Best Practice: Expanding your geographical reach through law firm expansion
Asked and Answered
By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
Q. Our firm is a 14 attorney firm in central Iowa. We have one office in Des Moines and have been considering opening an office in another city. We represent business organizations and very few individual clients. I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.
A. I hope this is part of an overall strategic planning process and not a random act. If it is then the first consideration should be the needs of your most important existing clients. The first questions you should address are:
- Where are your present clients located and how do they communicate with the firm?
- To what extent have the needs and demands of these clients changed due to advances in technology?
- Are your client relationships based upon direct contact and communication? To what extent are interpersonal relationships crucial to the maintenance of these clients?
- Are any of these key existing clients expanding into new geographical areas?
After giving some thought to the above questions determine whether the firm can meet the needs of key clients from existing geographical locations, or whether it must consider new venues. Then consider the following:
- It is necessary for the firm to be physically present where the client is located or is the firm better served utilizing existing resources to expand practically, while not physically?
- Is a physical presence required to practice in the new location?
- Would the firm be better served by utilizing technological resources instead of physical location expansion?
- Are there marketing disadvantages by not having a physical presence even if the firm can service the legal needs of the client with a local presence? Could the firm lose out of opportunities by being out of site out of mind?
A geographical strategy must carefully consider and weigh the importance of personal contact.
Think through the process strategically and as a part of your planning process - run the numbers on a few scenarios - and weigh the pros and cons of moving into other areas.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC,(www.olmsteadassoc.com) is a past chair and member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Law Office Management and Economics. For more information on law office management please direct questions to the ISBA listserver, which John and other committee members review, or view archived copies of The Bottom Line Newsletters. Contact John at email@example.com.