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Three Important Items to Update When Considering Selling a Small Business Law Firm

Jeremy E Poock

Three Important Items to Update When Considering Selling a Small Business Law Firm
Tom Merton via Getty Images

Owners of small business law firms (SBLFs) should consider updating the following three important items in advance of selling their law firms:

1. Determine Top Performing Practice Areas

When considering selling a SBLF, owners should determine their top performing practice areas during the past three calendar years (or longer) via the following practice area analysis: (1) number of matters generated per year by practice area, (2) annual revenues generated per practice area, (3) profitability per practice area, and (4) determining trends revealed by the data in points (1)–(3).

For example, let’s consider a trusts and estates law firm that has prepared approximately 1,000 estate plans over the past 35 years (the T&E SBLF).

Its three-year practice area analysis could reveal the following: (1) 70 new estate plans per year at an average of $5,000 per plan that involves flat fee billing; (2) an increasing number of probate/trust administrations from 22 to 25 to 30 per year at an average of $12,000 per probate based upon hourly billings; and (3) an increasing number of elder law matters (e.g., applications to nursing homes, guardianships, conservatorships, and more), which include a mixture of flat fees and hourly billing.

In this example, the practice area analysis would present the following value to the T&E SBLF: (1) spotlighting its increase in probate/trust administrations and elder law matters among its aging client base, which could then justify pre-sale marketing about those practice areas to the firm’s clients; and (2) utilizing its revenues and trends data to inform potential purchasers about its top practice areas, plus its expected revenue trends for the short and long-term (here, trends for increasing probate/trust administrations and elder law matters).

2. Update Your Client List

As a question, what resource do all law firms need to operate and grow?

As a hint: [C] [L] [I] [ ] [ ] [T] [S]

You guessed correctly: CLIENTS.

When considering selling a SBLF, its owners should absolutely update the firm’s client list and referral source list, which together comprise its book of business.

When updating client and referral source information, SBLF owners should seek the following: (1) physical addresses, (2) e-mail addresses, (3) phone numbers, and (4) cell phone numbers.

Based upon the digital age in which we live and conduct business, please also consider connecting with clients and referral sources via LinkedIn.

And, as a bonus, once SBLFs have updated the e-mail addresses for their clients and referral sources, please also consider starting (or re-starting) a monthly (or quarterly) e-newsletter to connect more often with clients than yester-year’s once per year holiday greeting card.

3. Update Your Website and LinkedIn Profile

When considering selling a SBLF, know that any potential purchaser will immediately visit your website, followed by then reviewing your LinkedIn profile.

Similar to homeowners who invest in painting and additional touch-ups before listing their homes for sale, SBLF owners should, at a minimum, update their websites as follows in advance of selling their law firms: (1) introduce new, professional photos of their lawyers and support staff; (2) add new content, including updating attorney bios and firm practice area descriptions; and (3) remove stale content (e.g., former practice areas, articles from before 2015, and any discontinued blogs/e-newsletters).

Regarding LinkedIn, even if SBLF owners do not interact with LinkedIn yet, both clients and would-be purchasers regularly review lawyer LinkedIn profiles. Important updates to LinkedIn profiles for lawyers at a SBLF include: (1) adding an updated, professional picture; (2) updating biographical information; and (3) increasing connections with other professionals and colleagues to 200+ and, ideally, 500+.


Determining a SBLF’s top performing practice areas and updating its book of business present worthwhile investments of time and resources for SBLF owners considering selling their practices because purchasers always seek that information at the outset of the purchase process. In addition, considering that a SBLF’s website and its lawyer LinkedIn profiles present digital gateways to first impressions, SBLFs should update both in advance of a law firm sale to benefit positively from that basic adage of first impressions, namely, judging a book by its cover.