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The Mad Clientist

More Clients than Ever Cutting Law Firm Rosters; Sets New Record

By September 19, 2018April 16th, 2020No Comments

Clients are at it again. No sooner had clients cut their law firm rosters to record lows than they turn around and start cutting again. But on a much wider scale.

22% to 30% of clients are cutting, or about to cut, their law firm rosters. This sets a new record and is double the prior average of 13% of clients looking to cutback at any one point.

These top legal decision makers say the trifecta of a surge in shoddy law firm work, increasing complexity, and lackluster client service turns too many law firms into way too many law firms. Managing this many law firms costs way more than money—it costs money, cycle time, and increases risk.

Why They Do It

For clients, fewer law firms translates into better risk management. Fewer law firms means more uniformity in approach, overriding legal philosophy, and fewer people to understand and make understand. Communication is more streamlined and direct. In short, life is easier and work flows more smoothly. It also saves money.

As a result, clients are planning the biggest cuts to their rosters yet. These clients are planning reductions from hundreds or dozens of firms to fewer than 10. The fringe players will be gone or phased out. A few secondary providers will move up the ladder. The current primary firms will have to prove their worth to keep the coveted primary spot as the firm receiving the biggest portion of the work.

Clients are looking for firms who can deliver on the client service front. These same clients are looking for signs of collaboration within a firm as work streams grow in size. Currently, only 51% of clients believe their law firms show signs of collaboration, and only 33% recommend their primary law firm. The field is pretty open. Clients will rely as much on your pre- and post-pitch discussions as your initial pitch to see if your firm makes the cut.

After talking to 359 clients—here’s what we recommend you do:

  • Ask clients if and when they plan to shrink their law firm rosters—these are no longer public events and may be conducted with little fanfare

  • Help clients plan to use fewer law firms by segmenting work based on risk and complexity, business units in your client’s company, or other high-value categories

  • Develop a plan to perform the best work with a new approach, including regular budget and update meetings and training to better learn client objectives and sensitivities

  • If you have to pitch in a competition, talk all about client needs and risk—they know who you are and are eliminating firms who act like they are pitching a new relationship and are talking about themselves

  • Ramp up every aspect of client service to ensure you not only show improvement but also stand out

  • Get deep and meaningful client feedback about how you can improve and your clients’ plans—yes we do a lot of this, and clients are happy to share—especially if they want to keep you on their panel

Every client cutting their law firm panel is a major growth opportunity. Look for it, go find it, and use it to your advantage while other firms still see it as a threat. Your clients will welcome the help if you have a meaningful relationship—like the kind of client you want to keep. Those firms who don’t act like they already deserve the work are the first to fall by the wayside.


(Based on more than 350 in-depth interviews, with top legal decision makers conducted between March 2018 and August 2018.)

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