Thomson Snell & Passmore is a top 150 UK law firm with a turnover of £14.5m generated by 36 partners (18 equity). It is one of the oldest solicitors’ practices in the UK, having been established in Tunbridge Wells, Kent since 1570.
In 2005, commercial litigation partner Kamal Aggarwal had a vision. He wanted to create a new kind of law office – from scratch – in the Thames Gateway area. Entering any new market is hard enough – and even more so for a law firm. An innovative approach was required.
Working with his marketing director and a consultant, Kamal’s team developed a thought leadership campaign. It required a small team of lawyers to be trained in market research and a telemarketing campaign to secure them interviews with the owners of 50 local SME (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises).
The idea was to combine their market positioning as “Listening lawyers” with a real-life demonstration of their ability to engage with businesses on the real commercial issues that they faced. The exercise also enabled the lawyers to get up close and personal to a number of target client organisations and initiate a business relationship. Without a hard sell.
In advance of launching the research exercise, Kamal spent many hours talking to the various quasi-Government organisations leading the area’s regeneration and professional intermediaries – generating awareness and support for the research. He also used these discussions to gain commitment from external speakers for the subsequent series of business seminars he planned.
Kamal comments: “It felt as if every day was filled with meeting people – networking became my modus operandi. Sometimes I worried what my fellow partners would think about such a significant investment of time with no concrete, short term results. As it happens, we were all extremely satisfied with the results”.
In October 2006, the research report was published and although it didn’t receive as much media coverage as was hoped, the firm was delighted with the high turnout at a variety of seminars tackling the issues whether these related to infrastructure, the skills shortage or business finance.
Kamal and his team worked tirelessly to address one of the main concerns – the perceived lack of communication from the patchwork of bodies driving the regeneration and the need for more opportunities for local business to get together to discuss common issues.
Two specialist groups were quickly established – one for those focused on property and construction and another for human resource professionals – as well as TSP Plus which is a forum for larger companies, local authorities, charities and other quasi-public organisations to debate and discuss issues that came out of the research projects and continue to be relevant to the region. These events are round tables of six to seven people with a Thomson Snell & Passmore lawyer facilitating discussion after a guest speaker’s presentation.
In 2009, the research exercise was repeated using telemarketing support and an updated set of results were published. Another phase of the campaign unfolded. Kamal added “We continued to operate the various networking clubs for the local community. All lawyers that joined the team underwent an intensive training programme to ensure that they understood our strategy and had the necessary skills to engage with businesses the right way. Meanwhile, our marketing team continued to send out a range of focused e-newsletters and roll out events that met the needs of the local companies. We were surprised that whilst we originally targeted SMEs we found a number of large national and international clients also came to us – they were impressed with how we had embedded ourselves in the business community. They too were attracted by our straight-talking, pragmatic and sensibly priced services delivered by highly rated legal experts who really understood the commercial imperative”.
The new office generated significant instructions and the initial financial forecasts were exceeded by a substantial figure – and it now accounts for just over 30% of the commercial group’s fee income. Kamal’s rota team of staff was gradually replaced with full time lawyers across all the commercial disciplines. The firm is now investing heavily in new premises at Crossways Business Park which will be custom fitted to meet the needs of the firm and its clients. It is a brave step in the current climate and demonstrates the confidence of the firm in the region.
The campaign – whilst it has evolved substantially – continues to this day. And Kamal and his team of lawyers – whether old hands or “newbies” – still invest a huge amount of time networking. On the local business community’s agenda. It has become a way of life…
* Kim Tasso is a management consultant specialising in the professions, a freelance journalist and author www.kimtasso.com/blog2 Twitter: RedStarKim