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The Mad Clientist

The Cost of Stealing a Major Client from the Largest Law Firms

By April 6, 2016April 16th, 2020No Comments

First, big law said they want to crush you like a bug. Now they are putting their money where their fly swatter is.

The largest 30 law firms in the world are spending substantially more of their marketing budgets on client development than all other law firms. Words are important here—client development. This means focusing on developing business with existing clients or highly targeted prospects. Client development follows the path of putting more resources into fewer initiatives for better results.

The biggest 30 firms spend 33.8% of their marketing and business development budget on client development compared to 27.6% at firms outside the top 30*. This budget shift is not nearly as important in dollars as it is in intent. The mega firms have changed their strategic priorities in favor of developing clients and specific targets rather than cold prospects—cultivating more business in fewer places.

The behemoth firms are taking money away from their general events, broadcast webinars and seminars to fund the increase in client development. This is not a complete elimination—just about a 50% cut in funding. You will still find these events—but you will find fewer of them.

The new budget allocations at the largest firms have 2 immediate impacts:

The smaller firms are casting wider nets and working harder to lure new clients in. And, most importantly, law firms outside the top 30 who haven’t matched the increased funding on client development are leaving their clients more exposed—but this can be fixed, now.

Change the Odds in Your Favor Today

Start by reallocate your budget to proportionately match or exceed biggest law’s client development. Every size law firm can immediately increase its focus on existing clients by:

  1. Repurposing your webinars and events to be client specific. Add key insights which relate to each of your top client’s issues. Deliver these repurposed webinars privately—onsite or by web—for just your client and their staff. (This is also a powerful tool to introduce new partners who can present and comment on client related issues and questions.) Fund these by reducing the number of generic events.
  2. Taking a big chunk of time and money dedicated to events and spending it on top clients. Use the funds for partner visits to clients, take facility tours, and develop annual plans with clients.
  3. Researching the daylights out of clients. Learn how your clients’ needs and pain points are changing through client feedback. Find out exactly what you are well positioned to do and what you are not—then act. Use client interviews as a road map to new work and as a vehicle to prove you are one of the law firms investing in the relationship.

Short and long term success belongs to those who can build, attract and keep the most clients. The more intense the competition the more valuable each client becomes. Client development budgets will only continue to grow for the foreseeable future in both big law and the successful firms.

This focus on client development is one reason we are breaking records for the number of client interviews we are conducting for our clients. Even the best performing firms ratchet things up when they see exactly how competitive the world is in just one client. You may be even more surprised at how much opportunity there is to be had with existing clients—making this all worth it to put more—much more—of your marketing and business development budget towards clients. 


And next week, join Jennifer Petrone Dezso and me at LMA 2016 on April 13 at 2:30 pm as we cover even more ways to keep the biggest law firms from crushing you like a bug. 

*Based on in-depth interviews BTI conducted with 135 law firm marketing leaders.

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