My friend and colleague Carolyn Elefant, on her MyShingle.com blog, recently spoke to me about issues in selling a law practice (/). Carolyn raised an excellent point when discussing an advertisement by a 70-year old lawyer in Kansas who sought to sell his practice. The advertisement featured the fact that the firm uses practice management software tools like Amicus, HotDocs and QuickBooks, and has a database with a list of 4000 contacts. As Carolyn observed, such information is ample evidence that the firm has at least made an adequate investment in technology.
This is an important point in two respects. First, if a lawyer contemplating retirement has not kept the practice’s technology up to speed, the value is going to be diminished in negotiations once a potential purchaser realizes that a substantial IT investment will be necessary. The principle is the same as that of a house purchaser who wants $20,000 off the purchase price if the house needs a new roof that the purchaser will have to pay for.
The second important point is more positive. If you have done the right things with your practice – kept technology up to date, invested in new office space with modern infrastructure, maintained strong referral relationships with other firms – be sure to communicate those facts up front. Their value may not be easily quantifiable, but they definitely support the firm’s goodwill: its reputation, client base and client loyalty. The decision to sell a practice is no time to be modest, or to assume that the firm’s virtues are self-evident. Communicate those virtues up front, and make sure potential purchasers know how their worth supports your asking price.