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Setting new benchmarks for success
People and innovation are at the heart of the fastest-growing law firms in New Zealand, as evidenced by those recognised as NZ Lawyer’s Fast Firms of 2023.
This year’s Fast Firms are executing strategies tailored to their strengths and seizing opportunities to deliver legal services in new and compelling ways, such as:
empowering senior lawyers to practice anywhere with support
investing in people and strategies to build momentum
pioneering digital and technology solutions to create seamless client experiences
Underscoring how transformative being recognised is, 2022 Fast Firm winner Denham Brawell Lawyers has seen significant benefits.
General manager Devika Kumar says, “It has definitely created an awareness of Denham Bramwell and provided us with third-party acknowledgement of the growth that we are experiencing; it also endorses the firm and the progress we are making in a competitive market. So, people go, ‘I can join this firm. There is a future, and this is a growing practice.’”
“We differentiate ourselves from competitors by automating all legal workflows, enabling our staff to focus on legal work that delivers the best service to clients on time”
Jay ParkConvey Law
New operational model takes off
Base Law is an acclaimed novel legal model that offers senior lawyers the autonomy to practice law wherever they are while sharing associated costs and enjoying a culture built on collegiality and collaboration.
Using an established business infrastructure and legal platform, Base Law is the first to enable senior lawyers to develop their own practice quickly and affordably, with wraparound support within its umbrella. Its innovative business model is fast becoming an attractive career alternative among the senior lawyer community, an idea that garnered founder and director Suzie Sneddon an Elite Woman award in 2021 by NZ Lawyer.
Since launching just four years ago, Base Law has:
grown from one to nine lawyers
recorded a 300% growth in fee earners
experienced a 254% jump in revenue over two years
expanded its reach throughout Auckland, Waikato and Hamilton
“It’s the model that has allowed it to grow so quickly because each Base lawyer that comes on is somewhat starting their own satellite office,” says Sneddon.
The firm’s growth has been driven organically through word of mouth and the business its lawyers bring aboard.
“We’re filling a space that clients and lawyers wanted in terms of more flexibility, affordable fees and better access to a senior lawyer,” Sneddon says. “Our clients love having a personal lawyer and dealing with an everyday human who is friendly, professional and accessible.”
Investment in people powers scale-up strategies
Multi-award-winning specialist boutique firm Norling Law’s substantial investment in its people and strategic business planning has fuelled its double-digit growth in revenue and headcount over the past two years. Rising construction disputes in the past year have also contributed to the firm’s trajectory.
The law firm positioned itself to expand quickly by hiring its COO, Glenn Marvin, a non-lawyer certified scaling-up coach with nearly two decades of experience taking Fast Firms to the next level.
“This recognition is something that we’re proud of, as much for our people as anything else,” says Marvin. “If we didn’t have the right people, we wouldn’t get the growth we’ve had.”
Several strategies and innovative approaches have helped this Fast Firm ramp up, including:
investing in staff’s professional and personal development
quarterly leadership strategy sessions
focusing on client outcomes
embracing digital transformation
During regular strategy meetings, the leadership team dives into all facets of the business, prioritising and tackling the top three to five issues that will deliver the biggest momentum.
“We have a business philosophy that we should celebrate awkward conversations because they are an opportunity for growth,” Marvin says. “If we haven’t nailed something, it’s critical that we take that on board and learn from it.”
Another factor driving its capacity is its social media marketing and advertising strategy, refined over seven years and exceeding the firm’s objectives. While Facebook and Instagram are the primary channels, other platforms are on the radar.
“It’s amazing how much opportunity there is for education on TikTok,” says Marvin.
A testament to Norling Law’s outcome-focused approach is that it measures success not by the number of clients it works with but by the number of people it guides through times of uncertainty.
“People engage us for one reason and one reason only: to help resolve a problem, and it’s amazing how many times we don’t need to litigate because we go down every legal avenue to achieve the outcome for the client,” says Marvin. “If we can get outcomes faster for the clients, we end up with a raving fan base of people we have helped that refer people to us.”
“Every decision we make passes through the lens of our core values, and we celebrate success in living these values”
Glenn MarvinNorling Law
Fast Firms leading digital transformation
Tech-savvy online property firm Convey Law has significantly expanded its footprint by pioneering technological solutions that provide seamless, on-demand client experiences, promoting trust between lawyers and their clients.
As an early adopter of digital transformation, founder and principal Jay Park built the firm’s proprietary practice management software system, Honour.law, which supports a 12,000-strong and growing client base.
The platform features popular legal tools and bespoke features that automate and integrate workflow, such as creating legal questionnaires that can automatically generate a quote.
“This is a substantial part of our innovation, and a lot of time has gone into building it,” says Park. “By using these online forms, lawyers can gather important information about clients and their legal needs, providing them with a more personalised and effective legal service.”
The increasing complexity of conveyancing law and online tools that make it easier and more convenient for people to buy and sell property was a catalyst for Convey Law’s fast growth. The firm’s expansion journey includes:
being among the first law firms in New Zealand to adopt an online fixed-fee legal service model
developing a robust online presence through social media, SEO and content marketing, achieving a 95% client satisfaction rate
making ongoing and substantial investments in new technologies
“The fixed-fee model is becoming increasingly popular as it provides clients with more transparency and predictability with legal costs,” Park says. “For small- to medium-sized firms like us, I believe fixed-fee arrangements can provide a more stable source of revenue than traditional hourly billing.”
How Fast Firms balance growth with other priorities
Balancing growth with maintaining high service levels and a collaborative culture has been intentional at Base Law.
“I’m conscious that I don’t want it to grow too fast so that it negatively impacts our culture,” says Sneddon. “We are about being real and balanced, non-intimidating. We don’t dress in suits; we work as a team, and we’re just down-to-earth lawyers in your community.”
Norling Law is guided by its core values, with communication, innovative thinking, a client-centred mindset and a focus on results at the forefront. The firm also emphasises its client satisfaction survey, which uses feedback as a learning opportunity.
“When you have a strong focus on those values, it becomes ingrained in the individuals within the organisation to always do the right thing and ensure client satisfaction,” Marvin says.
For Convey Law, client satisfaction and service are top priorities and critical areas that the firm’s leadership tracks and measures with a techno-strategic focus.
“Just imagine receiving a 1-star review on Google; that’s to be avoided at all times,” says Park. “We differentiate ourselves from competitors by automating all legal workflows, enabling our staff to focus on legal work that delivers the best service to clients on time.”
The firm prioritises employee satisfaction to deliver exceptional service and foster long-lasting business relationships. While its marketing and branding strategies measure:
areas for improvement
“We are about being real and balanced, non-intimidating. We don’t dress in suits; we work as a team, and we’re just down-to-earth lawyers in your community”
Suzie SneddonBase Law
Fast Firms poised to continue growing
Convey Law’s long-term strategy is to become valued partners with sole practitioners and small law firms that can benefit from its powerful software tools and online marketing know-how.
“That’s where we wish to come in, to work together with them on the challenges of creating an automated workflow, content marketing, managing social media presence and running paid advertising campaigns,” says Park. “We believe online marketing is essential for any law firm that wants to succeed in today’s digital world.”
Meanwhile, the infrastructure and supporting technology are in place at Base Law to expand the firm’s presence in small communities and provincial areas that may lack access to lawyers.
“Lawyers don’t have to leave their provincial small towns for work; they can stay in their community and help people there,” Sneddon says. “That’s where I see the growth coming in; we can spread throughout New Zealand.”
In echoing the Fast Firms’ unwavering commitment to developing their staff to reach their full potential, Norling Law’s open-minded approach to opportunities keeps its workforce invigorated and ready to capitalise on new opportunities quickly. By harnessing technology to automate routine tasks and exploring the development of a private and secure AI platform, the firm anticipates further scaling.
“That means we will grow our headcount slower, but we will protect our culture and values,” says Marvin.
Kumar has some final words on what other firms can do to emulate their success.
“It's important that you determine what your strategy is and be authentic. Who are your clients? Who do you want to work with? Who do you want to be part of your team?” she says. “Determine your strategy, make sure there’s synergy between who you are and what you are trying to achieve, and work from there.”
- Copeland Ashcroft
- K3 Legal
- Norling Law
- Russell Legal
The research team asked firms to list their revenue and headcount for the 2022–23 financial year, in addition to any other growth milestones they wanted to highlight. Global firms were instructed to focus only on the figures related to their New Zealand operations.