Blog/Podcast: How to Decide if a Network Is Right for Your Firm

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Law firm networks offer a wealth of opportunity, but is joining one right for your firm?

Lindsay Griffiths, Director of Global Relationship Management for International Lawyers Network, joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast to take a deep dive into this topic. She talked about how firms should choose a network, the benefits they offer and how to get the most out of membership.

Finding the Right Legal Network

There are about 170 law firm networks, each with a different focus. Many are region- or practice-specific. This means that there is a network for most firms, but it takes some research to find the right one. If your firm is considering joining a network, check if there are other members that are similar in size and culture to your firm, as that’s a good sign that you’ll fit in. It’s a good idea to call members, especially if there are any firms that you’ve worked with before, and ask about their experience with the network.

Once you’ve found a potential network, you can reach out directly and find out if it’s accepting new members. The network will then likely put you in touch with other members and eventually invite you to a conference or event so you can meet people in person. There’s also a period of due diligence on the network’s part, where it will review your firm further and ensure that you meet requirements for membership.

How to Make the Most of Membership

According to Lindsay, it takes about four years for a firm to become enmeshed in a network and see a return on investment, and that return on investment doesn’t necessarily come in the form of incoming referrals—the real benefit of joining a network is the ability to better serve clients. Referrals are a nice side benefit, but the true value is in being able to provide clients with international service, market your firm more successfully and learn about the global legal market.

It’s important to remember that networks are not directories. Firms can’t join a network, sit back without getting involved and expect work to roll in. Although that might happen in a jurisdiction with a lot of natural incoming business, many attorneys don’t want to send work to someone else without having met them in person. For that reason, attending meetings, responding to email inquiries and engaging in initiatives and events is extremely important. The more firms put in, the more they get out.

Networks Provide Insight into Trends

One of the benefits of a network is learning about trends in the legal market, and as Director of Global Relationship Management, Lindsay has seen plenty of changes in the industry over the years. Currently in the United States, she’s noticed a “merger mania,” where firms are joining each other rapidly. Firms seem to have gotten over the fear that plagued them in 2008, when megafirms fell apart during the economic downturn. In the last few months, consultants have started cautioning firms that bringing on another firm or more lateral partners is not the only way to become profitable and efficient..

Lindsay is also seeing more firms embrace operating like a business. There’s a bigger focus on data and its benefits for marketing and lead generation, and more firms are hiring in-house operations professionals. U.S. firms are leading the way in this, but it’s also starting to happen in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Across the board, mid-size firms are in a great position, because they tend to be more nimble and have access to a good pool of talent.

Why Firms Join the International Lawyers Network

The International Lawyers Network (ILN) was founded in 1988 and includes just over 90 firms from around the world. The ILN looks for members that have international business but don’t necessarily want to open an office in another jurisdiction or merge with another law firm.

Why might a firm join the ILN?

  • To gain a knowledge network. Members are able to share best practices and learn what’s happening in other jurisdictions, both in terms of law and the practice of it. Many firms struggle with the business side of things, and membership in the ILN allows members to crowdsource solutions for challenges like staffing and process improvement.
  • To use it as a marketing tool. When a firm belongs to a network, it means clients have access to more comprehensive services. Lawyers can call an attorney in another jurisdiction to refer work at any time, so it gives them confidence that they pass onto their clients. Although a firm might be just one office, attorneys can honestly tell clients they have a trusted network of partners that they can rely on.
  • To expand upon potential international business. The ILN is best suited for two kinds of firms: those that already have international relationships and would like to make more, and those that have clients that do international business, but the firm isn’t seeing any of that work. The ideal firm is international in outlook but wants to remain independent and stay in its local market.

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