Improving the value of your small law firm – Clean & Tidy

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This article is more than just advice on making sure you have polished your name plate!

Key feedback from buyers after initial meetings with sellers either at their offices or off site is the appearance of the seller and their firm.

Individual appearance

Feedback by a buyer from one meeting with a seller some years ago was that whilst the business looked sound, with good figures and potential, the buyer was not proceeding because the seller looked like they were sleeping in the back of a car and hadn’t washed for a week. First impressions always count.

Firm appearance

Google street view is a very handy tool and so often we take a look at a firm for valuation purposes or to prepare a sales pack and notice that a firm’s shop front has not been cleaned or tidied up for a very long time. It does not take a lot to put a lick of paint around the windows and doors, or book the window cleaner in regularly.


Another piece of regular feedback over time has been the state of the firm’s individual offices. If you have fee earners with a paper problem, ie they scatter it all over the floor, their desk, plus any other surface they can find, a buyer will immediately be wondering whether the firm is sufficiently organised. Will they have to come in and spend a few months sorting everything out, or are there future issues hiding away in the paperwork? Make sure, if you can, everything in the offices is tidy & neat before any buyers visit. Chase your fee earners to finish off files and get them billed (this is worth doing as well from a financial perspective).

Files and Old Files

When I ask the question about how many wills there are in a will bank, quite a lot of sellers give me the answer “4 filing cabinets, half a floor and 3 boxes”. Similarly buyers have come back after visiting a seller’s premises to say that the seller has serious issues with their filing systems and have files spread out everywhere. Other firms pay lip service to their case management software, and don’t get the full benefit out of using it because some of the fee earners refuse to utilise it properly.

Having full facts at hand when negotiating a sale or merger makes a big difference to the chances of success. The only way of getting full facts is to make sure the firm’s systems are being used correctly by everyone.


I accept that a lot of the advice in this article is just common sense. However it is always surprising how often we find ourselves discussing this with sellers!


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