19 May Attracting the best – Law firms invest in senior client specialists

19 May 2021

We have seen a sustained and growing focus on client centricity in law firms. As ambitious firms outside the legacy Big-6 compete aggressively for high-value work, their need for sophisticated BD and client experts is increasing. This has accelerated throughout COVID-19 and we are seeing greater demand for dedicated client specialists across top-tier, mid-tier and boutique firms.

Although this talent comes at a premium, additional headcount is being created to attract the best in the market, and they are coming from Tier-1 legal and Big-4 firms.


  • Clients expect and want dedicated Client Relationship Managers (CRMs) who are not necessarily fee earners. This is a significant cultural change and, over time, has contributed to Partners seeking experienced client managers.
  • Lateral Tier-1 Partner movements continues to drive competition between firms.
  • A shift towards a more merit-based system and away from the lockstep Partner remuneration model (sometimes a hybrid is preferred to reduce volatility).
  • Non-legacy Big-6 law firms are winning more pursuits and more complex work. Teams are growing and firm revenue is increasing, driving the need for more sophisticated client teams.
  • ‘New law’ businesses requiring BD experts with dedicated client management experience and a strong professional network.
  • BD professionals continue to seek client facing opportunities, leading to more hybrid BD/CRM roles where the CRM activities are for clients not on the firm’s key client program.

What do these functions looks like?

  • In smaller firms up to three CRMs and seven in larger firms.
  • Budgets have stretched to accommodate packages of well over $200,000 for these specialists, especially if they are managing a top-five client.
  • Being client facing is fundamental in these roles, which can occur without a Partner present.
  • Adviser-level professionals can become involved in client management as they support CRMs, which further drives hybrid BD/CRM roles.

Next steps

Interested in pursuing a client relationship specialist role in the legal sector? Contact a member of the Dalton Handley team for a confidential discussion and expert advice. Email: australia@daltonhandley.com Phone: +61 2 8042 7970.