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    Itty Bitty Goals—Strategic Planning's Fourth Deadly Sin

    The only thing scarier than a big goal is a small goal.

    Big goals are often wrongly equated with big risk. You are taking a chance. And you just might lose. But, a well-crafted strategic plan can reduce risk and point you to the strategies capable of delivering outsized returns.

    Small Goals only Masquerade as if They Have Little Risk

    The risk in small goals starts with your people. The influencers in your firm want something big and are often disappointed and feel stifled when constrained by small goals. Your people also become indifferent to the strategic plan—small goals end up sounding just another day at the office: maintain our market position; exceed market growth; become a preeminent player. Few people read or become engaged with a small goal strategic plan because they know exactly what to expect—more of the same. Small goals make strategic plans look more like operating plans complete with budget fights and negotiations.

    Big Goals Eliminate the Understated Risks of Small Goals

    The big goals catch and keep your people’s attention. Leaders and line partners become more engaged and invested in the outcome. These same partners will want to take bigger and bolder actions with their clients as they see these actions supported by the firm’s goals. Strategic planning documents are actually studied to see how they will reach this goal. Key people read the big goal plan and ask: What can I do to make this happen?

    But the benefits don’t end here. Your mover and shaker partners—the ones who will implement the plan—will be looking for an active role. The challenge and excitement of the chase are the food keeping the movers and shakers alive.

    The potential rewards from your big goal tell everyone the goal is worth changing behavior. The big goal, and its big reward, is one of the few proven tools to herd cats and get a partnership to march in a new direction. The big goal is more powerful than words as it shows intent. And big intent can drive big change.

    Examples of big goals we have seen drive success include:

    • Growing total fees from a firm’s top 25 clients 15% per year over the next year
    • Establish clear thought leadership in litigation as measured by the number of inbound leads, new clients and new business from existing clients at higher rates
    • Provide the gold standard in client service to surpass all other law firms serving our clients. (Backed by client service training for every partner and in-depth client feedback for the firm’s top 140 clients, including client service performance metrics as measured by clients.)
    • To gain at least 35% of the market share of the 100 largest and most active acquirers of companies in the world
    • Add 20 new clients (from a strategically developed list of 50 potential clients) in our 3 state region while growing revenue

    Small goals will typically preclude exploration of opportunity. We aren't looking for much so we can spend less time looking. The big goals drive exploration and new approaches which would otherwise go unnoticed. In short, the opportunity cost of small goals can be very high.

    And stay tuned for the fifth deadly sin of strategic planning in this ongoing series… 



    The 6 Traits of the Client Service All-Stars


    General Counsel Name 354 Attorneys Absolutely Best at Client Service

    Most attorneys are focused on building out the expertise and practice capabilities needed to tackle every client need. Relatively few focus on delivering the absolute best client service. Not good service—the absolute best. The BTI Client Service All-Stars are the exception: serving the client better than anyone else.

    14 years of research illustrates how hard it is and how strong a performance is needed to join the ranks of the BTI Client Service All-Stars. Just as a reminder—no attorney can self-nominate, refer a client to be interviewed, pay or otherwise find a way into the report. BTI went straight to the source—the general counsel and decision makers for legal services—to find out exactly which attorneys are truly delivering superior client service. We provide no lists, suggestions or menus—you earn this one on your own. This makes the congratulations all the more heartfelt and hard won.

    • First, congratulations go to H. Rodgin Cohen, Senior Chairman, Sullivan & Cromwell, who is a 13-year All-Star and the sole member of the BTI Client Service Hall of Fame.  
    • Only 3 attorneys deliver a 5-year continuous All-Star Performance:

    -  Leslie A. Lanusse, Partner, Adams and Reese
    -  William H. Pickering, Shareholder, Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel
    -  Kim J. Walker, Partner, Faegre Baker Daniels

    • 5 firms are on top with 7 All-Stars each—more than any other firm:

    -  Alston & Bird
    -  Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
    -  Jones Day
    -  K&L Gates
    -  Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

    • 2015 sets a record for the number of Associates nominated as BTI Client Service All-Stars:

    -  Jason W. Howard, Senior Associate, Alston & Bird
    -  Kathryn E. Johnstone, Associate, Baker & McKenzie
    -  Joel P. Stark, Associate, Baker & McKenzie
    -  Scott R. Davis, Associate, Beirne, Maynard & Parsons
    -  Jessica L. Nelson, Associate, Hinshaw & Culbertson
    -  Jayson L. Cohen, Associate, Morrison & Foerster
    -  Terry L. Gage, Associate, Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr

    Please join me in congratulating each and every one of the 354 BTI Client Service All-Stars who are reinventing client service. Click here for your complimentary copy of the BTI Client Service All-Stars 2015.  


    Crafting a Killer Proposal

    You’ve learned how proposals get no respect or love—hurting your chances of getting new business, and how to strategically select the RFPs which do merit your love with BTI’s RFP Go/ No Go checklist. After reviewing the checklist and deciding a proposal is worthy of a response, all you need now is a killer proposal, especially for those strategic must-wins.

    The killer proposal begins with your client: Your proposal isn’t about you. It’s about your clients.

    An Artisan Approach—At Least for the First Paragraph

    Start the very first paragraph—the very first sentence—with your clients’ name and their problem, issue and/or situation. Prove you understand what your client is trying to accomplish. Few things are more important than articulating you know exactly what you are getting into—and understand your (potential) client.

    Now Add a Healthy Dose of Insight

    Build on your compelling first paragraph by adding your best thoughts, ideas and insights into providing a solution, context or observation. Prove you can deliver by putting your ideas up front. The more you offer the better your chances. Clients are looking for evidence you will bring good ideas—and not just a list of skills—to their issues.

    Clients will hire the firms whose ideas they trust and like and ignore firms who don’t give them a sneak preview of their thinking. Every ounce of insight and context you add translates into 10 pounds of advantage.

    Partners are best positioned to write these insightful introductions as they are best suited to blend the legal and business insight clients relish.    

    Talk Benefits

    Clients want to know what they will gain by working with you and your firm. Most firms talk about their vast resources, experience in similar matters, and attorneys. These firms presume the client will see the benefit. Clients know you bring great resources and skills. What clients don’t know is how you will make the leap to using these resources to their advantage.

    Talking about benefits proves you understand your client’s situation—especially when you link the benefits to your client’s issues. How do you know what the client’s issues are? Research the client. Don’t assume the RFP tells you everything you need to know about the client. It doesn’t. Talk to the client. Even if the RFP says not to call, make the phone call. General counsel have told me time and time again they don’t know how a firm can respond in a meaningful way without a conversation. Think of the statement precluding phone calls as a tool to screen the tenacious from the rest of the pack.

    Just talking about your qualifications proves you understand how to get the work done—important, but not killer.

    Follow the 1 to 3 Rule

    Only mention your firm once for every 3 times you use the client’s name. This ratio ensures you are focusing your proposal on your client instead of just touting your firm.

    Cut the Length, A Lot

    You’ve crafted a custom introduction and talked about benefits. Now make it shorter.

    Hire a ruthless editor and shrink the proposal down to size. Decide how many attorney and practices profiles you will include before starting work on the proposal and stay within your limit. Develop a word budget.

    It is easy to make a long proposal and hard to make it short. It’s worth the effort.

    Few firms take the time and energy required to develop client-specific context in their proposal. The artisan approach will often fly in the face of the proposal machines designed to crank out qualifications, statistics and standardized descriptions of firms and practices. But, it’s all worth it when you deliver the killer work—which comes as the result of a killer proposal.



    Your RFP Go/No Go Checklist for Winning the Best Work

    Last week’s blog post was a call to action for law firms to reframe thinking about RFPs from lost soul of business development to bastion of opportunity to win work. All it takes is some love and respect—and a touch of strategy.

    Businesses thrive on making targeted, clear decisions. Strategic dabbling just doesn’t work. The same approach is true when reviewing and assessing RFPs. Not every opportunity is created equal. Other professional services firms (the Big 4, management consultants, financial services) live and die by using clear and decisive criteria when deciding which RFPs merit a response—and which do not. These organizations generate more business, develop more long-term clients, and drive improved performance by using formal, objective criteria to assess each opportunity. And live by it.

    BTI has crafted a downloadable, customizable Go/No Go Checklist for law firms to use when assessing RFPs and pitch opportunities. These criteria eliminate personal biases, potentially unprofitable clients, and wasted resources from the RFP approach. The criteria drive more business for the same or less effort.

    Click here to download the complete, customizable and complimentary RFP Go/No Go Response Checklist for your firm. 


    In our next post, we will discuss the keys to crafting a killer RFP response.


    Dragged Kicking and Screaming to the Perfect RFP

    Law firms work 4 times harder than 5 years ago to get a new dollar of business. This trend makes the following statements we’ve heard about chasing proposals and pitches all the more frightening:

    “This company is so big you don’t really need to have an existing relationship with them to get the work.”

    “He just accepted my LinkedIn invitation—I think that’s a really good sign.”

    “I practice law. Writing proposals and bids aren’t part of my job.”

    “We don’t bother responding to RFPs; it’s a waste of time. The only way to develop business is to network.”

    “Our marketing and business development department has a standard response for RFPs—I’m not sure why we don’t send it out to all potential clients.”


    Proposals, pitches, and pursuing new opportunities get no respect. 

    For the most part, law firms drag partners kicking and screaming into the bid process or take a cookie cutter approach to their RFP responses. Very little strategic thinking or effort is put into the process. This attitude results in a paltry 31% win rate for law firms.

    RFPs, pitches, and bidding for work are a necessary evil when it comes to business development. 

    The first step in developing a more strategic and effective proposal strategy is to ditch the cookie cutter and give the RFP the respect it deserves. Not every RFP is created equal.

    Understand the nature and type of proposal or pitch opportunity your firm is facing:

    1. Strategic Must-win
      This is the whale you’ve been hunting. You receive the request and the following words run through your mind: marquee client, new market penetration, high-profile, mega-bucks, long-term possibilities. Winning this work would fundamentally change the nature of a career, practice or even a firm’s business.

    2. Firm Builder
      The client or case opportunities providing a great addition to the firm’s portfolio. These opportunities keep good clients in the fold and add new good clients.
    3. Short-term Payoff
      These opportunities offer a nice piece of immediate business. However, the payoff and longer term potential of the client is mostly unknown.

    4. Routine
      Your basic, run-of-the-mill opportunity for new work. The work is mostly routine and there are no additional benefits for the firm other than billable hours.

    5. Newbies
      This is the opportunity you didn’t even know existed until the RFP arrived or the client procurement team called your office. Typically these include situations where a company is auditing their current panel of providers or are sending out a blanket RFP to the 50 law firms they thought of first. Craft a polite, professional decline letter unless this organization is already a client of yours.


    Once the nature of the potential opportunity has been decided, it’s time to show the love.

    Rainmakers and leadership partners love to get their hands on the Strategic Must-win and Firm Builder opportunities (The prestige! The potential! The bragging rights!). These are the opportunities everyone gets excited about and puts their best efforts into.

    But what about the Short-term Payoff and Routine RFPs? Usually there’s a lot less enthusiasm around these categories. It’s time to enlist the firm’s less senior partners and even associates. Give these attorneys the opportunity to cut their teeth on less strategic business development opportunities. They’ll bring new energy, build their skills, and save your firm the billable hours of more senior folks.

    Proposals have become the under-loved, underappreciated lost souls of business development. However, RFPs and pitches are a bastion of opportunity to win work. All it takes is some love and respect—and a touch of strategy.


    In our next post, we will discuss how to craft an effective go/no-go set of criteria to understand which proposals are truly worth your firm’s time and money to chase.


    Ignore Market Trends: Strategic Planning’s Third Deadly Sin

    Dealing with market trends adds a new degree of difficulty to strategic planning. This is especially true when the trends are anything but high growth. Not only do you have to come up with the right goals, you now need to either take advantage of external forces or at least take them into account.

    Most law firms want to know the trends, few want to face them head on. We can pinpoint 6 reasons:

    • Trends require explanation and proof to convince partners, and often leadership, of their impact
    • Leveraging anything but a growth trend is a relatively new phenomena which may demand new and untested tactics
    • There are so many trends it is difficult to separate the driving trends from the inconsequential ones
    • Trends connected with low growth or flat markets push law firms out of their comfort zone—and into dealing with the unknown
    • The metrics used to drive success will be new and different and need to be developed
    • We often don’t like the trends—slow growth, less work, rate pressure or increasing client expectations 

    Trends are agnostic and have no feelings. Virtually every trend has an upside. Unless the practice of law disappears from society entirely you can find an approach to take advantage of any trend. Your approach will be viewed by other law firms as bold, wrong, counterintuitive and with puzzlement. But, meeting trends head on means you will be positioning yourself for leadership.

    Click to read more ...


    7 Lessons from the Client Service A-Team

    Corporate counsel have identified the 30 law firms delivering the absolute best client service. The BTI Client Service 30 outperforms more than 650 other firms by a factor of 6 to land among the client service elite.

    It’s easy to dismiss client service as a nice-to-have soft skill. However, research shows the firms performing at best-in-class levels of service enjoy:

    • 30% higher profits
    • 7% rate premiums across all staffing levels
    • Double the fees from a single client
    • 35% higher client retention

    The BTI Client Service 30 all manage and think about client service differently than other firms. We found 7 profound differences:

    1. More Change for the Buck
    Changing attorney behavior is the single biggest hurdle BTI hears about when discussing how to boost client service performance. Few attorneys are willing (or more likely know how) to make the specific changes necessary to drive a best-in-class performance. 

    Click to read more ...


    BTI's Holiday Wishes 2014

    Season's Greeting From All of Us at The BTI Consulting Group!


    14 Best Opportunities for 2015

    Our analysis of more than 500 in-depth interviews with corporate counsel reveals prime opportunities for 2015. We see more opportunities in 2015’s legal market than last year. Don’t expect the market-breaking growth we had in 2006. But at least most of the shrinking practices are flat and the deep slashing of legal budgets has slowed. And a few areas are getting just a few more dollars.


    The 14 best opportunities to drive growth in 2015 include:

    1. Cybersecurity—growing 3 times faster than any legal market segment.
    2. Global companies will add $1 Billion to their outside counsel spending in the US.
    3. Regulatory needs in almost every industry are robust and high-priority.
    4. Class actions rebounds into growth mode and is poised to grow further after shrinking in 2012.
    5. Corporate counsel expect 310 new litigation matters in 2015. Each one offers a business development opportunity.

    Click to read more ...