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Every year, we ask more than 300 corporate counsel about the law firms they recommend to a peer — no name, prompts, or suggestions provided. It’s all organic. The results:

  • Only 35% recommend their primary law firms to a peer — down from 69.1% a mere 4 years ago. This rivals an 18-year low.

Delivering Yesterday’s Client Service

One big contributor to the drop in client service is corporate counsel’s new expectations. Law firms targeting yesterday’s expectations are at a clear disadvantage. These new expectations include:

  • Including clients early in strategy and approach
  • Being trusted enough to be relied on for cost control
  • Higher client service standards for their primary law firms
  • Being easy to work with
  • Fielding the absolute best team

All these new components make clients’ lives easier and get them to their goals. We discuss these expectations and the law firms best at each here, here, and here. But, that’s not all.

7 Reasons Why Clients Don’t Recommend Their Primary Law Firm

Our research shows corporate counsel point to 7 reasons for not recommending their primary law firm:

  1. Little interest in understanding corporate counsel’s goals. Almost all the new goals are focused on advising management on transforming their business — and using it as a career booster.
  2. Hard to work with. The legal prowess may be there, but the administrative obstacles are enough to ruin the most elegant of strategies. Clients point to:
  • Time and effort to start a new matter
  • Renegotiating rates for every matter
  • Negotiating conflict waivers
  • Delays between conflict clearance mobilization
  1. Getting the B Team. Clients don’t know who is performing the work, some see a flurry of names on the bills. These experiences make clients think there is little thought into who is doing the work.
  2. Reluctance to provide an early assessment in litigation.
  3. Learning new deal strategies and structures their primary firm used from a 3rd
  4. Ghosted when their relationship partners leave the firm.
  5. Don’t share ideas and strategies about current issues and problems.

Corporate counsel are busy managing their own journey while relying more on outside counsel than at any other point in the last 23 years. BTI research reveals that 67% of corporate counsel are busy helping pave their company’s path for transformational change. They want advice and advanced thinking — and excellent client service depends on law firms meeting today’s and tomorrow’s expectations.

Best in the market ahead.


p.s. Learn about the next demands and uncover where your firm stands by ordering your copy of the BTI Client Service A-Team 2024: Survey of Law Firm Client Service Performance, including:

  • Detailed definitions of new client service demands for tomorrow and how to deliver on each today.
  • A custom comparison of your firm with up to 8 competitors of your choice
  • Exactly where your firm excelled and improved, and where competitors improved more
  • Pragmatic recommendations on exactly what to do about your performance

We welcome the opportunity to discuss how to improve your performance. Or just benchmark where it is against competitors. Either way — it boosts client service — and drives new business.

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