Last year I reported on the results of a survey by The BTI Consulting Group that showed that many large corporations, including many of the Fortune 1000, were unhappy with their primary law firms. Specifically, of the 200 respondents, BTI reported:

  • Only 30.7% of the Fortune 1000 companies recommend their primary law firms,
  • 53.7% of respondents in the previous 18 months showed their primary firm the door, and
  • Over 50% of the companies say they would try a new firm for “substantive matters.”

Well, recently one of the principals of BTI, Marcie Borgal Shunk, spoke to the Delaware Valley Law Firm Marketing Group. As reported by Stephanie Lovett on’s Small Firm Business, Shunk shared her insight on that survey. First a couple of survey details:

  • Most of these clients use two “primary” firms (which share 31% of client’s spending)
  • Fifteen secondary firms (share 50.3%)
  • Forty-five “other firms” (share 17.8%)

I agree completely with Shunk that secondary firms could put themselves in a position to get a bigger share of client revenue, and even move up (depending on size) to become a primary firm. Further, she reported that mid-sized are the one’s that “stand out” in the minds of clients when “we looked at the numbers.” Lovett’s article continues:

The reason, she (Shunk) said, was the aggressiveness of nonprimary firms to exceed expectations by being flexible, creative and responsive. And Shunk said secondary firms are setting the standard for client service while primary firms are often complacent.

“Secondary firms are more hungry for business. They are more creative in how they approach cases and define solutions, and they proactively anticipate what’s going to affect the clients,” Shunk said.

So how do secondary firms get over the hump and become a client’s primary firm?

Shunk said exceptional client focus was the leading differentiator that accounted for more than 40 percent of recommendations by clients. And she said a firm’s perceived commitment to help was key.

“Clients want firms that are there to help solve problems and not just there to bill hours. It’s about communicating and demonstrating value, understanding the business and using a business perspective,” Shunk said, adding later, “Firms that recognize how they can do that can exceed and surpass a competitor law firm.”