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Covering Your Bases in a Highly Connected World: The Role of Law Firm Networks

Right here, right now no matter what size your law firm or how deep your client relationships go, new deals are being made and if you aren’t winning market share –you’re losing! With a finite amount of legal spend available you have to win over a competitor’s client in order to grow your book of business. Some lawyers are doing that by offering desirable pricing incentives.

Others are doing that by proclaiming to be the 10,000-pound gorilla that will protect, champion and ultimately produce favorable results for the client. More often than not, what produces market-share results is affording the client access to intelligence and relationships that makes them successful in achieving both their business and legal goals.

Sounds easy –right? Not so much! Because what is required to afford clients both intelligence and relevant business connections is time, communication, technology and access to a network of valuable business contacts. Enter –law firm networks.

During the course of my legal marketing career I’ve had the privilege of working with several global law firm networks that concentrate on both mid-size and small law firms. They include; ALFA, Terra Lex and ILN. While the networks are similarly designed to accommodate membership, the benefits of membership vary and it’s my impression that you get what you pay for and of course, what you put in to it!

The act of networking typically sends shivers down the spine of most lawyers but law firm networks provide a safe landing pad for members to feel welcome, needed and relevant. Jim Jarrell is the Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer at Norris McLauglin P.A. and his firm is a member of the Meritas law firm network. “Law firm networks empower individual lawyers, practice areas and industry groups by affording them depth and breadth of both experience and marketing.” “When our goal is effectively and efficiently grow market-share, law firm networks are a no-brainer!”

With the world’s economy being reliant on markets that span the globe it’s imperative that you cover your bases. What I mean by that is even though your law firm may not have business in eastern Europe today it’s important to develop connections via your law firm network in order to be ready to offer assistance when the situation changes. Here in Wilmington, Delaware and noted by New York-based online magazine, MentalFloss “more than 50 percent of publicly traded companies in the U.S. and more than 60 percent of Fortune 500 companies—are incorporated in Delaware” we see a lot of business issues come through the Delaware Court of Chancery that could potentially contain useful insights for our law firm network firms. By utilizing your law firm network communication hub to distribute legal precedent as well as “thought leadership” members see, learn and understand when to turn to you with questions or potential client work.

Law firm networks work hard to provide regular in-person meetings or conferences in various countries around the world in order to acquaint member firms to each other. Internally these gatherings are sometimes naively referred to as boondoggles and that’s because the name-caller most likely hasn’t attended or effectively participated in a conference. For the lawyer or lawyers that do attend they quickly gain a sense of respect and appreciation for the value the conference experience affords attendees. From cultural education and peer-to-peer training to general discussions related to potential client development opportunities – attendees collaborate as legal team members as well as using the in-person time to develop interpersonal relationships.

Whether it’s the Volkswagen recall of 2016 or the Boeing Airbus suits of today –teams of lawyers from around the world have the opportunity to collaborate and provide international companies both business and legal guidance in order to resolve their legal issues.

Law firm networks have a talent pool of lawyers that only a small handful of multi-national firms can compete with. By mobilizing the law firm network resources more of these opportunities are being secured and awarded to law firm network teams. Some law firm networks even have trained project managers on-staff to assist with discovery and effective facilitation of network Request for Proposals (RFP).

“One of the biggest law firm network developments in recent years is the focus on facilitating collaborative business development with technology, experienced staff support, and direct connections to the General Counsel community.” states Terri Pepper Gavulic, Chief Business Officer at Terra Lex. “This allows Terra Lex members to extend their global footprint and compete for -and win -work they would not have been able to previously, in teams ranging from two member firms to 20 or more collaborating firms.”

It’s no surprise that technology is helping support the connectivity of law firm networks. LinkedIn groups provide a platform for practice specific focus. News distribution services, aggregate law firm network articles and push content to key readership segments including Corporate Counsel, Human Resource professionals and more. Law firm network websites afford members access to valuable content including professional development, practice specific and of course, membership data. Often this resource is overlooked when developing individual and strategic marketing plans.

Law firm networks afford small and mid-sized law firms access to industry-leading consultants, media outlets, distribution channels and content they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Some top of mind benefits includes; access and use of intelligence reports for strategic planning, collaboration with network members to gain sponsorship access on a national scale or peer-to-peer mentor groups.

“Covering your bases is a good title for this article,” states Lindsay Griffiths, Director of Global Relationship Management for the ILN, “because small and mid-sized firms don’t have the internal bandwidth to always grow national (or international) market-share on their own -it’s important to use the network to cover your bases!”

If your firm is a member of a law firm network and you are not taking advantages, ask your marketing department for insight then get involved. Take advantage of the no-cost or low-cost benefits including; joining a practice group committee, connecting with viable referral contacts over a virtual coffee break or contribute to the network’s invaluable group-think efforts.


About the Author Jennifer Smuts is the Chief Marketing Officer for Connolly Gallagher LLP in Wilmington, Delaware. She can be reached at

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