The world tends to judge law firms by results. Do they win big cases? Orchestrate world-changing deals? Keep big fish out of jail?

Fair enough: We certainly considered the candidates’ professional skills when compiling this year’s Midsize Hot List. Still, we felt that mere outcomes wouldn’t tell the whole story in a world where keeping the client out of the headlines sometimes matters as much as anything else. And so the 20 firms listed here are good at what they do, but they’re also good at how they do it — in spotting legal trends while they’re still emerging and positioning themselves to take advantage; in pioneering billing arrangements that deliver results at prices clients can actually afford; and in building groups of attorneys who work well together and stick around to serve their clients for the long haul.