-Stars are clear and confident. Clients appreciate the candor—even when clients don’t like the recommendations.

6. “It’s like she has a no mediocrity policy.”

Everything comes across uniformly excellent. Not only are thing on-time, they meet high quality standards and client expectations. Everything single email and deliverable from the All-Star’s client team meets these same standards as well. On the rare occasion they don’t, clients consider it an aberration—not a mistake.

7. “He is watching my back even when I am not.”

Providing a list of questions your client may be asked is impressive—providing the answers makes you a BTI Client Service All-Star. Clients tell BTI their All-Stars think about them every step of the way; what to be prepared for—curves balls which may arise, dry-running a presentation, and even shouldering the blame when they make a mistake.

Superior client service is all about finding ways to not only improve—but redefine how clients think about you and what you do for them. There are no structural barriers to become a BTI Client service All-Star—the barriers lie in how we think about what we can ultimately do for clients. Use this post to learn what the All-Stars do—and hopefully, you can use them to come up with new, better, and ground-breaking ideas.   

MBR

Corporate Counsel Single Out 335 Attorneys with the Best Client Service—By Name

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Corporate counsel point to 335 attorneys—by name—who deliver the best client service. These are the BTI Client Service All-Stars 2019.

Corporate legal decision makers single out each BTI Client Service All-Star—by name and in an unprompted manner. No attorney or firm can self-nominate, self-refer, nor pay to be included in this report. Clients have the final—and only—say.

This year’s BTI Client Service All-Stars lineup is robust. We see return performances as well as new All-Stars who make their debut. They are all bound by a single theme—the ability to stand above the rest. A few of note include:

We are particularly pleased to honor 1 BTI Client Service All-Star:

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H. Rodgin Cohen, Senior Chairman,
Sullivan & Cromwell

Mr. Cohen is named a BTI Client All-Star for an astonishing 16 years.

Only 17 attorneys manage to make the BTI Client Service All-Stars for more than 1 year. These individuals can read and stay ahead of client’s rising and ever-changing expectations:

4 Consecutive Years:        

Edward D. Herlihy, Partner
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

3 Consecutive Years:

Ron Chapman, Jr., Partner
Ogletree Deakins
A. Craig Cleland, Shareholder
Ogletree Deakins
Jonathan M. Moses, Partner
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

2 Consecutive Years:

Soumitra Deka, Counsel
Arnold & Porter
Daniel P. DiNapoli, Partner
Arnold & Porter
Marc O. Williams, Partner
Davis Polk
David E. De Lorenzi, Chair
Gibbons
Elizabeth A. Ising, Partner
Gibson Dunn
Brian J. Lane, Partner
Gibson Dunn
John W. Ursu, Attorney
Greene Espel



Monique A. Cenac, Partner
Jones Walker
Kelly C. Simoneaux, Partner
Jones Walker
Andrew S. Marovitz, Partner
Mayer Brown
Peter J. Covington, Partner
McGuireWoods
William P. Geraghty, Managing Partner
Shook, Hardy & Bacon
Sabastian V. Niles, Partner
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Super All-Stars—2 Attorneys Named by Multiple Clients This Year:

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William P. Aiken, Shareholder
Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel

Mark Filip, P.C., Partner
Kirkland & Ellis

Cultivating Firmwide Success:
16 firms manage to develop more BTI Client Service All-Stars than other law firms. Please congratulate the following firms with more than 5 All-Stars:

Learn exactly what these attorneys do different from everyone else to stand out with legal decision makers and earn a prestigious spot among the client service elite.

Join us as we congratulate each and every BTI Client Service All-Star for their unmatched client service delivery.

You can download the complimentary copy of the full report here.

MBR

Based on more than 350 interviews conducted between March 20, 2018 and February 8, 2019

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

 

The Lost Secrets Behind Latham and Kirkland's Success

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There is more to this story than meets the eye.

Latham’s largest clients use an average of 21 of the firm’s offices. This doesn’t happen by accident. Kirkland didn’t close almost 10 deals a week last year through luck. The success of these firms is based on foundational skills, strong core building blocks—and well thought out strategies.

Their blocking and tackling skills serve as the underpinning of success. Here are the key (but unsung) parts of their outsized growth and profits:

Highly Selective in Targeting Clients

A select group of coveted clients have needs requiring law firms to deliver across multiple offices, drawing on numerous practices. Latham targets and goes after these clients with a vengeance. Their BD goals and efforts focus on getting and growing these clients. Kirkland puts their emphasis on private equity firms, starting with the largest.

Both firms also target the biggest spenders in largest spending industries where clients have ongoing needs. Latham and Kirkland draw on this strategy and use it to their advantage by targeting very specific clients who will drive their success.

Go-to-Market by Industry-Facing Groups

Becoming known in an industry requires more than a change in marketing—it requires investment. Kirkland began their biggest investment in the private equity market beginning in 1984 when the industry was in its infancy. Over the years, their Private Equity Ski Conference has placed them at the epicenter of the US private equity market.

Latham has made large scale investments in their industry facing programs. They use this to communicate their business understanding—the single biggest differentiator in the market.

Strategic Discipline

Kirkland and Latham stick to their plans. They monitor and adjust, but they give their efforts enough time to succeed. If interim results aren’t on target, they change the plan—not the goal.

They Know How to Make Lateral Partners Work

Both firms routinely pick off lateral partners and are among the small number of firms where laterals are successful. Both firms know how to bring laterals into their cultures. These firms know how to leverage each lateral’s book. And they do more due diligence in their laterals than most other firms combined.

Fewer but Bigger Investments

Each firm targets fewer clients, markets, and practices than other firms. They invest more capital and their best people. More money invested in fewer places yields a higher strategic ROI.

Client Teams

Latham’s client team program is more than a decade old. They are honed, have budgets, and are supported by money, people, tools, training, metrics, and infrastructure to make them work.

Culture of Strategy

The strategies at Latham and Kirkland are clear and concise. These firms articulate their strategies with energy and passion—engendering enthusiasm at the firm. They have few naysayers. The attorneys who don’t agree with the firm’s strategic direction, don’t usually stick around.

Focus on Existing Clients, but….

Near-term future success lies in developing existing clients. These market-leading firms are intensely focused on developing existing clients. It’s not only part of their strategy—it’s part of their culture and BD system. But these firms target new clients as well—often by name—to add to their stable. As we discuss above, each firm targets the clients who best fit their strategy and approach—and are the biggest legal spenders out there.

Invest in Business Development and Support

It takes a village, or at least a robust business development staff, to support these highly driven partners. We estimate each firm has 1 BD person for every 4 equity partners. This compares to 1 BD person for every 4.6 partners at the largest 3 law firms—and 1 BD person for every 6.2 equity partners for the typical Am Law 200 firm.

Share the Credit

Business development is usually a team effort—and an effort many firms don’t acknowledge. Latham shares credit for origination, support, or even a referral. You don’t have to close the sale to get credit. All the key players are recognized for their collective effort. This incentivizes all attorneys to do their part to win new work for the firm.

Talk to Clients—Directly and Indirectly

Kirkland and Latham base their growth strategies and tactics on many factors, including client feedback. Their approach is informed by client thinking. They know law firms can’t be successful without learning from and responding to client thinking.

Any and every law firm can adopt the tactics and strategies embraced by Latham and Kirkland. All firms can target the best clients (not the most prestigious—but the clients most likely to drive success). Every law firm can set up client teams, get client feedback, and with some work—change their business development credit system.

Some firms have embraced these tactics with a limited number of clients or opt-in programs. But, firms embracing this approach to the market across their major client base can expect to see results in as little as 14 months from any single change.

Kirkland and Latham have been at it for years—and offer proof of concept. Now, who will be next?

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.)

22% of GCs Unloved: Out of the Loop

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I’m the last to know and have to drive this thing to close. I don’t get all the facts, and everyone is waiting for me. It’s ass backwards.” VP and GC, Large Telecom Company.

The attorney able to show this GC how to change the dynamics and drive the results they want will earn a client for life. And not just this one client.

22% of all GCs feel like they are behind the 8 ball. They want to be out in front of issues; helping to get things done, or even things done faster, but these top legal decision makers feel stymied by their own organization. These GCs say they are excluded from relevant communications from upper management until the last minute. And then they’re playing catch up to deliver the results management expects. This is the biggest obstacle to getting what they want, and need, accomplished. These GCs tell us they can cope with being under appreciated; it’s being put in the position of bottleneck causing their personal frustration.

Law firms are in the unique position of being able to bring in an experienced partner, former GC, or a GC who is a friend of the firm, to help your client get out in front. Teaching these GCs how to anticipate issues, stay ahead, and add to the process creates lifelong friendships—and business.

This is only 1 of 5 obstacles GCs face in meeting their goals. The remaining 4 are:

Time

Unlike their stymied colleagues, these corporate counsel have more demands than time. They triage, prioritize, and delegate where they can. Ultimately, these decision makers focus on the top or urgent issues. They are master jugglers and are skilled in keeping many balls in the air.

This is 1 reason clients get so frustrated when they have to chase down outside counsel for budgets, updates, or key pieces of information. It creates even less time.

You can immediately help. Set up scheduled days and times where you will provide updates on matters and work for clients. Outline progress against the original scope and proactively notify clients of any changes before the scheduled update.

Resources

Resources come down to people and budget—and there just aren’t enough to go around. Like time scarcity above, this means prioritization and finding tactics to extend the budget.

Law firms are well served offering up AFAs, alternative staffing, secondments, or an occasional extra hand to add to the resource base.

Litigation

The growing complexity of litigation is stealing 10% of GCs psychic energy. Risk is growing to the point where it is all-consuming. Litigation attracts more and new litigation, and regulators. GCs have to stop and thoughtfully respond. The potential combined financial exposure from litigation is so large it has to be managed down—immediately.

Law firms who want to help their clients can offer strategic counsel and planning for these situations—both in the heat of battle and before with litigation prone clients.

Outside Counsel

A small but significant 4% of GCs say outside counsel is their biggest obstacle to getting things done. These GCs say their law firms are working towards cross objectives, don’t deal with uncertainty, and are being served by attorneys with no apparent leader. They make no progress and some law firms impede it.

Law firms holding their clients back probably don’t realize they are the obstacle—but these are the firms who do not ask for feedback and don’t provide timely updates. More formal and informal communication with clients is the number 1 way to ensure you are not your client’s biggest challenge.

Each client faces different obstacles. Your job is to understand which clients have what obstacles if you want to create a continuing stream of new business. You have many vehicles to ask clients about what holds them back, or BTI can ask for you. Your client’s obstacles are your opportunities. All you have to do is ask, and act.

MBR

(Based on more than 350 in-depth interviews with top legal decision makers conducted between September 2018 and January 2019 conducted by The BTI Consulting Group.)