Pssst…hey law firm or practice group! You wanna merge?

Ok, while you are usually a trendsetter, not affected by the latest craze, maybe you are starting to consider other ways to grow your firm. You’ve witnessed this merger-mania, and may be asking yourself does it make sense for us? How about adding a team in a specific practice area? You’ve been known as a corporate practice for closely held businesses, should you add a litigation group? You are a well known family law firm, does it make sense to add trusts and estates? Or, are you currently leading a team of attorneys and looking for a home that can offer your team a better platform or more opportunities for cross-selling? You are not alone, and I can help.

While I firmly believe there is and will always be a place for small, highly specialized niche practices, there is an incredibly strong argument in terms of a growth strategy for small and medium sized firms to look at mergers and other combinations such as team additions.

So how do you do this?

First off, it is important to find the right merger partner or team addition – one that fits or compliments your existing culture, brings certain synergies and economies of scale, adds financial security, increases your ability to win a greater depth and breadth of quality of work etc.

At Harlan Scott, we have worked in helping both firms looking to establish a foothold in a new location by merging with an existing firm, firms seeking to grow in their existing geographic footprint by adding groups to enhance and compliment existing practice areas, practice groups seeking to join firms where they may find greater opportunity for growth, and have also worked with smaller firms seeking to bolster their image so they can be attractive to potential merger suitors. Our goal is to help you find the right opportunity with the best strategic and cultural fit, on terms that are most favorable to you.

Typically, we do this in the following manner:

First, we meet with you to discuss and confirm your goals, review where you are currently in terms of business, and outline and establish an understanding of priorities. We closely look with you to understand where you are in terms of profitability, equity structure, liabilities, and the like, whether there is a clear vision or strategy in seeking a merger partner or team, or for a practice group what the thinking is for the new home you are seeking to find, and where everyone is in terms of buy-in and agreement.

Next, we identify those entities and share them with you including a detailed overview of the firm’s strategic plan, culture, progress, and other relevant details necessary to begin the conversation. Our approach is deeply analytical, and not solely based on the “I know a guy…” mindset. It is important to identify the right firms, and to then approach them in a very diplomatic manner. How? We do not use names at first. Usually, we reach out to managing partners and discuss a hypothetical.

I know this sounds very much like that girl in eighth grade who may have asked you whether there were any girls you liked, only to gauge your level of interest in her friend. Ok, I understand, but our goal is to keep everything anonymous to protect all parties at the initial stages. We are VERY big on discretion…frankly we have to be. So at this stage, we make an approach, and see whether there may be a theoretical interest.

We then go back to you and say, these entities are interested. May we disclose your identity to them and set-up an initial meeting?

You say Yay, or Nay, and then the process enters the next phase, where you meet with the other party. Depending on what you and the other entity may desire, we may either participate or not participate in the meeting or discussions. At this stage, the goal is to determine and, if possible, quantify the extent of the strategic, commercial and financial basis for the combination. In other words, determine whether this concept actually makes sense?

More details. More discussions, and again, should you wish for us to work with you regarding the agreement terms, we would be delighted to do so, though some parties are happy to do this on their own. The process may get bogged down in details, but surprisingly these are reviewed and analyzed with relative speed and ease, They either make sense or they don’t.

We are here to help every step of the way. Assuming everything looks good, the merger or practice group finding its new home goes through. Pretty simple, right? Yes, I am oversimplifying things a bit here, but the process can be and typically is relatively straightforward.

As you can imagine, I could probably write a lengthy and detailed manual on this, but this is not the forum to do so. To discuss this area further, please call me at 609.933.1630 or email me at htenenbaum@gmail.com.

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