February 28, 2023|Kim's Blog, Lawyers, Marketing, Strategy|
Manage and grow your private client practice – Recruitment, Performance, Segmentation and ROI (February 2023)

This post summarises some of the key themes emerging from the recent online MBL “How to manage and grow your private client practice” full day session  . It is intended to supplement the learning resources for delegates provided on the day – delegate aims, poll results and takeaways are shown below. Manage and grow your private client practice – Recruitment, Performance, Segmentation and ROI.


Many delegates reported that a core challenge for their private client team was recruitment. Both to maintain service levels and underpin growth strategies.

Having confident leadership with a strong vision, backed up with a robust business plan and strategy and evidence of progress was attractive to potential recruits. People want to join a winning team and to visualise their progression.

There were comments about the importance of the Employee Value Proposition (EVP) which is similar to the firm’s overall brand but with a focus on what value there is for potential employees. There’s a case study of EVP at DAC Beachcroft PM Conference Report 2022: Strategy implementation (kimtasso.com)

There were also comments about the importance of flexible working (including WFH). Some felt that  Covid had “let the cat out of the bag” with regards to flexible working. Some were concerned with the challenge of making flexible working align with client expectations for face-to-face contact and service delivery. Rather than seeing flexible working as a constraint, it could be considered in terms of the ability to reach high calibre candidate who might not be willing or able to work in an office on a full-time basis. Effectively, it extends recruitment reach (and retention) in terms of potential talent.

Strong and clear policies and procedures, appropriate metrics and regular reviews of employee and client needs were needed.

See also:

Recruitment and succession of surveyors (kimtasso.com)

Managing a surveying practice – Resource management (kimtasso.com)

Learning from Lockdown – Positive outcomes from the Covid crisis (kimtasso.com)

Private client marketing – five thoughts from heads of department (kimtasso.com)

Performance management

Several delegates were keen to introduce performance management processes into their firms. Some only had appraisals for support staff and wished to include lawyers in the process or design a new process for legal staff.

We talked about the importance of linking the firm’s vision and mission, to objectives in the business plan, team plans and ultimately to the goals and expectations for each member of staff. This is the alignment of organisational and individual goals. Some were interested in the potential use of Using Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard in a PSF (kimtasso.com) as an alternative to traditional business plans – seeing an easier link between firm and individual performance.

A related issue was the need for transparency in performance, progression and pay/benefits processes. There was a debate about how development needs (training needs analysis, knowledge and skill gaps, preparing for promotion, leadership training etc) were incorporated into the process.

Most delegates found the nine-box grid a useful tool for talent management and succession.  I encountered this tool in Change management – Change Catalyst book review by Kim Tasso and further details are available The 9 Box Grid: A Practitioner’s Guide – AIHR. There was another discussion about the impact on motivation and retention where one team member worked harder/less and/or produced significantly more or less than other team members.

For those without access to human resource professionals I suggested looking at CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) resources e.g

Performance Management | Factsheets | CIPD

Performance Reviews | Factsheets | CIPD

Could do better? Assessing what works in performance management | Report | CIPD

Implementing Effective Performance Management | Podcasts | CIPD (case study of KPMG)

Information on Performance Management | CIPD

There was also a discussion about the extent to which financial management should be part of performance management. For example, the extent to which lawyer should be responsible for managing debtors and their role in credit control. There was a discussion about the need for training in this area and the sharing of best practice with frequent touchpoints with finance professionals and clients.

Larger professional services firm were using automation in this area. See, for example, Performance management in the professions (kimtasso.com)

Segmentation and niches

There was a lot of interest in the use of segmentation, niches and personas to bring greater focus to the marketing and business development of private client practices. This was especially important for smaller firms where they have limited resources but face significant competition in the wider private client market.

We explored lots of ideas around segmentation, market mapping, emerging private client niches and the creation and use of personas. And looked at how such tools might be applied to both web site SEO strategies and other digital marketing strategies.

Back to basics – importance of segmentation and personas (kimtasso.com)

Marketing and BD planning – Segmentation, Rock Stars and Engagement (kimtasso.com)

Struggling with segmentation? Kim Tasso article PM Magazine

marketing professional services to high net worth clients (kimtasso.com)

We also challenged the view that the older generation was less IT savvy adept and less engaged in the use of technology by looking at the evidence. And the work of some firms and charities in helping older clients get to grip with technology.  Marketing to the elderly for lawyers and accountants (kimtasso.com)

We looked at data analysis and client journey mapping and there were some great personas created during the break-out exercises. These could then be used to adapt the use of social media so that the content and channel choices are more aligned to the market segments and personas in use. There were similar comments about the difference in the use of social media by more experienced and newer lawyers (building a personal reputation and following) compared to established lawyers leveraging their network.

Return on Investment (ROI) – The struggle is real

One of the delegates asked how to manage a situation where you are promoting a new idea or project but are not in a position to calculate the Return on Investment (ROI) at the outset.

Calculating ROI for professional services marketing can be a challenge – ROI in professional service firm marketing (kimtasso.com). However, it is somewhat easier in digital marketing projects where there is typically more data and a closer link between activity and results (there is often a more tenuous link over a longer period of time for more traditional marketing and sales efforts).

Some suggestions to help included:

  • Provide a range of estimates of the likely outcomes – providing your assumptions and evidence to back these up
  • Break the project down into phases – the initial phase designed to be a test or pilot in order to obtain some basic information to calculate the returns for a more detailed project
  • Explore what might happen if you were to do nothing
  • Do some competitor and market research to demonstrate the sorts of ROI that other firms are obtaining. There are case studies – particularly where awards are won – to help here.
  • Highlight the lack of ROI calculations on established projects

Delegate poll results

These are produced for the delegates so that they can reflect on and benchmark their views.

Delegate aims and interests 

  • Leadership and strategy
    • Step into a management role
    • Expand knowledge of planning
    • Develop a team strategy
    • Obtain new ideas for business planning
    • Increase knowledge of strategy and business planning
  • Marketing and BD strategy
    • Desire to develop and grow my private client practice
    • Keen to learn more about marketing strategy
    • Review our marketing strategy
    • Find ways to expand our client base
    • Develop a business development strategy
    • Learn marketing ideas
    • Identify the right target audience
    • Learn how best to communicate with clients
  • Skills
    • Expand and deepen my skills
    • Develop new skills to help progression (myself and my team)
  • Other
    • See how people are working following Covid

Delegate key takeaways

Delegate Actions

  • Create a private client business plan
  • Update private client business plan
  • Update my LinkedIn profile
  • Review firm’s strategy and marketing plan
  • Review web site
  • Expand pages on web site
  • Update private client strategy
  • Revie personal aims/plans and link to team plan
  • Review my social media profiles
  • Update Private Client business plan

How many partners in your private client team?

  • 1 partner          44%
  • 2 – 5 partners 56%

How many offices does your private client team cover?

  • Just one 11%
  • 2 – 5       56%
  • Over five 33%

Which services do you provide?

  • Wills                             100%
  • Probate                         100%
  • Tax/Estate planning   100%
  • Trusts                             89%
  • Elderly support             89%
  • Private wealth               67%
  • Private client disputes 67%
  • Court of Protection     56%
  • Charity law                 22%
  • Other                        11%

Which topic is of most interest to you today?

  • 0% Vision and leadership
  • 30% Developing a business plan
  • 30% Operational management
  • 20% Strategic marketing
  • 20% Marketing communications/promotions
  • 0% Selling/referrer relationships

Is your business and marketing planning focused on your department (inside out) or your markets (outside in)?

  • 0% department based
  • 0% Market based (sectors)
  • 100% Mixture of both

What’s the core challenge facing your private client team

  • Recruitment (x5)
  • Quality of work
  • Sustainable work
  • Clients wanting to act in person
  • Justifying fees
  • Hybrid work environment

Observations of firm’s vision statements:

  • Royds Withy King probably is the best from the list. More personable.
  • If they are too long there do not have a lasting/memorable effect
  • Not a fan of straplines
  • Vision for firm and private client team are generally the same
  • They generally turn me off – talk is cheap
  • Royds Withy King probably my favourite

Do you have a business plan for the private client team?

  • 40% Yes
  • 40% Yes but its out of date
  • 20% yes but we never look at it

Delegate views on good leadership

  • Communication skills (x4)
  • Decisive (x2)
  • Good people skills
  • Communicate a clear vision
  • Patience
  • Pragmatic
  • Inspires the team
  • Builds the team
  • Approachable
  • Good listener

PESTLE analysis

  • Political
    • Tax changes when Government changes
    • Continuing impact of Brexit
    • Inheritance tax changes (NRB)
  • Sociological
    • Ageing population
    • Rise of blended families
    • More disputed wills/contested estates
    • Gifting to help children during cost of living crisis
  • Economic
    • Changes after Covid
    • Cost of living challenges (less money for legal services)
    • Property market changes
  • Technological changes
    • Firms moving to better systems
    • More online document production
    • Clients trying to complete work themselves
    • Clients using more technology/portals

Do you have a marketing or business development plan for the private client team?

  • 80% Yes
  • 20% No

What professional marketing/BD support do you have?

  • 67% Inhouse M&BD team for the firm
  • 0% Inhouse M&BD team for the private client team
  • 11% External marketing/PR agencies
  • 22% None – we do it all ourselves

Which area of business development requires most attention at your firm?

  • 0%      Marketing
  • 0%      Selling
  • 80% Client relationship management (developing clients)
  • 20% Referrer management

Do you have plans to introduce or develop new services?

  • 100% yes

Do you have plans to enter or develop new markets?

  • 50% Yes
  • 50% No

Ideas for private client niche markets

  • Executors
  • Business owners
  • Sole traders
  • Agricultural land owners
  • Court of Protection
  • Single parents
  • Vulnerable clients
  • Second marriages
  • Beneficiaries
  • Blended families
  • Parents
  • Farmers

Which social media platforms do you use?

  • 50% LinkedIn
  • 30% Blogs
  • 20% Facebook

How effective do you find social media?

  • 11% Highly effective
  • 11% Reasonably effective
  • 0% Ineffective
  • 78% Good as part of an overall campaign