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    Congratulations on your Bankruptcy… and Other Client Service Turkeys

    Thanksgiving is right around the corner and The Mad Clientist would like to give thanks to the attorneys delivering some of the year’s more egregious client service turkeys. The Mad Clientist shares these true stories from corporate counsel in the hopes we can learn some lessons—and have a few laughs. 

    Let Me Help You Help Me

    From an email a NY law firm partner sent his client prior to BTI’s in-depth client research:

    “I’ve attached the questions my firm wants to ask you. Management is on a real client service rampage so I don’t see how I can get you out of this. Obviously, anything you can do to make me look good would be appreciated. I’m not sure how this will factor into my comp, but you saying good things can’t hurt.”

    Congratulations on Your Bankruptcy

    From BTI’s annual research with legal decision makers—an EVP at a major retailer shared:

    “I kid you not:  after we filed for bankruptcy, I got a note from our law firm saying, ‘Congratulations on getting the deal done!’  Don’t they have any control over what goes out the door? It was unnerving and very inappropriate.”

    I’m On Your Side…Sort of

    From BTI’s client feedback interview with the General Counsel of a large financial services company:

    “Our company has been investing a large amount of money in new products for the consumer market with the ultimate goal of growing our market share. Our in-house attorneys are part of the product development team so we can keep an eye on regulatory issues. Each week, the in-house lawyers debrief with our law firm to provide updates and discuss the regulatory implications.

    After 4 weeks, we realized our law firm had shot down every single idea we proposed. 

    It’s like we were talking to a government regulator rather than our own lawyer.  During these meetings, the lead partner would say, ‘When I put on my regulatory hat…’ and spend the next half hour explaining to us why we couldn’t move ahead with our plan. 

    Finally, I sent the Managing Partner of the firm a box of 6 company hats. I put a note in the box asking his attorneys to wear my company’s hat instead of the regulator’s hat.

    The Managing Partner changed the team and we got two attorneys who helped us strategize our way through the issues. But why did I have to piss away 4 weeks?” 




    Strategic Envy: Strategic Planning’s Second Deadly Sin

    “We want their profits.”

    “Their clients should be our clients.”

    “We should offer the same services they do.”

    “They use project management.”

    “They don’t use Six Sigma.”

    “Our firm would enjoy those results…let’s do what they’re doing!”


    We start with the best of intentions. We want to learn how to improve performance. Sometimes we’re simply satisfying our curiosity—who has the highest profits? Who’s doing the best deals? Who has the clients we want? The list goes on. We analyze the competition to understand what’s happening outside our own doors. Sometimes we see amazing, or even eye-popping numbers, and it’s hard not to look a little closer at what those firms are doing.

    But, for many firms this becomes a misguided distraction. Instead of adapting a winning strategy, they adopt one. These distracted firms aim for market-leading results without understanding the strategy to get there. Unfortunately, these results are the tip of a large iceberg. Hidden underneath is the complex ecosystem of formal and informal metrics, training, tools, and even failures the firms delivering the best results have endured. This ecosystem is nearly invisible.  

    Strategic envy—setting a strategic plan based on achieving the results of another firm—is the second of the 7 Deadly Sins of Strategic Planning. Strategies based on strategic envy will:

    • Take focus away from market opportunities
    • Undervalue existing operating strengths and sources of advantage
    • Emphasize weakness in the organization 
    • Ignore adopting metrics and operating standards 
    • Aim for different results while clinging to their same culture—without realizing the culture drives the results
    • Relegate clients to a backseat in the implementation and planning phases—meaning these firms become less client-centric 

    The most successful strategic plans find new ways to leverage strengths, make smart investments in resources, and—most importantly—optimize the existing culture and behaviors of the organization with the goal of improving performance. The most successful firms:

    1. Build goals around available opportunity—or create opportunity
    2. Emphasize the needs of existing and aspirational clients
    3. Use high-performing competitors as points of comparison—not the endgame
    4. Set clear objectives based on the firm’s overall goal
    5. Define how the objectives will impact resources
      –  Do you need more—or less—resources in certain areas
      –  Do you need different resources
    6. Adopt clear metrics and operating standards to guide behavior
    7. Identify the behavioral changes needed to ensure success
      –  Hint: If you think you don’t need to change behavior, recheck your plan. A change in goals always requires a change in behavior.
    8. Understand how any changes will impact your current clients

    This isn’t to say businesses should ignore what’s working in the market. It’s to take what’s working and make it work for you and who you are.

    Plan accordingly.

    Stay tuned for the third deadly sin of strategic planning in this ongoing series…




    Don't Sell to People Who Don't Want to Buy

    Some clients just don’t bite. No matter how good you are or how well-suited you are to meet their needs, there are clients who just won’t buy from you. Successfully selling professional services is largely based on personality and chemistry. In any given professional services sector, 60% to 70% of decision makers are a match for your skills and—more importantly—your personality. With the other 35%, something just doesn’t click.

    It is good business to pursue the best (and highest spending) clients, but sometimes the chemistry is missing. While it’s hard to resist the lure of the one who got away, be careful to not let fantasy take over when there’s real money to be made elsewhere. Too frequently, we take refusal as a personal challenge. There’s a push to spend our limited resources on converting disbelievers who never intend to buy instead of focusing on the majority of buyers who are a good match. 

    Are You a Chemistry Major?

    The Big 4, prominent IT consulting firms, and leading management consultants are chemistry majors. Before engaging in a pitch, these organizations assemble hand-picked pitch teams. Using initial conversations and communications, a team is selected along 4 dimensions: industry knowledge, experience, skills, and anticipated personality fit.

    You need 2 pieces of information in order to conduct a successful chemistry meeting:

    1. Understand the personalities and potential chemistry fits for the individuals at your organization.
    2. Understand the personalities and potential chemistry fits for clients and potential clients.

    Achieving the first piece of information is relatively simple. The second piece is trickier.

    The following questions take initial discussions with clients well past the scope of work to uncover what it will take to drive a valuable relationship:

    • In similar projects handled in the past, what issues have proven to be a particular challenge?
    • What lessons learned would you like us to keep in mind as we move forward?
    • What strategies adopted in the past are you comfortable—and uncomfortable—with?
    • What pressures or mandates have you received from management regarding this project?
    • Which competitors do you watch most closely?

    Use this insight to assemble your best available resources for the pitch. Having client chemistry is the difference between a client paying premium rates and one second-guessing your every move. Which client would you want?

    Which brings us back to our first point: don’t sell to people who don’t want to buy. If you have a hard time matching the chemistry of your organization to a client’s, warning bells should sound. Listen to them and move on. 




    To Boldly Grow Where No Legal Market Has Grown Before

    You can find opportunity in every market—up, down or flat—the only question is which of the many strategies will work. The legal market has reached the point where each market opportunity demands a different strategy. BTI’s new research, based on 330 interviews with corporate counsel, reveals corporate counsel have hit the reset button. New spending is now popping up as new priorities and new trends (the good and the bad) take hold.

    1. To Grow Where No Legal Market Has Grown Before
      After shrinking in 2013, the US market for outside counsel services grows in 2014. And the good news continues: this is expected to last through 2015. Expect growth for all but 2 practice areas. Corporate counsel tell us they are planning to increase spending in 15 of 17 practice areas; sparking growth (admittedly some will grow imperceptibly) in 2015. The 2 noted exceptions: real estate and litigation will see declines. However, 8 practices are considered to offer above-average market growth and access to premium rates.

      Cybersecurity/Data Privacy emerges as a major market opportunity with spending on cybersecurity-related issues crossing the billion-dollar threshold. This quickly growing area promises 2 to 4 mega-cases each year and an abundance of large, complex matters.

      Strategy impact: The gateway for law firms looking to capture clients’ big-ticket spending is through smaller assignments focused on assessing risk and compliance. Be prepared to provide a side of counseling while you work for the larger matter.

    2. The Localization of Global Work
      Global organizations continue to increase their US legal spending. Companies based outside the US are in growth mode providing a steady stream of transactions, labor and employment issues, regulatory conflicts, and strategic IP issues—all originating in the US legal market. More than 50% of the law firms serving these clients are outside the AmLaw 50.

      Strategy impact: Come armed to discuss the business implications (more so than the legal consequences) their organization can expect.

    3. Litigation’s Glory Days Are Gone
    4. 3 years of litigation spending declines and another on the way for 2015. Corporate counsel are committed to reducing their litigation spending—and dockets. Resolution rates (settlements) are soaring. Work is starting to move in-house while organizations cut the number of bet-the-company matters. 

      Strategy impact: To capture volume in the face of declining spending (and be positioned to win the major bet-the-company work when it arises), think about the litigation market in terms of early triage, smart staffing, and creative fee structures.

    Reset markets—those with shifting patterns—offer advantages to law firms with more market-centric approaches. Firms with their finger on the pulse of the market have already started to change their strategies. Other firms will hit their own reset button and try to leap frog competitors.  

    Click below for more highlights from the brand new Legal Spending Outlook 2015.


    Better. Stronger. Faster. Building the Bionic Practice Leader.

    We have the technology. We can build a better Practice Leader.

    Practice Leaders serve as the front line in driving growth. They are the first set of feet on the ground—developing your markets, client relationships, and the people in your firm. Yet law firms tell us they frequently struggle with finding the right Practice Leaders. The difficulty lies in knowing whether someone can deliver results and inspire others to do the same.

    Most firms believe the strongest Practice Leaders were destined for their rock star status; attributing success to intangible qualities like charisma, determination, or intelligence. But BTI’s research shows the Practice Leaders consistently delivering outsized results share 3 traits.

    1. Extraordinarily present

      The best leaders are never distracted or too busy. Clients, partners, and staff are convinced they have 110% of the Practice Leaders undivided attention. Mobile devices aren’t checked, there are no glances to their watches, and they do not interrupt your conversation to talk to someone else. Nothing else exists except you and your task at hand.

    3. Build consensus to drive action

      Hours, days, even months can be wasted in trying to find the root cause of a problem or obstacle—and even more time is lost in developing the perfect solution. The highest performers don’t analyze a problem to its core. They quickly and succinctly identify problems to get everyone focused on the solution. The strongest Practice Leaders solicit input from their partners on proposed solutions and build consensus around the actions to drive performance. This approach drives enthusiasm and energy around action—not intellectual understanding.

    5. Decide and act quickly 

      Standout practice leaders are more comfortable making decisions with less information than others. Not every angle needs to be examined before an informed decision can be made. Much like clients complain about padding the bill with research hours, leaders can spend valuable time analyzing instead of acting. Strong Practice Leaders act swiftly and clearly communicate decisions to act. They also are the first to change course if new information demands a different course of action.

    The message: stop looking for leaders and build one.

    Leaders are made—not born. Once they understand the approaches and principles to drive success, Practice Leaders can transform and enhance an entire firm.


    Get the tools to build your own bionic Practice Leaders with the upcoming BTI Legal Spending Outlook 2015: Your guide to targeting the best opportunities in 17 practice areas. Order now.


    The 7 Deadly Sins of Strategic Planning

    Business strategy can drive stellar performance. But, leaders of professional services firms tell BTI the planning process is often constraining, restrictive, and frustrating. Some see it as glorified budgeting and others describe it as “a millstone hanging around my neck.”

    Strategic plans range from elaborate, formal, lengthy processes with large written documents to short, focused meetings outlining yearly objectives. No matter the format or approach, the goal is the same: find a direction for the firm to drive growth and sustain success. But each year, 72% of strategic plans fall short.

    Working closely with professional services firms for 25 years has shown us success comes in many forms and the strategies are as unique as the firms adopting them. But the failures are universal and provide important lessons for every firm.

    In this 7-part series, we discuss the 7 Deadly Sins of Strategic Planning.

    Variety may be the spice of life, but variety will suck the life out of any strategy.

    Click to read more ...


    The 4 Most Feared Litigation Firms and 6 Firms They Fear

    We have nothing to fear, except the Fearsome Foursome. 4 law firms have the striking ability to make opponents take pause; wondering if moving forward is worth the fight. Clients change their litigation strategies before a case starts when they know they will face any one of the Fearsome Foursome. These firms strike fear in clients—and law firms alike—when seen on the other side.

    There are more differences than similarities between each of the 4 firms bestowed this honor by corporate counsel, but 3 characteristics are present throughout:

    1. Execution. Much is made of the innovative, no-holds-barred litigation strategies law firms discuss, but client say few firms are effective at turning a strategy into reality. Each of the Fearsome Foursome instills fear by having the wits to formulate strategies and the will to make them happen.
    2. Commitment. These firms are all in. The Fearsome Foursome firms demonstrate an unbridled commitment to act in their clients’ interest. Opponents know the other side is ready to bring down the entire firm on this one case—in fact, a Fearsome Foursome firm is eager to do so.
    3. AGGRESSIVE. Assertive, dogmatic or domineering. Word choice typically depends on which side of the table a Fearsome Foursome firm is sitting. The outcome is the same: these firms will take risks other firms don’t.


    The 2015 Fearsome Foursome firms are: 

    Jones Day
    Kirkland & Ellis
    Quinn Emanuel


    Click to read more ...


    60% of Clients Replaced a Core Litigation Firm—The Law Firm Purge Has Begun

    BTI’s just completed research[1] with over 300 General Counsel finds two trends driving how the litigation market will unfold in 2015:

    1. Bet-the-company matters have dropped by 50%. 
      Aggressive settlement strategies and heightened focus on case elimination—not trial—sparks a 50% decline in bet-the-company matters over the past 2 years. Now clients are chipping away at the complex work as well, with the number of complex matters declining approximately 9%. Long-term, BTI expects these numbers will creep back up; short-term, clients are improving management of complex matters.

    2. Fully 60% of corporate counsel replaced at least one core litigation firm in the last 18 months.
      In their push to resolve and eliminate litigation, clients upend their roster of litigation law firms.
    • Work reassigned to a new core firm able to provide:

    – Faster turn-around times
    – More innovative approaches
    – Better client service
    – Systematic approaches to:

    - Settlements
    - Early case assessment
    - A sense of flexibility in approaching rates and fees

    • Institutional knowledge concentrated between fewer firms to promote streamlined approaches to case management

    Point 2 above is helping deliver point 1. 

    The law firms winning new work are now winning a greater portion of work than in prior years.

    Click to read more ...


    Business Development Lessons from Hannibal Lecter

    The answer is right in front of you...”

    —Hannibal Lecter to Clarice Starling, FBI Trainee, in The Silence of the Lambs

    The key to new business is right in front of you. The typical law firm has about 23% of the business they could be getting from a top client. But, the real mind bender here is the number of General Counsel I interview who say:

    “Don’t they want more business from us? They sure don’t seem to.”

    “They [my primary law firm] never pitch me or introduce me to other partners or practices—and I’m trying to work with a lot fewer law firms. Frankly it’s frustrating.”

    New business is sitting there, right in front of you, to grab while the getting is still good. You can go from capturing 23% to 75% of the work available to you by taking advantage of a single proven, powerful tool: Talk to your clients, and talk to your clients now.

    But how?

    Click to read more ...


    Corporate Counsel Shift Another $1.1 Billion In-House

    BTI’s first look at legal spending for 2014 and 2015 shows corporate counsel continue on a 3-year path of bringing work in-house. Larger companies, with $1 billion or more in revenue, are on track to move another $1.1 billion in legal spending in-house.[1] This is on top of the $5.8 billion corporate counsel moved in-house in 2013.

    In-house spending appears to be the new growth market. As reported earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal58% of companies report making the shift in-house, up from only 50% of companies last year. The work moving in-house includes:

    Click to read more ...