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Clients still measure their law firms’ performance. Workloads are surging and workforces are heading back. And corporate counsel are looking at how their law firms are delivering for them more closely than ever. The newest phase of the next normal only heightened your client’s need to measure performance.

Corporate counsel have to figure out how to make their budgets stretch further than ever before. And clients know metrics work a lot better than cutting rates. Top legal decision makers rely on 5 key indicators:


24% of clients want the fastest path to the best answer above all else. This answer can differ by matter and client — meaning the attorneys who have insight into client preferences will deliver more value in the eyes of the client. Note, these same clients rely on client service as well — although it’s hard to deliver value without excellent client service.


21% of clients look at the total of the invoices. If it’s over the budget, you have some explaining to do. Their budgets are more important than ever before — but if the facts change — tell your clients, in real-time. They understand things change. They do not understand why you didn’t tell them.


Mostly litigators, this 19% of clients measure success by the end result. Oftentimes, these clients believe their law firms have somehow promised the outcome they were expecting. The antidote for unexpected results is frequent updates and assessments. Like budgets, clients understand things can change — but they expect their counsel to spot the unexpected.

The Law Firm Scorecard

4% of clients rely on a formal performance scorecard. These include quantitative and qualitative metrics, and formal measurement across all aspects of performance. These are large clients with big budgets and in-house staff. The clients share the results of the rankings with their law firms annually.

Client Service

The most dominant measurement. 82% of clients rely on the sum of all the things your firm did (or did not) do. This includes everything from the smartest solutions to the ease of working with your firm. Clients distinguish between firms who they say provide more answers than questions. They pinpoint the firms who helped, are easier to work with, and even those who seem to care a little bit more. And staying in touch is an essential part of the client experience.

Client service is highly subjective, and it outweighs all other factors. The pandemic has only made it more vital to success.

Ask clients how they measure law firm performance. And right after you do — this would be a natural place to ask how you are doing and what you can do better. Or we can ask on your behalf.

Look for the definitions of client service to change as clients move back to the office and the next normal world continues to unfold. And always remember client service beats cost by more than a 2:1 margin. Excellent client service keeps you out of the cost game. This doesn’t mean clients won’t want your best rate because they will — but they picked you before picking the final rate.


The Mad Clientist

(Totals equal more than 100% due to clients using multiple metrics. Based on more than 240 interviews with top legal decision makers.)

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