How to Choose The Right Consultancy Firm For You

Finding A Firm to Become A Consultant Solicitor

How to Choose The Right Firm For You As A Consultant Solicitor

As you may have seen from our earlier article, there are loads of reasons why solicitors want to move away from traditional practice and start out as a self-employed consultant solicitor.

The next challenge they often face is trying to decide which firm to run their consultancy through. These days there are so many options - from the bigger, corporate firms, to the more boutique firms.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the key things to consider when choosing the right regulatory framework for you.

Your Why

Before even thinking about a firm, take some time to reflect on why you’re choosing to become a consultant solicitor and what features of that lifestyle are most important to you.

This will help you to frame up which benefits are most aligned with your personal goals and the way that you want to build your business.

Consider also the practice areas that you want to work in and the type of clients that you want to support. Understanding this will help you to choose a brand that naturally attracts that type of work.

Top 10 Factors to Consider

1) Will They Provide You With Any Work?

To succeed as a consultant solicitor, you do need to be able to build up your own pipeline of work fairly quickly. That being said, when you’re getting started, or if you’re having a quieter month, it can be helpful to know that there is a consistent flow of work coming from within the firm.

When looking into the work given to consultants, make sure to check:

  • How many leads are sent to consultants on average each month?

  • What is the average case value?

  • How many of those cases require follow on work?

  • What is the check-out rate for those leads?

  • How often do consultants cross-refer to other consultants?

It can be helpful to speak with existing consultants at the organisations to find out their experiences of the work being referred.

At Lawhive, we send consultants up to 30% extra work on top of their existing practice, in a feed of fully qualified, pre-paid instructions.

2) How Reliable is Their Technology?

You’ll find that most consultancy firms will allow you to work remotely as part of the agreement these days. In reality though, your ability to work effectively from home can be hampered by an unreliable VPN, a system that is down for hours, or where it takes over an hour to open a simple file.

To thrive as a consultant solicitor, you need technology at your fingertips that will reduce admin and help maximise the time spent doing what you do best.

At Lawhive, we handle the admin for you - client onboarding, file opening, compliance, client money account, invoicing, collecting payment, plus we have a dedicated customer success team. No more form filling or chasing payments - we promise this will change your life!

Make sure you check out what software the firm is using and ask questions about the reliability of their systems. If they have IT support, ask about average response times to make sure that support is on hand if you need it.

3) Their Mission and Values

Embedding yourself with a firm whose mission and values align with your own will give you a better sense of purpose in the work that you do. When your work adds value to things you care about, you’ll naturally feel more motivated and interested.

Generally speaking, firms who live and breathe their mission tend to have higher team morale and motivation overall. The added benefit to being in an organisation where positivity and motivation are there in spades, is that you will find yourself caught by that same energy. It’s contagious!

Solid mission statements tend to build strong cultures, clear in decision-making and resilient team members.

4) Is There A Good Community?

Being self-employed and working from home can be a lonely experience sometimes. Organisations that care about the well-being of their consultants know that when solicitors are happy, their clients are happy.

Although many consultants want to work flexibly from home, they still benefit from being part of a central community, that grows and develops professionally together. That’s why its important to find a firm that has a good community to allow you to share resources, knowledge and cross-refer work to each other. It also gives you people to pick up the phone to if you’re stuck or having a bad day.

Check to make sure that the community is a genuine source of support for existing solicitors. We’ve heard some consultants say that their firm’s network was heavily promoted when they joined, only to find consultants were largely ignored by the wider team unless they were making significant sums of money.

5) How Will I Get Paid?

Generally, you’ll find that consultancy agreements provide for the solicitor to take home between 50-70% of their billing, depending on the firm.

Most law firms require you to submit an invoice to them for this fee share once a month on a set date, only after your client has paid their invoice. This could mean you will be potentially waiting 4-6 weeks after your client settles up before you will get paid your share.

Waiting to get paid can be frustrating, so look for organisations that pay you promptly once the client’s funds are in.

When you work through Lawhive, for example, you are paid the same day you complete work for your client. We automatically invoice the client on your behalf, collect payment and get you paid same day.

6) What Support Is Available to Me?

If the firm has IT support or internal teams that can help with admin questions, find out how quickly they typically respond. This is a common gripe with existing consultants at some firms, where days can pass before you get a response to an accounts query or support with an IT issue. Where responsiveness is poor, you typically end up wasting a lot of time trying to figure things out yourself.

Make sure to find out what happens if you go on holiday or are off work unexpectedly. Getting a proper break when needed is vital for mental health, so you’ll want assurances that someone can keep files moving in your absence and any additional costs connected to that.

7) What Are The Contractual Obligations?

Make sure you read the terms of your consultancy agreement carefully to be clear on your contractual obligations.

Some common clauses that you’ll want to have certainty on include:

  • Exclusivity clauses: Do they allow you to work for other organisations whilst acting as a consultant for them or must all work be put through their firm?

  • Any billing expectations: If there is a minimum billing target they expect from you, you’ll want to be clear on this going into the relationship.

  • Notice periods: If you decide to leave the firm, you’ll want to know how much notice you are required to give and what happens to your files/clients.

8) Who Owns The Client Relationship?

You’ve worked hard to bring in clients and build referral relationships, so it is important that you retain ownership of those relationships.

It should be noted that usually any work referred by the firm remains in their ownership unless agreed otherwise.

9) Are There Growth Opportunities?

Many consultants are happy working and billing their own pipeline of work. But if you have aspirations of growing your own team of employees and sub-consultants working under you, you’ll want to make sure that the firm you work with supports this. Building your team up can be a great way to enhance your income and leverage your time so that you can focus on fee-earning work that you love.

Should I Speak To Other Consultants?

If you’re considering joining an organisation as a consultant, we highly recommend you speak with existing consultants that work there to understand their experiences. Ideally, connect with them directly rather than speaking with a consultant introduced to you by the firm to ensure independence.

Here are examples of some questions we recommend you asking:

  • Do you find the firm’s software easy to use? Is the system reliable and do you ever experience challenges logging in?

  • When there are challenges with technology, how quickly can you get someone to help?

  • Once I’ve billed work, how quickly will I be paid my fee share?

  • How many cases on average do you receive from them per month?

  • How do you arrange cover for your files when you go on holiday?

  • How long do you spend on compliance on each file you open on average?

  • How often do you speak to other lawyers/staff at the firm?

Asking direct questions like this will help you to see past the marketing messages and find out what it’s really like to work in the organisation day-to-day.

Less Important Factors

There are some benefits that are promoted by law firms that, in reality, don’t matter that much.

Dozens of existing solicitors have given us feedback about their experiences at other firms. We found some key similarities in the factors that they thought mattered a lot when they first went self-employed, that turned out later to be less important:

1) Firm’s Brand

When you first start out as a new consultant, it might feel important to go with a well-known firm or one of the “big names” that are promoting consultancy heavily. Perhaps you even believe you can latch onto their branding and use it to attract clients.

A number of experienced consultants that we’ve spoken to noted that in reality they get nothing in return for that reputation, with work being directed to the in-house employees rather than consultants.

Some of these big firms focus a good chunk of their marketing budget on bringing in new solicitors, rather than clients, and there is little to no focus on finding work for them.

2) In-Person Networking & Socials

You might have seen in-person socials or networking events promoted on some firm’s websites or on social media. In our experience, these events don’t serve a lot of benefits for consultants and are really treated as an opportunity to raise the profile of the firm. You’ll find yourself spending half a day travelling to and from, without having much to show for it.

Instead, look for a firm that has either regional connections, or one that leans into the virtual community. In a team that works remotely, finding new ways to connect and chat over the virtual water cooler is so important.

3) Telephone Answering Services

In theory, having someone available to take phone calls when you’re busy sounds like it would be handy. Most of the time though, clients are happy to leave a voicemail or pop you an email.

You can also make use of technology to auto-transcribe voicemails and phone calls, so that you have instant phone notes for your file, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone systems can integrate with your mobile phone so you never miss an opportunity.

If you’re thinking about your next steps, or are an existing consultant that needs more support, then get in touch as there’s a good chance we might be able to help.

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