A Journey of the Future of a Two-Attorney Personal Injury Firm: From Free Rent to a Strong Support Network We were discussing the future of his two-attorney personal injury firm when my new client, Dirk, rather hesitantly showed me a real estate listing for a commercial building downtown in his suburban community. I noticed the [...]
A Journey of the Future of a Two-Attorney Personal Injury Firm: From Free Rent to a Strong Support Network
We were discussing the future of his two-attorney personal injury firm when my new client, Dirk, rather hesitantly showed me a real estate listing for a commercial building downtown in his suburban community. I noticed the “Selling Price: $725,000” right away. Dirk told me he’s thinking of buying the building because, in his own words, he’s “tired of flushing money down the [rent] toilet every month.” His plan is to sublet space in the new building and let others pay the mortgage for him, giving him rent-free office space in an attractive and well-situated building.
Pretty good idea, wouldn’t you agree? Buy a building and let others pay your mortgage for you in exchange for the extra space you have no need for anyway. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?
When I asked to whom he might rent, Dirk mentioned solo law firms. He figures there are a sufficient number of solo practitioners in his town who would welcome the chance to get cheap rent. While I don’t fault his assumption, Dirk is thinking inside the box, and he may end up letting a golden opportunity slip away. Instead of renting to just anyone, Dirk should take this opportunity to strengthen his practice by creating strategic relationships with other businesses.
How would he do that? First, Dirk needs to have a vision for his business – where does he want it to be in five years, what needs to happen for it to get there, and what steps can he take now to make that goal a reality?
Once he’s clear on his vision, Dirk should plan out who he’d like to have as subtenants, and then go shopping for them specifically. What other businesses could enhance his own practice, as well as provide additional services to his clients? What other businesses share his target market? Who has direct access to his potential clients? In other words, he should be looking to install cross-referral sources right under his own roof. Dirk became quite excited as he rattled off “chiropractors, dental hygienists, dentists, and doctors;” but, he was missing the point. He serves the plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases, and the people he was suggesting as subtenants represent the very folks he sues. No dentist is likely to refer an unhappy patient to an attorney for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Dirk also represents victims in sex abuse cases, and plaintiffs in auto accidents and other soft tissue injury cases. Keeping his target market in mind, he should focus on recruiting people who could help his clients deal with the aftermath of an injury or incident. Potential subtenants might include: a mental health therapist, a CPA, a financial planner, a pain management specialist, and home healthcare workers, or visiting nurses, among others.
Dirk could also bring in other attorneys who could help his clients and share cross-referrals with him. An estate planning attorney or probate attorney would make sense when clients receive a large award that is intended to cover the cost of their care for some years to come. Getting the money protected in a trust is a good thing to do. (A financial planner could help out here, as well.) Sometimes when people are going through a very difficult time, the marriage can suffer and collapse. So, a family law attorney could be a good fit. That practitioner might also help with guardianships or conservatorships, as necessary. If a Personal Injury client has some serious injuries, but doesn’t win the case, a bankruptcy may be necessary because of the large medical bills the individual will now have to pay.
The point is Dirk was looking at this purchase as a way around paying rent. Now, he’s looking at it as an opportunity to build a strong support network for his practice with cross-referrals, co-counsels, and more extensive customer service available to help his clients with other issues that may come out of their legal problems.
Before you make any business decision, stop to consider your practice and where you want it to go. How will this decision affect your long-term goals? Will this decision take you closer to your goals, or away from them? What is the worst thing that will happen if you don’t say “yes” to this right now? Can your practice live with that? How can you maximize this action to the benefit of your practice and your clients? With a vision and some thoughtful planning, you can make every business decision count.