As baby boomers move toward retirement, an unprecedented number of founding partners are thinking about life after law. This causes them to wonder how their clients will be best-served going forward, whether their loyal staff will be able to find new jobs, and whether it might be possible to realize some revenue through the sale of some or all of their practice.
A Shift in Value
Traditionally, professional business valuators have attributed very little value to a law practice. Corporate records might have some transfer value, but unless the law firm owners also own their premises, the value of a law practice has been almost non-existent. But that’s slowly changing, for several reasons:
- New owners need an operational firm, faster. Founding partners were multi-talented. Not only where they strong lawyers, they were also good business people, great marketers, and pretty good people managers. These skills are not taught in law school, and the succeeding generations don’t necessarily have these same capabilities. Younger lawyers are enticed by the idea of owning their own firm, but don’t have the time or the skills to build a firm the way current founding partners did. Purchasing a turn-key operation makes sense to the next generation, and they are prepared to pay for it.
- Most clients have a lawyer already. In this environment, getting a new client means stealing it from someone else. There is real value is taking over a law practice where the retiring lawyer helps to make introductions and hands the client over to the new owner. Under these circumstances, there is a much better chance that the client base will remain with the new lawyer. This means that there’s real value in taking over someone’s practice.
Getting the Right Fit
Whether I am helping to buy or sell a practice, I spend time with my clients to truly understand their vision. If they are a buyer, what are they looking for? Where do they see their firm five or ten years from now? How do they plan to get there and how does this acquisition fit into that picture? If I’m working with a seller, I take the time to get to know their practice, their location, their competitive landscape, their client base and their staff. I understand their strengths and weaknesses. I develop a pricing strategy, a target market, and a marketing strategy.
In both situations, I speak at length with all interested parties to determine if there is a fit. To be honest, in nine out of ten instances there simply isn’t a good fit. Where it looks like there might be a good business match, I assist conceptually with potential details of the agreement.
Ensuring a Successful Transfer
I can also assist the incoming owners with creation of a business and marketing plan to help ensure they get off to a good start and maximize profits immediately so they can pay off the purchase price quickly.
Very few people have a sufficiently deep understanding of law firms to be able to assist with this process. I have over 30 years in this industry, and have the added advantage of business strategy, marketing expertise, and executive coaching.