Three of Pennsylvania’s largest law firms also appear to be some of the most highly thought of among the largest purchasers of legal services—Fortune 1000 corporate counsel.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Reed Smith and K&L Gates earned spots on BTI Consulting Group’s Client Service 30, which marks the 30 best-performing law firms in the country when it comes to client service as viewed by the clients. The list, which tracks firms’ performance in 17 activities thought to drive client service, is generated after BTI conducts hundreds of interviews with corporate counsel.
For Morgan Lewis, its perception in the marketplace took a noticeable leap forward, with the firm moving from 25th on BTI’s ranking last year to fourth this year among the 650 core group of law firms used by the Fortune 1000. This is the 13th year in a row Morgan Lewis has landed in the top 30.
According to the report, the firm received honors in all 17 of the categories tracked by BTI, which include breadth of services, bringing together national resources, anticipating the clients’ needs, an innovative approach and unprompted communication.
Of the four activities noted as most important to corporate counsel—client focus, commitment to help, understanding the client’s business and providing value for the dollar—Morgan Lewis got a “best of the best” distinction in all but the “provides value for the dollar” category, where it was a leader among the best in that category.
The four categories most important to corporate counsel are also those most closely linked to financial success, BTI said. According to the report, law firms that rank high in those four categories earn 30 percent higher profits than other firms, 7 percent rate premiums across all staff levels, double the fees from a single client and 35 percent higher client retention.
According to the corporate counsel BTI spoke to, “Morgan Lewis earns accolades as a ‘bet-the-company’ and ‘go-to’ firm because of their ‘outstanding expertise’ combined with ‘great service’ and their ‘partnership’ with clients. Their dedication to ‘quality’ positions them as a ‘reliable’ resource for clients.”
Reed Smith moved up 10 spots from last year to 11th place on BTI’s ranking. This is the 10th consecutive year the firm has made an appearance in the top 30. It was ranked as best of the best when it comes to handling problems and was listed as a leader among the best in 10 other categories, including commitment to help, understanding a client’s business and keeping clients informed.
BTI said clients praised their “good relationship” with Reed Smith. The consulting group said clients loved Reed Smith’s “willingness to work with us” and its “ability to partner so well.” Clients further noted Reed Smith “look[s] out for the client.” “‘They would do anything for us,’” one client said, according to the survey.
K&L Gates rose one spot to 22nd on the list, marking the firm’s fourth appearance in the top 30. The firm is recognized as a leader of the best in six categories: breadth of services, brings together national resources, handles problems, keeps clients informed, understands the client’s business and quality products.
“K&L Gates tackles client service by providing expertise, innovation and being cost-conscious,” BTI said in its report.
According to the corporate counsel interviewed by BTI, K&L Gates has a “deep talent pool,” “varied practice areas with deep experience” and “breadth of knowledge.” Clients also commended K&L Gates for being “forward thinking” and able to “see the evolution of the industry.”
Aside from the top 30 firms, BTI also lists the 306 other law firms that made it into the consulting group’s Client Service A-Team for a total of 336 firms receiving top honors from corporate counsel. Aside from Morgan Lewis, Reed Smith and K&L Gates, there were 12 other Pennsylvania-based law firms ranked.
Ballard Spahr ranked 68th with honorable mentions in 12 of the 17 categories. Blank Rome ranked 124th with honorable mentions in nine categories. Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney ranked 86th with honorable mentions in 11 categories. Cozen O’Connor ranked 122nd with honorable mentions in six categories. Dechert ranked 99th with honorable mentions in 11 categories.
Drinker Biddle & Reath came in 77th with honorable mentions in 14 categories. Duane Morris ranked 129th with honorable mentions in 10 categories. Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott ranked 153rd with honorable mentions in seven categories. Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin rounded out the list at 336th with an honorable mention in the “brings together national resources” category. Pepper Hamilton ranked 321st with a single honorable mention in the “unprompted communication” category.
Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti ranked 326th for an honorable mention in the “regional reputation” category and Saul Ewing ranked 128th with seven honorable mentions.
Even firms that are liked by their clients can be viewed as arrogant, the survey results showed. There were 63 firms BTI highlighted as being deemed “most arrogant” by clients.
BTI recognized that even some of those firms among the top 30 most client-service-oriented firms are also viewed as arrogant.
“BTI’s experience shows some aspects of superior client service can be perceived as arrogance by a number of clients,” BTI said in the report. The cause for such a perception can include inflexibility on rates, poor experience on the other side of a matter, direct advice to those clients that want advice sugarcoated, delegating high-priority communications to associates, exclusion of general counsel in client communications, not including more junior members of the in-house legal team and refusing to discuss alternative fees.
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom topped the list of most arrogant firms, according to BTI. But Skadden was also far and away the number one firm in the country in client service, according to the report. The two Pennsylvania firms on the “arrogant” list were Morgan Lewis and Drinker Biddle.