Monthly Archives: September 2007

Law Firm Mergers – Double whammy for target firms

A large part of the reason for merger discussions taking so long or falling through is that, very often, the partners in the firm being approached have not had the discussion amongst themselves first about how they should respond in the event of such an approach.  So then, when an approach comes along “out of the blue” (when it shouldn’t take any decent firm by surprise these days), only then do the partners start to think through the issues and possibilities seriously … and that takes time.  There will usually be some serious conflicting interests to address.   How much better it would be if partners were equipped to deal with an approach from another firm in advance – getting your partners into the strongest possible negotiating position and minimising the amount of time needed/wasted in the early important early stages of discussions where the agenda for further discussion is set.  At this stage, partners prepared to consider the advances of another firm have to try to present a coherent position in these discussions.     This is a view shared by Managing partners and CEO’s in law firms that are actively going out to find merger partners now and it’s a problem for them.  The inability of firms to respond effectively to their approach can mean that – by the time the partners have found the time to meet and discuss options seriously – the opportunity has already gone to another firm, enthusiasm has waned or the active party has set down ground rules that have become inflexible.   A question for partners:

Would it strengthen your position in discussions with other firms if you could clearly identify your objectives and negotiating position early on? 

If you can, you are likely to be able to participate more actively, by establishing more of your ground rules, priority topics and boundaries that enable you to define and protect your position; driving the outcome more in your direction, rather than allow it to drift towards the more active firm.   Interestingly, firms that don’t have strong leaders and sound management are most likely to be “acquisition” targets than “merger” targets because that is where there is most potential for a merged practice to capitalise on untapped opportunities.  These are also the partners least likely to prepare themselves for these discussions – so it’s a double whammy!

Legal Websites – Untapped Potential

As ever, it is the lawyer who has the best opportunity to make this work as they are the ones in the front line in the relationship with the client. How many lawyers or support staff think to tell or remind clients about the website when they are talking to them when they open a new matter? While they have their attention, this is the time to suggest they go there and sign up for the firm’s really useful newsletter or check out the blog that is updated regularly with good information. Maybe the best way to get these people to the site is to tell them about how they can get to updates and progress reports on matters any time of day or night; or even a shared work area if you are moving towards interactive solutions like Microsoft SharePoint? Maybe even suggesting that they add the site to their “favourites” and then back this up with some follow up having sown the seed.

Two telling questions for you …

  1. Is there anything on your new client and new matter forms or screens that would prompt your lawyer mention the website when they are talking to a client at this stage? Do they know what they should be saying about it?
  2. Do you always send an email to your new clients (having gathered their email address on that new instruction form or screen if they are happy to communicate some of the time by email – do we ask that question?) with a link to your website shortly after they have instructed you on a new matter? The easier you make it for them to link into your website the better – and this is the easiest way. Sending a link is better than sending a letter.

For those you don’t already know

There are many businesses out there that claim to give you No.1 spot on Google, or a top ten position on major search engines but how can they guarantee this when its not in their hands? Say, for example, that 20 Internet companies approach this SEO firm – their guarantee already hits a stumbling block. SEO is often considered a science. The market is changing all the time with the search engines changing the goal posts on what it looks for in a website.

It’s important that you look at SEO as an ongoing investment in order to get a real return for your money. Typically, enter an agreement where your site is reviewed once a quarter, or at least twice a year. If possible request a sample report to see what analysis is being performed on your site during these reviews.

Here are just a few examples of things you need to be do to get up those rankings. How does your website fare on each of them?

  1. Get the right balance of keywords on your site, but remember that there is a fine balance between optimising your site for the search engines and legible content.  
  2. Reciprocate links with your business partners. Popularity breeds popularity!
  3. Think about the structure of your website in terms of where pages are stored and what they are called. If you aren’t sure about this then contact your designer.
  4. Research phrases for your core services for the last 30-60 days. This is a service that Inpractice can provide for you.
  5. Once you achieve a healthy ranking don’t rest on your laurels. Search Engine Optimisation isn’t a quick fix to promoting your website, it’s an ongoing investment.

… to get them using it, you should be targeting a top 30 position on search engines like Google to begin with, as research has shown that people rarely look beyond three pages of search results.