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The Mad Clientist

The Business Development Blind Spot

By March 2, 2016April 16th, 2020No Comments

You may be overlooking the silent race for business few law firms ever see or pursue.

Market leaders stay ahead of competitors by sniffing out client pain and removing the sources of discomfort from their clients’ lives on a continuing basis. Your ability to do this before everyone else offers you a rare business development advantage. This compels every law firm to enter the fray to find and eliminate client pain points before anyone else who may have access to your clients.

Clients keep coming back to those who eradicate pain because these are the professionals who clients say will not only deliver more than what is expected, but also deliver in a manner which makes clients’ lives easier and better—without ever being asked. Your reward for your investment of time and effort is first crack at the best work—no RFPs, no competition—just the juiciest and most attractive work.

BTI’s recent in-depth interviews with more than 300 corporate counsel reveal 5 sources of pain proving meddlesome to 80% of your clients. These large swaths of pain offer opportunity and reward for the brave individuals who can offer clients real relief:


Clients face a never-ending stream of new, reinterpreted, evolving, and conflicting regulations from all fronts and agencies. Internal legal staff simply can’t keep up with the pace. This leads 20.2% of corporate counsel to report regulatory issues as the single largest source of pain.

The regulatory discomfort comes from the massive investment required to understand the plethora of burdens they face. Each legal executive is looking to find and interpret the regulations applicable to their world. Larger companies face this challenge on both a global and a local scale.

Clients dream of a comprehensive source for understanding their regulatory frameworks and requirements, especially in financial services and pharmaceuticals, the largest spenders on legal services.

The overwhelming majority of corporate counsel report their law firms are willing to have individual conversations and provide counsel about specific regulatory issues when asked, but see few law firms holding themselves out as the source for regulatory data and advice. Don’t wait for clients to ask—go in and discuss these regulatory changes and help bring them into focus. Corporate counsel often view regulatory issues as a gateway to understanding their overall needs—which is your exclusive gateway to new work.


Cybersecurity sits at the epicenter of a host of pain points including: brand risk, states’ attorneys general eager to make an example of any data breach, and increasingly sophisticated hackers. Cyberattacks also attract class actions and draw increased scrutiny from customers and the supply chain. This dynamic makes cybersecurity the 2nd largest source of pain as cited by 14.7% of corporate counsel.

Demand for counsel, strategy and procedure far exceed supply. Legal decision makers are using specialized consultants and non-lawyers to meet their needs where possible as many law firms can’t meet the demand.


14.3% of corporate counsel worry about 3 types of risk as their biggest pain point:

  1. Uncontrollable risk such as the global economy and geopolitical instability.
  2. Direct risk—the unknown factors in a company. These factors include lone-wolf employees who decide to be non-compliant, or situations which may be in early stages of formation but can’t yet be identified.
  3. Inherent risk—the risk which is part and parcel of the product or service delivered. Clients provide the following examples: “we make devices which are embedded in human beings, if they don’t work we have serious consequences,” and “our product is made to withstand 40,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, if it doesn’t, lots of damage can happen very quickly.”


Compliance—the 4th largest pain point—is where proactivity meets pain.

Top legal executives widely agree compliance programs improve regulatory performance and reduce risk. Corporate counsel see a driving need for expanded and new compliance programs. These programs include developing guidelines, procedures and training—all of which can be developed and delivered by law firms to bring relief to clients.

Compliance is virtually tied with risk as the largest source of corporate counsel discomfort.


Litigation stands out as the 5th largest source of pain for corporate counsel. This pain is unique to companies with substantial inherent risk and companies with exceptionally large litigation portfolios. These corporate counsel are especially receptive to discussing risk reduction programs and settlement strategies.

Other Sources of Pain from Our Client Interviews

Clients also identify resource constraints, outside counsel management and meeting internal performance goals as pain points.

Where Client Pain is Your Gain

We recommend you start a conversation about your client’s specific pains and challenges. Ask clients about the most difficult aspects of getting their jobs done well. Use the research above to see if your clients share these same challenges or have others—either way—you will learn what is on your client’s mind.

You will be able to offer valued counsel. You can help solve top priority problems and prove your role is more than meeting legal needs—you want to help your clients succeed. This commitment to help is the most influential factor in any client relationship.


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