Bennett Briegal – Year One
This is a blog that I planned to write a few weeks ago. Bennett Briegal started trading on 1 March 2019 and, once we reached the end of our first year, I thought I would write a blog to reflect on what we had learnt during our first year. We are a law firm that advises other law firms (and other professionals) and we like to make sure we practise what we preach.
I’m pleased to report that we have been very busy and, with a number of deals completing in March, the last couple of weeks were a bit too busy to find time to write blogs. There is a lesson in there for a start, that it is important to find time for marketing activities, even when you are busy. I am however, now writing (to paraphrase Gabriel Garcia Marquez) in the time of coronavirus. We are publishing a number of blogs on this subject and I thought it was still instructive to reflect on our first year.
So what have we learnt?
On the positive side, all our planning – and we did do a lot of planning – was both worthwhile and valuable. Never underestimate the amount of planning that is necessary. Because of this planning, things have gone well and we have had no major issues to deal with. We must of course thank our supportive and valued clients, and the other law firms and accountants who have trusted us by referring their clients to us.
One potential downside of having lots of work, when we are a virtual law firm with only two of us, is that it is much harder to balance the peaks and troughs of work. And so to our trusty and supportive virtual assistant who helps with admin, typing etc. leaving us free to do the client facing work. Deb wasn’t in the plan, but has proved invaluable.
One potential risk with a new business is taking on too much of the wrong sort of work, due to the fear of not having enough. We are fortunate that our chosen niche appreciates what we do and we therefore fairly quickly decided not to accept anything other than working in our sweet spot. This left us free to focus on servicing our chosen clients.
The lesson is therefore to know your niche and stick to it. We still rather like the page on our website that list of things we don’t do! We do of course know some very good lawyers who are able to deal with those areas of law and are happy to refer clients to them. Otherwise, our plan was to be good lawyers and have some fun and we have worked on some great cases during the year and enjoyed ourselves doing so.
It is key to keep the channels of communication open and to raise any issues that arise in a new business as soon as possible. By talking regularly and anticipating any potential problems, we have avoided any issues arising.
The usual good business practices apply in terms of ensuring bills are raised on time and good relationships are maintained with clients so that they pay our bills. By agreeing fixed fees with clients wherever we can ahead of commencing work, we have not experienced issues with client not wanting to pay our bills.
Whilst we are not going to publish our accounts, I created an actual versus budget spreadsheet at the end of the year and it is interesting to see where the numbers differed. We were delighted that our billing was higher than we had predicted, which necessarily incurred some higher costs. As our costs were a similar percentage greater than our billing, we are pleased that our budgets were therefore correct, if on the low side. As we have clients up-and-down the country, our travel costs were higher than we expected and we spent more on legal subscriptions than we anticipated. We spent less on virtual office costs.
So year one of BB Law has been great. We’ve enjoyed it and the business is running well. Like all businesses, the next few months will be interesting, but we look forward to continuing to work with you going forward.