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Small law firms are making waves with some of the largest players in corporate America. The BTI Consulting Group Inc.’s annual survey of 200 corporate counsel reveals that law firms with fewer than 150 attorneys now account for close to 30 percent of primary law firms at large companies. Corporate counsel are raising expectations and demanding change. Small firms are leading the way, driving clients to demand more value and better service. 1. Their client service is excellent. Client satisfaction with small firms has soared. The number of Fortune 1000 companies satisfied with their small primary law firm jumped to 22 percent in 2004, up from 15 percent in 2003. This compares to 30.5 percent for all law firms. The AmLaw 200 only saw a 3.5 percent improvement over the same period. 2. They bend over backwards. Flexibility is a trademark of the small firm, and clients couldn’t be happier. Clients note that small firms are better at adopting new ways of doing things. For example, they are quicker to adopt the more informal communication many clients want and usually embrace e-mail and electronic sharing of data to make working with them easier and more enjoyable. 3. They lose the attitude. Fortune 1000 clients tell us that small firms are inclusive, accommodating and respectful — in sharp contrast to the arrogance they tell us they deal with from attorneys at large law firms. This newfound respect has clients expecting better interpersonal skills and a more inclusive approach from all of their outside counsel. 4. They’re the best at something, not mediocre at everything. Savvy smaller firms specialize in filling specific needs for their clients. Whether geared toward an industry such as financial services or a premium practice area such as intellectual property, their highly-focused strategies enable them to concentrate on complex matters and high-value work. 5. They deliver good value. With less bureaucracy, small firms can remain keenly focused on the client’s objectives. BTI’s research shows that “proving value” is the number one way for a law firm to oust a competitor — 26 percent of clients surveyed are willing to make a switch for proven value, and another 11 percent will switch for better client service. These two reasons outnumber all other reasons to switch law firms. Michael Rynowecer is the president of The BTI Consulting Group Inc.

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