A day in the life of CoreLegal founder member Ray Fox from the Bottom Line Consultancy - a specialist in helping Solicitors sell, merge or value their practices.
As I work from home, every day is different. Some days I need to frantically work for fourteen hours, others I can afford to relax a little with my kids. Today, as I am working for a law firm who wish to sell their Practice, I wake up early in order to make my noon meeting in North Wales.
I leave the house at eight o’clock so that I can wander around the town I am visiting before my arranged meeting. This is important so that I can get an impression of the town and have a look at all of the competition.
I arrive early and park in the town centre. I then go into as many other law firms as I can, picking up their literature from the receptionists and asking questions about the firm that I am about to visit.
Although some of the offices that I visit have information packs about the firm, it is amazing how many have no material at all and all they can offer as reading material in their reception is a two year old copy of ‘Hello’.
I learn that the Welsh town I am visiting is planning to build a new oil refinery. This kind of information is vital to provide an accurate estimate of the firms’ value. A new refinery will mean more jobs, more houses, more people and therefore more clients for a law firm. The outlook for this firm is looking good.
After my stroll, I walk to my meeting in which I try and tease out of my client why they really want to sell their business. As different clients have different needs I have to change each firm’s marketing strategy appropriately. I try not to make the meeting too formal and chat to my client. I consider these meetings to be social interactions in which the client has to trust me. I find out today that my client wants her firm valued as she and her husband decided that it was high time that they spent more time together. They are both aged in their middle to late fifties and have decided to enjoy their imminent retirement.
However all of my clients have completely different reasons for their sales and last week I had a meeting with a man who had just returned from a trip to Cyprus. When I asked him why he wanted to sell his firm, he informed me that he had just sold his holiday villa on the island and had made more money doing so than he made during a year of business in the UK. He had therefore decided that he wanted to sell his Practice and put all of the money from his firm into buying other holiday homes abroad.
My client today provided me with information about her firm by giving me details such as copies of her annual accounts and the firm’s professional indemnity insurance. I have also looked at the Firms’ brochures, any advertising campaigns that they might have run and the number of deeds, trusts, EPAs and wills etc that my client has. I can offer advice and give the firm an assessment of their marketability. I now start on a more thorough analysis of the firm by asking questions about the number of fee earners and lease agreements, etc. My client has far too many partners actually doing the legal work rather than overseeing the other fee earners. This is one of the areas where firms often lose profits.
I spend a lot of time outlining to my Client the different types of buyers there are in the market place and what each are looking for. I explain to her that I have over 70,000 Solicitors’ email addresses and over 19,500 Solicitors’ on a hard copy database so its relatively easy for me to get her Practice “into the market” – professionally, discretely and ethically, without disclosing her exact identity of location.
I also go through a number of tips for her as to how to make her practice more attractive to a potential buyer. Her Partners can’t make up their minds whether they would all rather sell the Practice or whether they would like to stay on as Partners or Consultants in a larger merged practice. It looks like I’ll have to consider a merger as well as a sale and I go though the plusses and minuses of the different courses of action.
Having worked with over 605 Solicitors and their Practices, valued over 325 firms and sold around 110, I’m uniquely placed to give her a pretty accurate picture of what the goodwill of the firm is worth as well as the WIP, debts and other assets.
I can also explain to her in detail about the tricks that predatory practices are going to play by them trying to convince her that her firm actually isn’t worth anything at all, so they try and get her to give her practice away for nothing. You’d be amazed how many gullible Solicitors have done that in the past so I tell her in no uncertain terms that her firm has a goodwill value and that she shouldn’t be hoodwinked by unscrupulous firms who will try and tell her otherwise.
I then explain the process of how to reduce the numbers of time-wasters who will enquire about her practice. I give her a copy of a confidentiality agreement as well as the name of another law firm who can help her draft up the contracts for the sale or merger of her business.
After our meeting, I head off home, managing to leave just before the rush hour traffic is too bad. I often write up my report for the client as soon as I get home so that it is still fresh I my mind but tonight I have a freemasonry meeting so I leave all my notes in my office (aka our 10ft square spare bedroom) ready to type up in the morning.
I get changed and then get a lift from a friend to the lodge. Tonight we are having a meeting, followed by a meal and then a few drinks. These meetings are an excellent way for networking, as a lot of the members are businessmen like myself.
I return home slightly later than normal and am welcomed by my wife who is flicking through holiday brochures. We stay up talking for a while about our planned New Year’s jaunt to Lanzarote. However the effect of a busy day begins to take its toll and we soon retire to bed. I check on the kids before I go to sleep and within a few minutes of my head hitting the pillow, I’m dead to the world.
Ray Fox, the Founder and Principal of The Bottom Line Consultancy, was the Company Secretary and Legal Director of Dun + Bradstreet. His Company specialises in providing a full range of support and marketing services to Solicitors and their Practices. Having worked for over 605 different Solicitors Practices, they are probably one of the largest consultancies specialises in the legal profession.