If your firm is like many solo and small law firms, a significant portion of your firm’s value derives from the amount of business your website generates. When selling a law firm—be it an actual sale or a transition to another firm as “of counsel”—it is therefore critical that the buying firm retains the benefit of the seller’s previous website traffic.
The obvious question arises, then: how can you retain the value of a website for a firm that no longer exists after the transaction is completed? It’s not as difficult or as complex as you might think.
Website visits are influenced by many factors. The more significant ones include the domain name, the age of the domain, content, and paid online campaigns (e.g., Google ads). The simplest way to maintain those advantages is to keep the site up and running.
Some changes to the website will be needed, of course. For example, if the selling lawyer becomes “of counsel” with the buying law firm, edits to the site will be necessary to explain that the selling lawyer is now “of counsel” at another firm and directs readers to the new site. Do not change telephone numbers! Instead, forward all calls to the new firm.
This simple solution works well for another reason. In many transactions, the selling lawyer is paid based on the amount of revenue generated by the seller’s clients and goodwill, as well as any efforts attributable to the seller. By maintaining the status quo, it should be relatively straightforward for the acquiring firm to keep track of the new business generated from the original website.
This solution is not perfect. There will now be two websites to maintain, thereby increasing overall website expenses. That’s a small price to pay, however, for the additional revenue generated from the seller’s site.
Sometimes maintaining two websites is not practical. A good example of this is when a solo practitioner joins a substantially larger firm with a more comprehensive website and web marketing strategy. In such situations, it usually makes no sense to, in effect, have the seller’s website compete with the buyer’s site.
Here, buyer and seller agree to remove the seller’s site from the internet. This doesn’t mean the site’s value is completely lost, however. The parties could choose to transfer certain content from the seller’s site to the buyer’s website. In addition, with some fancy coding work that won’t break the bank, even the Google juice derived from the original domain name can benefit the buyer’s site moving forward.
As a drawback, though, one cannot track seller-generated traffic using this solution. Seller and buyer will need to come up with an alternative method to value the old site’s benefits.
The good news for solo practitioners and small law firm owners is that the time, energy, and expense you’ve put into building a credible and effective web marketing machine doesn’t have to go to waste. With proper planning, retiring law firm owners can implement an exit strategy that puts dollars in their pockets from their firm’s website while enjoying retirement.