Mid-Atlantic Program Recap: “BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2021”

By Michael Bond, senior media director at Blattel Communications

On February 23, 2021, the Legal Marketing Association – Mid-Atlantic Region presented the program, “BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2021,” featuring BTI Consulting Group Founder and President Michael Rynowecer, who conducts client surveys and blogs as “The Mad Clientist.”

Rynowecer presented results from a recent survey of 240 corporate contacts taken after the pandemic had commenced. At the top, he noted a receptiveness to his outreach, “Clients want to share their experience.” The group broke down as:

  • 30 percent individuals were new to the chief legal officer (CLO) role
  • 40 percent in their first three to five years as CLO
  • 30 percent with five or more years of experience as CLO
  • 35 percent of respondents were women with an average of 21 years of experience

Rynowecer noted that 6.4 years is the average tenure for a CLO at a company.

Areas of Growth

The presentation then turned into a deep dive of practice area growth trajectories. Rynowecer highlighted Cybersecurity and Data Privacy, Private Equity, Class Actions and M&A as those experiencing strong growth combined with sustainable premium rates. Notably, restructuring and bankruptcy – viewed as an early pandemic growth area – were listed in the negative growth quadrant – however, this was largely due to a recent-years trend of rates doubling, making future growth a challenge. Employment was also listed as a slower growth practice in terms of overall value, largely due to the volume needed to overcome its historically low rates relative to other practices.

Rynowecer, looking ahead to the easing of the pandemic, noted that commercial litigation is in the “rumbling phase” and M&A is “lifting off.” He added that cybersecurity and data privacy is facing an imbalance of supply versus demand. Specific knowledge – having worked through a data breach first-hand – is in high demand. Rynowecer also added that, for this particular practice, digital marketing is reported to be the most effective method.

Corporate legal budgets, Rynowecer illustrated, are showing growth both in terms of in-house and external spend – a positive trend for legal providers that last occurred in the early 2000s with the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. He projects, “Increased spending will continue.”

New Business Opportunities

Rynowecer relayed that his data has found that companies are the “most open to hiring a new firm” than any other time in the last seven to 12 years, with 63 percent of respondents noting that they had recently replaced one of their law firms. Mid-size firms he added were “by-and-large” viewed as offering better client service and individual insights on matters.
Companies are “especially open” to bringing them on based on: 1) their ability to take on new matters (as Big Law firms are often at capacity in busy practices); and 2) the need for companies to parcel out non-mega matters. Rynowecer added that mid-size firms can often assess opportunities and mobilize more quickly than bigger firms, giving them a strategic advantage.

Client Communications

Looking at client communications, Rynowecer’s survey results reflected incredibly favorably on an old medium: the telephone. Respondents placed tremendous value in personal calls – not texts or video calls. Only 21 percent of respondents reporting receiving a call, but for those that did they commented that the attorneys reaching out not only cared, but also knew how to help. Rynowecer termed calling “very underrated.”

Five Key Observations

Rynowecer concluded the program by looking at “Five Key Observations” on what clients want now: 1) early engagement at the pre-hire stage or as part of an initial pitch; 2) “VEA,” or very early assessment of needs; 3) a telegraphed willingness to cater to staffing preferences; 4) new ideas; and 5) ongoing, meaningful and personal communication – with one of the best methods being a simple phone call.

The February 23 program, “BTI Market Outlook and Client Service Review 2021” was sponsored by Ackert Inc. and Thompson Reuters. LMA BoKs: Business of Law, Client Services.

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