Law Firm Mergers - A Strategic Checklist

Most underachieving law firm mergers share one fundamental deficiency: the failure to work a practicable marketing strategy into the very soul of the merger – before it happens, while it happens and after it happens. Keep in mind that marketing is not just self-promotional activity but the process by which the organization actually defines itself. It is also used by others, such as in recruitment and business development, to define the firm externally. Likewise, marketing has an immediate impact on internal perceptions.

Who cares about your merger? Everybody affected by it. So how do you market your merger for success?

  • Get your story straight, quickly: The biggest mistake merging firms make is waiting too long to establish a marketing plan for the merger. Waiting until after the merger to think about similarities and differences between the two firms is too late. Determine during the negotiating phase what each firm brings to the table and the benefits of the merger.
  • Don’t forget about your internal stakeholders: Simply identifying the value that the merger brings to clients and executives will not yield a successful merger. You must market to internal stakeholders as well.
  • Identify the key message: What do our clients and internal stakeholders need to know most? Craft the high level messages that must be communicated.
  • Show the value: Demonstrate to the market place that your intellectual and professional platform is indeed broader and deeper.
  • Speak their language: Refine messaging for effective communication across multiple fronts. Always keep the end user in mind to ensure communication is appropriate and effective. Clients and internal stakeholders have very different needs and concerns, and your messaging should speak directly to each audience.
  • Tell the truth: Clients and stakeholders want, and need, to hear the facts about the merger. Get the story straight early and plan ahead to avoid inaccurate information.
  • Be direct: Before rumors start, issue a press release or hold a conference. Address the facts quickly, and continue marketing.
  • Spread the word: The worst news often emerges from a lack of information. Before the rumors fly, disseminate your messaging. Be direct, and communicate often.
  • Show your credibility: Articles on legal or client industry issues should be co-bylined by lawyers from both of the merging firms. Talk about mergers in general, using your own as an example.
  • Share the experience: Implicitly remind your clients and stakeholders that this experience is an example of how it is done right.Even years later, partners from the two original firms can still share their experiences at conferences, meetings, and industry events. This communicates the merger’s success and continues to reassure clients and internal stakeholders.

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