BIG IDEA: Law Firm Mergers-The Marriage of Two Marketing Departments

BigIdeaAccording to a recent study by the McCormick Group, 2011 was a very good year for law firm mergers.  In 2011, there were 54 percent more law firm mergers than in the previous year, and consultants say that more mergers are headed our way this year. 

So let's say the rumors are true: Your firm is merging. Now what? What do you do to prepare, and what do you do once the merger has gone through? And will you have a job at the other end?

It is of primary importance for you to know what was driving the merger and how the lawyers envisioned the new firm structure. The most important thing to know might be the most difficult thing to find out  - what the vision of the new firm leadership is, and how will they make decisions. These answers will help clarify the leadership's expectations of the marketing department, thus guiding your work. If management does not give clear answers, then a savvy marketer will take the time to ask the right questions and get the needed information.

Who Is Your Counterpart?
Marketers, check your ego at the door and reach out to your counterparts. We are the firm's secret weapons and are well positioned to act as the back channel, assist the lawyers' own integration process, and help shape and guide the merger. For example, you can demonstrate your value if there are gaps in information from the leadership by talking to each other, building relationships and collaborating.  

Focus on the Inbound Revenue ASAP

Amid all the detail of synthesizing numerous aspects of two firms, big picture issues (like client service and new business development) can divert attention of firm leadership and management alike.  Manage the details but also pivot quickly to revenue-producing activities.  Mergers offer a great opportunity to be strategic. Where is that strategic plan now? Do you have one? Did it need to be revisited anyway? Have the lawyers (or departments) sit around the table and first get to know each other - discuss each other's practices and what the merger means to your clients. Launch a key client program: Who are your 10 clients most affected by the merger, and what can you proactively do about it (which clients would benefit from pitching the merged firm and introducing new colleagues). 

Are there any other initiatives that you have wanted to do that did not have much context before and might mean a lot more now. For example, benchmark your firm against competitors or do a SWOT analysis.     

Moving Forward

It is important for marketers to have a list of things to do, but it is more important to have an open mind and go with the flow.  As much as you are set in your culture, your ways, your style, your ideas, there is another side that feels the same, and then when everyone meets in the middle, well.... 

Most importantly, keep looking forward and not backward. If one piece of the plan did not go as well as hoped, focus on the next opportunity and bringing dollars on the door and do not dwell on the past. 

So your firm is not merging (well there are no rumors). Now is the time to build relationships across your firm - the chairman, executive director, CFO, library, accounting, professional services, human resources, etc. The trust and bonds you make might be your most important weapon if your firm does ever merge. 

For a Law Firm Merger Checklist visit the LMA Capital Chapter website.   

By Helena Lawrence, Business Development Manager at Proskauer for the March/April 2012 Issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.

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