“I’m a fan of the concept of strategic marketing,” said Camille Stell, President of just-founded Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services. “The relationships that you build with your fellow lawyers, with the people in your community and with other business folks, is critical to getting the right people in the door who need your service or they know someone who needs your service.”
Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services was spun off from Lawyers Mutual in October. Camille Stell has been named president. She was with Lawyers Mutual for ten years and has extensive experience working with solo and small law firms. The company will work with small and solo firms to improve their profitability, make better use of their dollars and create a succession or exit strategy years in advance.
“We’re going to work with lawyers to help them build their client bases,” said Stell. “They’re already spending marketing dollars on bar dues and membership dues, they are sponsoring events in their local community. We’re going to talk about how to make the most of those dollars, how to develop plans around organizations and associations and industry groups.”
FIND YOUR NICHE
When solo and small firms are launched, in order to create cash flow, they frequently handle matters across a broad spectrum, from family to estate planning to personal injury. Stell will help firms hit financial targets so they can narrow their practices.
“Learning how to be a better business person is key to any lawyer’s success. If you don’t have a really good understanding of how to price your services and use technology better, how to become more effective and efficient, it’s kind of for naught.
“I’m a firm believer that a niche law practice is both a safe law practice from a malpractice and grievance perspective, said Stell. “I believe it a more profitable law practice. And it provides more passion for the lawyers in that practice.
“I understand you’ve got to pay your bills, but if you can identify a niche practice, and you can figure out where your clients are you’ll do so much better being able to advertise to them, reach them, communicate with them, develop messages that resonate with them and sharpen your skills so you can serve them better.”
The kinds of small and solo firms that need consulting help are most likely strapped for cash and can’t afford it.
“Solo and small firms would love to take advantage of coaching or consulting, but don’t often find those services priced for their needs and firm size. Lawyers Mutual’ s mission has always been to serve the solo and small firms in our state,” said Stell. “I plan to utilize technology to develop online communities for group coaching, especially in the area of business development and marketing.”
START SUCCESSION PLANNING NOW
“From the time lawyers open their solo or small firms they should be thinking about a transition or exit strategy,” said Tom Lenfestey, President of Law Practice Exchange, a law firm brokerage company that is partnering with Lawyers Mutual Consulting.
“To maximize the value of your firm, you need to start planning right now. The goal is to know what your options are when you are ready to retire,” said Lenfestey. If you are trying to time out retirement or sale and say, ‘well I want to do that in three years, and I’m going to wait to talk to a consultant for another two years then I’ll find a buyer in six months …’ that’s not always the timeline. It’s unpredictable,” said Lenfestey.
“First and foremost, understand your personal financial needs and have a retirement plan. Second, build a firm that is ready for transition. Timing it for your exit is not always as easy as saying…now’s the time for you personally. Your firm may not be ready. Your successor may not be ready.”
“Don’t start slowing down or timing your exit based on the firm’s revenues. After you have a great year you shouldn’t decide in January it’s time to sell your practice. The next year may not be as good and you will be on a downward trend which will reduce the value of the practice,” said Lenfestey. “It’s not about stopping your individual practice of law. It’s about an ownership plan and a legacy for the firm.”