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    Top Law Firm Brands as Ranked by Clients—The BTI Brand Elite 26 

    Brand drives hiring decisions and access to premium rates. With less than half the market able to identify a single differentiating characteristic of top law firms, it’s no wonder rate pressure and competition are rampant.

    Your brand can vault you to the short list of legal providers or land you in the discard pile.

    Just 9 factors are proven to break through the noise and elevate a firm’s brand and positioning with legal decision makers. While many law firms can deliver on 1 or 2 of these elements, the BTI Brand Elite 26 are the law firms excelling in nearly all of the 9 factors.

    The BTI Brand Elite 26 are creating the standard by which other law firms are measured. These firms have proven their ability to:

    • Gain bet-the-company status
    • Innovate in an industry often criticized for clinging to old-school approaches
    • Earn premium rates – despite the flat market

    BTI congratulates the 26 savvy law firms who have constructed brands compelling enough to stand out from a crowd of 650: 




    Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom


    Jones Day


    Baker & McKenzie


    Kirkland & Ellis


    Latham & Watkins


    Sidley Austin


    Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher


    DLA Piper


    Sullivan & Cromwell


    Foley & Lardner


    Norton Rose Fulbright


    Seyfarth Shaw


    K&L Gates


    Click Here for the Complete BTI Brand Elite 26


    Learn how your law firm, regardless of size, can use the 9 factors to differentiate in the eyes of clients and unlock growth. Immediately implement proven steps to drive new business with the detailed recommendations in the new BTI Brand Elite 2015: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms, available now.


    How Clients Hire: LinkedIn Edition

    LinkedIn is quickly moving up the hierarchy of potential attorney hiring activities.

    30% of corporate counsel point to LinkedIn as the best website of all the sites they visit—6 times greater than any other. No other site registered more than 5%. Corporate counsel say LinkedIn offers a vetted source of analysis, opinions, and commentary from connections they know and trust—making them take notice and initiating dialogue with those attorneys with the most compelling insight.

    Corporate counsel are actively expanding their network with the goal of broadening their knowledge base.

    Being the Voice Corporate Counsel Seek

    Corporate counsel are always looking for ideas, insights, and new thinking which impact their business issues. LinkedIn is not the source of breaking news. But it is the place for the first analysis, bold opinions and a clear voice. Corporate counsel are increasingly turning to LinkedIn to find these voices.

    Riding LinkedIn’s Growing Hiring Influence

    Invite every single client you have worked with in the last 3 years to connect, and be sure to insert their name in the invitation to personalize the message. Send a LinkedIn invite to every potential client the same day you meet—not only will you be connected—you will appear committed, proactive, and responsive.

    These connections give you the opportunity to go beyond networking to offering curated content, a far greater hiring influence.

    Showing You Have Your Finger on the Relevant Pulse

    Start by posting short articles or thought pieces. No time? Comment on and share articles. Corporate counsel like connecters too. You will need 6 or 7 shared items to start gaining traction. Over time clients and potential clients will start to recognize you as having your finger on the relevant pulse.

    And, LinkedIn itself may be a motivating factor to start now. LinkedIn is introducing Elevate—a new product designed to share articles and postings across all media—which will only accelerate LinkedIn’s influence as an attorney hiring factor.

    It starts with a lesson we all learned in kindergarten: Share. 



    One More Way Law Firms Fumble Best Business Development Opportunities

    Just over 2/3 of clients tell us the best new ideas they see coming from law firms happen during an RFP process. Somewhere among the sea of bland boilerplate submissions lies one scintillating idea, suggestion or nugget. One firm invested the time and energy to simply blow their potential client away.

    This begs an immediate question: why wait until an RFP to strut your stuff? Why don’t corporate counsel get their best ideas from their primary law firms who are in doing the work?

    We recommend you take a piece of your business development dollars and use it to fund an effort to find those new ideas, new approaches and changes you would make to improve things with your top clients—before they ever ask. Go to your client once a year and present your boldest and most compelling suggestions, ideas and priorities for change.

    Create a mock or unsolicited proposal to ensure your client understands how much you know and care about them. We recommend performing this analysis for your top 20 clients. 20 can be ambitious to start, how about 10, maybe even 5. Start with your largest or highest potential client. But start.

    Bring in the attorneys who have day-to-day operating knowledge and those who have strategic perspective. And for added kick, bring in one senior partner who does not know the client to inject an unbiased and independent opinion.

    This can seem like an expensive and time-consuming proposition but is one of the most effective client retention and development strategies. The cost of this highly-successful effort is dwarfed by the cost of losing a primary relationship



    Help Your Clients Deliver $9M in Value Right Now

    Chief Legal Officers generated $9 million in value in the face of the largest legal budgets seen in 15 years. New approaches to managing outside counsel, settling litigation, alternative fees, focusing on compliance, pushing budgets on law firms and providing more support to business units is paying dividends. And don’t forget, corporate counsel have moved more than $1 billion in house in the last year. The changes are paying off big time.

    More Value with Bigger Budgets

    Corporate legal budgets are at a 15-year high as measured in dollars spent. But, the average large company managed to reduce spending to .38% from .45% of revenue over the past two years. This means as companies grew larger the percentage spent actually declined. Chief legal officers were able to support more business with $9 million less.

    Largest Companies Gain Most Value

    Fortune 100 companies sport the biggest legal budgets and delivered the biggest gains in value. The Fortune 100 are able to generate the most value as they take advantage of their scale and large staffs. These companies also have more bandwidth to develop and test a broader array of management strategies to tackle some of the largest legal issues companies ever see.

    Smaller Companies Burdened with Higher Legal Cost Structure, for Now

    Companies outside the Fortune 500 saw a net decrease in value as these companies face an avalanche of regulatory challenges, have fewer economies of scale and a more diverse array of disparate legal issues. The very structure of the legal issues these companies face makes them more expensive to manage for now. We fully expect these companies outside the Fortune 500 to learn from larger law departments.

    Improving the Corporate Counsel Value Equation

    Law firms will want to be the first to help their clients figure out their value equation. What has happened to client spending as their companies have grown? We recommend you use BTI’s exclusive legal spending benchmarks to measure the value created—if the percent of the legal budget goes down while revenue goes up your clients are creating value. You can also use the metrics to help clients calibrate their spending by size and industry. BTI Legal Spending Benchmarks 2015 provides spending metrics and benchmarks for 14 different industries.

    You will have immediately helped your client develop a powerful story to illustrate the value each provides their company. Be the first to help clients deliver even more value—and increase your own.

    Download your complimentary copy of BTI Legal Spending Benchmarks 2015 today.


    Could it be Low T?

    Client relationships feeling a little sluggish lately? Losing some of the old vitality they used to have? The conversations, the vibe and the business you’re getting just don’t have the spark or energy they once had. You feel like they’re a shadow of what used to be.

    Is it Low T?

    Let’s face it—it’s natural for client relationships to start to lose their energy once they reach a certain age. It happens to most relationships—not just yours. But, you look around and see other, much older relationships which still have a special vibrancy.

    Chances are, they added a dose of T: Talk.

    A regular, and often daily, dose of talking to clients adds that old vitality to your good relationships. Even average relationships will experience an injection of vibrancy—and new business.


    You can safely adopt T-supplementation by calling one of your top 3 clients once over the next 3 weeks. Talk about how their goals for the year have shifted or what has to be done in the short and long term. Share one tiny insight which will help them. Just one. Remember: T-supplementation is quite powerful and best delivered in small doses regularly over a long period of time.

    Once you’ve started having calls you are ready for the next step. Move to a lunch or face-to-face meeting. T-supplementation requires careful preparation. Perform a search on news, new products, press releases and ask your client about one or all of what you see. Bring a mental checklist of topics with client focus—budget pressure, internal staffing and new demands on the corporate counsel’s office are sure-fire winners. Can you talk about something unique your client’s competitors are doing? Even better.  

    As with all supplements, you may not feel the effects of your T-supplementation immediately. You are more likely to experience a slow, steady build of increased vibrancy. You may experience immediate hiccups—clients who don’t have time to talk or meet—this is the relationship’s natural resistance to change. You can overcome this resistance by coming up with enticing topics—designed just for your client. You may have to ask for the meeting 3 to 5 times before your client believes you are not delivering just a placebo: the dreaded veiled sales call.

    You may have to experiment to get the dosage just right for each client. But keep changing the mix—you are bound to get the desired results after a couple of times. And the rewards overwhelm the time it takes to find the right mix of topics, timing and talk.

    Side Effects

    We find two main side effects from using T-supplementation:

    1. Possible discomfort from changing behavior and acting a bit outside your normal comfort zone

    2. Inner joy as you find new challenges along with your new business

    Warning: T-supplementation may cause jealousy in others.



    60% of Clients Replace Their Primary Law Firm

    60% of large clients have replaced one of their 2 primary law firms—the highest turnover rate in 7 years. The overwhelming reason—mediocre client service. The scary part—the client service isn’t bad—it’s just not great.

    Corporate counsel show shrinking patience for anything short of a superior client experience. Clients now believe even average client service costs them money and time—the 2 things corporate counsel have little of.

    Few if any of these new primary law firms gained their spots through RFPs. Almost all built their position starting as a secondary firm with smaller but substantive issues. As these law firms moved into a primary position, these firms then engaged in 2 driving activities simultaneously:

    1. Delivering superior client service
    2. Actively developing larger swaths of business

    Superior Client Service Is Your License for More Business

    Virtually each and every one of these firms moving successfully into a primary position had a clear plan. They would cultivate new business while continually making big gains in their client service performance. Too many firms focus on one to the exclusion of the other.

    Many firms believe their business development prowess will win the business. A few firms believe superior client service alone will win the business. The reality is—even the firms with the best client service also need to pursue new business.

    Client service is a license to get new business but is not necessarily an entitlement. The lesson: back up your superior client service with a plan to get new business.

    The spike in primary firm turnover is a warning bell. No law firm is safe or immune. Every firm planning on a robust future is compelled to protect their client base and then figure out how to turn their secondary relationships into primary relationships. Again, these are not RFP driven. These are the relationships we develop. Your partners will play a big role whether they want to or not. The first steps to protecting and then gaining primary relationships:

    1. Conduct in-depth client feedback on a large enough scale to cover your top primary and secondary relationships. Acquire client feedback for those clients you need to keep. You will learn where you are strong and where you are at the most risk. You also will learn what it takes to keep these clients.  
    2. Provide training in advanced business development skills. Building and keeping primary relationships is not for newbies and partners who don’t like developing business. This is deadly business. Train only those who can and want to develop clients. And give them the authority to make it happen.
    3. Form client teams, develop a plan, and train the team. This training is more focused on how to work as a team. Unleash the team on individual clients—and give the team a budget.
    4. Measure and track client retention for the firm’s largest clients on a year-over-year basis. Set a goal, a number-based goal, to improve retention and include it in partner goals. 

    59% of the new primary firms are from outside the Am Law 50 while 41% are in the Am Law 50. Both the largest firms and the more midsized firms are feeling equal impact—and neither is a runaway winner.

    Clients are shopping for client service. BTI research reveals most of the firms moving into the new primary roles are the same firms who have been gaining market share for several years in a row. These firms have a more developed formula for both keeping their existing clients and gaining new ones. 

    Large Clients Are Markets of One

    Each client you want to keep has now officially become a stand-alone market or market of one. Securing a new primary spot demands a focused plan, elegant execution and the resources to make it happen. With virtually no new growth in outside counsel spending, each primary relationship you gain is coming as another firm’s expense. Much like in Monopoly, the firms with the most primary relationships win.



    13 Unspoken Rules of Client Relationships

    Unspoken rules are the gifts which keep on giving for some and the bane of our existence for others. Those who know and live by these rules thrive and love what they do. Those who don’t work harder for less enjoyment and return—they may love what they do—but not quite as much as those who know the unspoken rules.

    13 unspoken rules governing client relationships emerged from BTI’s more than 14,000 client feedback interviews. Clients rarely speak these words directly to their service providers, if ever. But, clients see these rules as part of their core personality, behavior and decision making.

    The 13 Unspoken Rules of Client Relationships   

    1. Clients always find a way to hire the people they want when they want to.

    2. Clients don't fire their law firms, they just stop giving them work.

    Click to read more ...


    Warning: Large Law Wants to Crush You like a Bug

    BTI’s new research reveals the largest 30 law firms are the most aggressive when it comes to business development. Their goal is to crush you like a bug. No disrespect intended. No slight. Just business.

    These 30 law firms are virtually the only ones who describe their BD goals as including crushing competitors like bugs—the first to think about taking enough market share to weaken whoever stands in their way. Again—nothing personal—but success demands taking share and clients from other firms.

    This new uber aggressive behavior by the largest firms marks a shift in strategic thinking. The largest law firms have fully decoupled from the days of professional competitive courtesy to stealing clients. They are the most extreme when it comes to taking out the competition. But they are not alone.

    Click to read more ...


    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.

    Click to read more ...


    The 6 Traits of the Client Service All-Stars