How to decide where to locate a business

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Vanilla

Guest
I would like to set up my own legal practice but I dont know how to decide where to set up. I live very near a small town that has no other solicitors but maybe it is too small to generate enough business. I does have a doctors practice and an accountants practice which appear to be doing well. A little further is a large market town with plenty of potential clients but with about five solicitors firms already sharing the potential client base. I don't know whether there is a formula depending on the population etc? Can any one help?
 

Brendan Burgess

Founder
Messages
39,694
Hi Vanilla

A very interesting question.

Would the local population of the big town see you as a small town solicitor if you set up in small town?

If you set up in the big town, you could probably still rent an office on Tuesdays in the small town and have the best of both worlds.

Does the Law Society have a practice advisor? I know that the Institute of Chartered Accountants runs courses for people setting up accountancy practices. Maybe the Law Society does the same?

There is every likelihood that there is a specialist advisory firm in the UK running such courses.

Brendan
 
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Vanilla

Guest
Thanks, Brendan. Yes, I'm going to such a course in a few weeks time and am trying to do as much research as I can in the meantime so I will get the best 'value' out of the course. I take your point about being considered a 'small town' solicitor. I suppose I have to decide whether that's something I would mind. Not getting the big jobs/ clients etc.At the moment I feel if I got enough clients to run a reasonable practice I wouldn't mind, but I would like to know if population numbers influence revenue- well, obviously it does- but I would like to know if, based on the population that is there, if I could reasonably expect to make a living...
 
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tedd

Guest
If you set up in the big town and go out to the small town one day a week, you can test the market. If you get enough business there, you can gradually increase the amount of time you spend there. You could eventually close or sell your big town practice and relocate.

I think it's easy to go from being "big" town to "small" town in this setting but the reverse might be harder.
 
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monk

Guest
If you set up in the big town, you could probably still rent an office on Tuesdays in the small town and have the best of both worlds.

Before I read the reply(s) this already came to mind as the best way to go. Definitely a good angle to approach becoming 'the' solicitor in the smaller town
 
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Vanilla

Guest
Thanks to all for replying. It wasn't what I wanted to hear- I hoped setting up in the smaller town would be a good idea, as rents cheaper etc, but good to get independant views, and having recieved those views, am rethinking the situation. It won't happen for another few months anyway, but I intend to get as much advice as I can before then.
 
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Tommy

Guest
Hi Vanilla

I hope I'm not being smart or anything but (speaking as someone who has themselves opened a professional practice) if I were in your shoes I would place a lot more reliance on your own judgement & knowledge of a particular market and locality than on what a few people might say on an internet message board.
 
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monk

Guest
Tommy, that reply did seem a bit smart. As this is a discussion board where people are giving opinions I don't see how your post assists Vanilla. Vanilla I'm sure is capable of making their own decisions, just looking for different point of views from a cross section of people. Why knock this kind of query, and peoples answers, when nobody here is trying to deliberately ruin Vanilla's idea's. If you have positive suggestions/ideas then these should be posted.
I don't run a prof. practice so my opinion is only a general gut feel.. You do run a similar practice so please why not offer your idea's?

My logic:-

- I live in the small town. I require legal services on a fairly regular basis (I assume these are the backbone of a practice?, the rest being fairly infrequent clients where a large population catchment area would be an advantage?)
- I know at the moment I have to travel to the large town for my legal services. I'm fairly used to and comfortable with this. (I assume there is a fairly strong link between solicitor/client who have dealt with each other for a number of years?)

A) In my small town a new legal practice has been set up.
(A question just came to me. Vanilla, do you live here? know alot of potential clients here? established pillar of society and all that? I might change my thought path if these are affirmatively answered)
OK, so a new practice has set up here and it would be more convenient to do my regular legal business here, but, I don't know anybody who does business there who can recommend them... I don't like change and the bar-fly's reckon the practice is going to struggle(is this an Irish condition?) and I don't like change(another Irish condition?) - my current solicitor and me have worked together for a long time. They're not great all of the time but they are a well established practice making a living in this 'larger' town so they must be the norm..

B) I see there's a new practice in the larger town, I don't go in (see reasons above re scepticism/don't like change) but I've noticed a new entrant in a town that is not my locality, so I am just curious about how they get on and don't hear anybody trying to put them down(out of sight/out of mind in the smaller town, not good gossip?) So the new practice gets some business in the larger town because there is space in the market(for the irregular stuff?) so they can keep going. They now have a bit of space to put in place feeler's to reach their target market (the small town). A simple move but very astute. They place adds etc. around the smaller town welcoming anyone requiring any type of legal assistance (nothing too big or too small, that sort of thing), to pop along to the now to be regular once/twice a week sessions you will be holding in the town for the local populations convenience. This goes down well with local's who might have little legal issues they mightn't't have bothered going to the larger town with, but now somebody is reaching out to them that could assist. This visiting solicitor from the larger town gains a reputation, from their good business practice, and this leads to praise/recommendation via word of mouth (another Irish condition? word of mouth is worth its weight in gold, some threads on this site give example). The person(s) requiring regular legal assistance hears this back and decides the solicitor who is courting business in the small town should at least be tried out for their business.. And they all live happily ever after! Goodnight! The solicitor ends up with enough business in both towns to set up 2 office's and retires to the Bahama's as a local gets caught up in a tribunal and bring their own solicitor...
 
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<A HREF=http://pub145.ezboard.com/baskaboutmoney.s

Guest
Tommy, that reply did seem a bit smart. As this is a discussion board where people are giving opinions I don't see how your post assists Vanilla.
As a discussion board it's also sometimes necessary to state the obvious in case the original contributor or other perusers haven't copped it. Tommy's point was fair enough in my view. Then again I've been accused of being too smart myself recently ;) pub145.ezboard.com/faskab...2355.topic
 
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Tommy

Guest
Monk

What, precisely, is wrong with the idea of Vanilla relying primarily on their "own judgement & knowledge of a particular market and locality", as I recommended? :(
 
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monk

Guest
Vanilla is a regular poster in the site and I'm sure he/she knows how this site works. Also, as a solicitor I would be surprised if they made a decision solely from replies on this thread. The 'about AAM' link at the top of the board states gives a run down of what you can expect from the board in way of non-expert opinion's. Especially as you have opened a professional practice and could provide some valuable insight that Vanilla may not have thought of.
AAM is a resource, one of many that people should use when making financial decisions etc. I don't see the need for every second reply on AAM to be 'read up on it yourself' or 'rely on your own judgment', can you not just give your opinions and have some sort of disclaimer link at the bottom 'Askaboutmoney is not a substitute for professional advice'. Although 0 is handy with the googling..
 
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<A HREF=http://pub145.ezboard.com/baskaboutmoney.s

Guest
I don't see the need for every second reply on AAM to be 'read up on it yourself' or 'rely on your own judgment', can you not just give your opinions and have some sort of disclaimer link at the bottom 'Askaboutmoney is not a substitute for professional advice'.
You'd be surprised how often you have to spell things, even the seeming obvious, out and how you can get into the habit of playing it safe and doing so even if it irritates the odd person...
 
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Tommy

Guest
can you not just give your opinions and have some sort of disclaimer link at the bottom
...and people may complain that they were misled because they didn't read "the small print"

Especially as you have opened a professional practice and could provide some valuable insight that Vanilla may not have thought of.
I have already contributed to this discussion, and offered an insight that I thought was worthy of mention. Looks like I shouldn't have bothered when all I seem to get is repeated "more, more, more..." demands from you :(
 
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<A HREF=http://pub145.ezboard.com/baskaboutmoney.s

Guest
Funnily enough, as in this case, it's rarely the person who originally solicited comments who gets worked up about people stating the obvious etc...
 
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Vanilla

Guest
I appreciate everyones comments and that some very busy people have taken time out to reply to my query. Two things-

Tommy, be assured I won't make my decision solely on this boards replies, however having been almost dead cert to open in the smaller town, the fact that a number of people automatically thought the bigger town was the better option has given me food for thought. Especially where I've followed those peoples comments on other threads and found them informative and interesting. At the end of the day, I realise the decision will be mine and mine alone.

Monk- " pillar of the community?!!!" :lol I just don't know what to say to that...only joking, I know what you mean. I'm a relative blow-in to the area, but I have worked in the larger town for a number of years which has in its catchment area the residents of the smaller town, which means I've dealt with quite a few people from the area, and I've moved to live just outside of the smaller town, although I wouldnt be a member of any clubs, societies etc in the area as yet. I guess that's something I should think of doing.
 
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Tommy

Guest
Hi Vanilla

Good to hear that :)

Again I am reluctant to comment in detail as some people seem rather er, sensitve around here, but if I were in your shoes, I would be reluctant to change my plans on the basis of the (by definition, generalised) feedback you receive here.

IMHO, your best bet is to talk to people in your own profession who have made similar moves in the past, and (as Brendan advises) any practice advisory personnel in the Law Society or elsewhere that are knowledgeable in this area. You should look at other options such as possible partnerships with other like-minded solicitors, or buying into an existing practice.

I know plenty of solicitors who have opened up in small towns and they all seem to be doing well. In any new business, it is essential for the business to have some sort of "unique selling point" to differentiate them from their larger competitors and opening in a small town may be easier than trying to compete on day 1 with more established and stronger firms 5 or 6 doors away in a bigger town.

Ultimately IMHO your own character, professionalism and integrity will in the long run be far stronger success factors for your practice than your location of your office.
 
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temptedd

Guest
But bear in mind that some potential customers would prefer to travel away from the small town to get their legal advice. Personally, neither I nor anyone in my family would dream of using a legal adviser from the small town I come from. I wouldn't want them knowing my business and irrespective of how professional and ethical the solicitor is, in my experience these qualities are not uniformly shared by their secretarial and admininstrative staff.

I would disagree with Tommy's view that someone who has set up a professional practice is in a better position to advise you Vanilla. My perspective is that the professions would be a lot better off if they spent a little more time listening to their customers, for a change.
 
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Tommy

Guest
But bear in mind that some potential customers would prefer to travel away from the small town to get their legal advice
This may be true of some customers but surely this is as good a reason as any to locate to a small town, as one would expect a lot of business to come from the population of the bigger town nearby, who don't necessarily want to use their local solicitor.

irrespective of how professional and ethical the solicitor is, in my experience these qualities are not uniformly shared by their secretarial and admininstrative staff.
I think this misses the point that all professional firms nowadays must implement and operate proper ethical codes for staff encompassing things like confidentiality etc. It also misses the point that it is unlikely that the employees of any business will all be natives or residents of the town or region in which the business is located.

I would disagree with Tommy's view that someone who has set up a professional practice is in a better position to advise you Vanilla.
Why? Surely they will be more knowledgeable about the ordinary day-to-day pitfalls, problems and situations that one has to encounter in running the business? Does it not also hold that if one is opening a bar/restaurant/construction business etc that others who have done similarly in the past will be more aware of the issues involved than your ordindary Joe in the street?

eg Should a bar owner depend on his customers to advise him on licensing law, dealing with suppliers, pricing issues, health & safety issues, employment regulations, tax etc etc...?

My perspective is that the professions would be a lot better off if they spent a little more time listening to their customers, for a change.
This may be your opinion but surely this viewpoint has little relevance here. Any practising professional can only survive in business if they have among other things a strong customer service focus. Of course this involves listening to customers and taking their opinions on board. However It will be impossible for the professional to provide good customer service on a sustainable basis, if basic and avoidable mistakes are made in relation to the running of the practice. Customers will not forgive the professional if slipshod service or poor advice is dispensed as a result of inadequate planning within the practice. This is why specialist advice is essential.
 
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jem

Guest
Have to agree with Tommy,
As one who set up an Accountancy practice a few years ago I feel that I have learnt a lot through experience. Myself and another Accountant in practice regularly discuss different things trying to share information and practical experience.
 
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