How to Approach a Firm You Would Like to Buy

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how to approach a firm to buy

Purchasing another law firm can be a quick solution to expand your business empire, get new clients, source new staff or enter a new market. However, approaching a firm you would like to buy out of the blue requires careful planning. We can help you – our Enhanced Buyer service has been set up specifically to assist with making and advising on targeted approaches.

Conduct Thorough Research

Research the firm you are interested in. Full background checks on the owners, online information, website checks, even using external investigators, researchers and mystery shoppers can give you a good idea of the condition of the business. Understand the market position, sources of clients, the staff team, financial health, competitive landscape, and growth potential. Don’t see everything as a negative – eg if a firm has no social media presence, its an immediate and easy fix if you acquire it.

Prepare a Clear Acquisition Strategy

Define your acquisition strategy and set limits. What are you prepared to invest? Why do you want the business? Are you looking to acquire the firm for its market share, technology, talent, or other reason? If its vanity, don’t bother!

Engage a Business Broker

I guess we would say this, but if you use a business broker it can be an invaluable asset in this process, particularly if you use our enhanced buyer service (which includes making targeted approaches on request). Business brokers can make the approach, identify potential targets, facilitate introductions and negotiate terms. Very often work goes in behind the scenes that you may not be aware of as brokers do talk to both sides and also have networks in which to source firms that are not openly on the market but may be interested in selling. Additionally, brokers provide detailed confidential valuations and acquisition advice on targets.

Make Initial Contact

When making initial contact with the target firm, approach with discretion and respect. Do not under any circumstances communicate with anyone other than the owner directly. If possible, use an intermediary to make the approach. Make sure at all times you approach with the benefit to the target in mind – ie explain the advantages to them, not to you.

Conduct Due Diligence

If the target firm shows interest, the next step is due diligence. Keep it very simple to start, otherwise you will spook the target. A short list of documents to start is key – we can assist if you are an enhanced buyer with us. We can also provide market analysis and valuation reports.

Negotiate Terms and Structure the Deal

Based on the due diligence findings, negotiate the terms of the acquisition. This is the bit where you have to pitch at a level of interest to the firm, but similarly where you don’t offend the target and ruin the relationship you have developed. Don’t assume an early rejection is the end. Quite often we see parties returning to deals after a lengthy period of time. It’s essential to structure the deal in a way that aligns with your finances and goals. Remember – you approached the target, they were probably quite happy tootling along doing their own thing, and it is easy for them to simply decide to walk away and not bother progressing. You must make it worth them progressing.

Plan for Integration

Once the acquisition is finalised, develop a detailed integration plan. Sounds easy enough, but this can be a complete nightmare for all concerned. You need an idea very early on as to what actions will be needed, what investment will be required and how staff teams can fit together going forwards. This can take a considerable amount of time and effort on all sides. Don’t forget at all times that disruptions to staff routines need to be kept as minimal as possible – people hate change, and you don’t want a mass exodus.


Approaching a firm you would like to buy is quite straightforward, but I don’t think it always goes to plan.. Quite often target firms have their own thoughts on their value, their exit plans and future progression, which can be markedly different to those of the potential buyer. It can take a lot of time too and involve a few rejections before proceeding. If a firm goes to market, very often the first few offers get rebuffed whilst the sellers find their feet and accept reality. The same applies to firms targetted for an approach. Every business seller has their own opinion on worth and it rarely matches the buyer’s thoughts!


General FAQ's

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