We offer four levels of service to all law firm and accountancy practice owners looking for a sale, merger or disposal of their business. Please note that we also assist with valuation reports and exit strategy advice as standalone services. Prices exclude VAT.
I was very pleased with your service, which was always very professional and reassuring. Thank you again! BF, Seller of small law firm in South England, September 2022
For more information about us, please visit our about us page.
FAQs for Sellers
Yes we do. We are happy to be as involved as the parties to the deal want us to be. Sometimes we have sellers and buyes who require our full input throughout. The seller will want us to communicate on their behalf with the buyer and their representatives and the buyer may well require us to keep channels of communication open with the seller. For other deals we will have virtually nothing to do with negotiations or communication and both sides will simply notify us once a deal has gone through.
We don’t mind how negotiations take place, although we have found that deals occur more effectively when a) both sides deal politely with other (conversely sellers or buyers who are unnecessarily aggressive or confrontational with each other tend to find that deals collapse) and b) the parties do not change the goalposts every 10 seconds – a common problem with negotiations that take place between the buyer and seller directly and not via 3rd party advisers.
Yes we do – full details of our valuation services are available here – we provide market valuations based on current deal experiences and suggested deal structures. Our valuations are used for a wide range of purposes including partnership disputes & divorce proceedings. We recommend getting a valuation done as a first step to considering the sale of a practice.
We have written a full article here on the first steps to take when thinking about selling your firm or planning your exit strategy in advance.
Click the link below to register your details with us. If you would like to discuss our services before completing the online form give us a call on 01824 780937. We do not charge sellers any fees at any point in the process. All information is provided on a strictly confidential basis.
Very simple – select the level of service you want to use – Bronze, Gold, Platinum or Platinum Plus, and then place your order. Full information here.
Firstly, you can complete a detailed form online, providing us with all the information we need in order to proceed. Click here to complete the detailed form. The form takes about five minutes to complete and you can include as much or as little information as you wish.
Secondly you have complete a brief form initially and then we will be in touch to request further details. Click here for the short form.
Thirdly you can give us a call on 01824 780937 or send us an email to email@example.com and we can arrange to speak to you or email to obtain the required information.
If you go with the second or third options we will get back to you with a list of questions to complete and a confidentiality undertaking to sign in the first instance (the detailed form online includes these).
Paragraph of Sale
Once we have received the first batch of information, we will put together a proposed paragraph of sale, which will be the only information that is released to third parties without your express consent. This is usually brief and quite vague. If you have a look at our list of firms for sale (click here) you will see that some descriptions are extremely vague as to location, which of course helps to anonymise your listing.
Once you have approved the paragraph of information we list your firm on our system for sale and notify our buyers that a new practice has gone live. If you have opted for our premium services, we will ensure you get priority in our regular weekly law firm for sale updates, and also our monthly newsletters which for law firms go out to c17,000 law firms and solicitors and for accountancy practices are sent to 11,000 accountants. For Platinum and Platinum Plus Sellers we will also commence advertising on the professional broker sites and in the Law Society Gazette.
At all times we keep you updated with any new buyer enquiries that come through about your practice. Buyers will never know your identity without your express consent each time.
No Sale Fees
Remember there are no charges to sell your firm with us, and the only fee that is ever paid on conclusion of a sale is by the buyer.
This is the first question we always get asked by everyone who lists their business on the Jonathan Fagan website. It is quite an easy question to answer because it is pretty much always ‘how long is a piece of string’.
Law Firm Sales
The usual length of a law firm sale depends on a number of factors. Firstly, if you are a retiring solicitor with a practice that consists of yourself, perhaps your partner and a couple of support staff, coupled with a turnover of about £200k and a mainly conveyancing and wills & probate practice, then it is quite possible it will take between one and three years to sell your firm. This is not always the case, and our fastest sale in this category is six weeks, but similarly we have law firms listed with us who have been registered with us for over two years, and despite various conversations with potential buyers they are still up for sale.
If you are a law firm with very few clients and essentially selling as a shell, then it is possible that your practice will sell in less than three months.
If your firm has a turnover of more than £500k and less than £2,000,000 then it may well take between two and four years to find a potential buyer.
Our fastest deal ever has been three weeks and our longest one took two and a half years to go through the process from start to finish. The process of selling a firm does not just end when you find a potential buyer. The next process is due diligence and whether or not you manage to get through this process as well as the agreement to sell is another matter entirely.
In the first instance you need to be aware that there are a number of factors affecting how long it takes to sell your firm, which can include whether or not your practice has claims against it, the price you are looking for in order to affect a sale and also the information you have available to any potential buyer in order to progress the sale once discussions have started.
Firms that tend to be listed with us for a long time tend to have particular problems with the information they have available to provide to potential buyers. Quite often partners who have been in the same firm for many years and have never embraced case management systems find it very difficult to collate the information together that any potential buyer is looking for. Buyers want details of just about everything and they want to be able to access it easily without having to trawl through copious amounts of paperwork dating back many years. One sale we have come across was with a firm where everything was paper based and the buyer had estimated that he needed to actually employ someone to go through and deal with the paper files in order to make the business function once he had taken over.
A practice that uses case management software, has all the clients readily accessible and perhaps also in a spreadsheet, has details of everything from staff numbers through to the photocopying contract in one place for the buyer to see, will find it a lot easier to sell their practice than somebody who has no information available or very little, and is unable or unwilling to provide answers to questions when asked.
Accountancy practices are very different. There is at the moment a huge market for the buying and selling of accountancy firms and practices do not tend to stay on the market for lengthy periods of time. We would expect for most firms to have offers in place from at least 3 potential buyers within a matter of days, if not a few weeks. Again it will very much depend on your willingness to be active and respond swiftly to queries and requests. Offers are usually quick to come in and most buyers do not waste time in getting to a reasonable package. This is an extremely busy market with lots of active buyers out there with money to spend.
So if you want to know how long your practice is going to take to sell then the answer is anything from three weeks through to about four years, but depends very much on your specific circumstances, the size of your firm and the information you have available to potential buyers. Accountancy practices should usually sell virtually immediately but law firms really depend.
This is the number one question for just about everyone running a business. If I sell the business as a going concern, what is it worth? You can leap into an internet rabbit hole and start reading about complicated equations and multipliers affecting particular industries or professions. There are quite literally hundreds of ways of valuing a business, in particular law firms, that most of the figures that professional advisers come up with contradict others.
Accountancy firms are fairly simple – there tends to be a very easy valuation technique that works well for most and the industry seem to accept it as the norm. This is to calculate your gross recurring fees and multiply them by a factor, which tends to be around 1.2 at the time of writing this FAQ. This does very much depend on the quality of the gross recurring fees – obviously 300 recurring fees from clients aged 92 are not going to be worth as much as 300 recurring fees from clients aged 32!
Law firms unfortunately have no such easy solution when it comes to valuations. At varying times we are able to spot a trend – but this depends very much on the market conditions. Sometimes figures plummet to very little indeed, but we do usually recommend ignoring the copious articles available on the web advising sellers that their practices are not worth anything at all. If you look at who writes the articles it does tend to explain why someone would write this (the authors tend to be linked to buyers!).
Of course there is an old saying – valuation is vanity, sterling is sanity. Beware the business broker bearing gifts of ridiculously high valuations to flatter you into giving them business.
We offer valuation services – details here.
Yes it is. We have been involved in transactions for the sale of sole practitioner law firms on numerous occasions and whilst they are not for everybody the firms do still have a value.
A couple of things you could consider doing to increase the chances of sale
- Convert your business into a limited company and
- Make sure there are some other fee earners in the business as well as yourself.
Both easier said than done, but the limited company point is particularly important. It is much easier for a buyer to purchase a limited company than it is to take over a sole practitioner’s business – if you are a limited company the buyer can simply enter into a Share Purchase Agreement and become or appoint a director.
If possible, have a think about converting, although we would usually recommend taking the usual tax and legal advice to ensure that this is the solution for you.
In summary – yes sole practitioner SRA regulated law firms do have a value and it is possible to sell them, but they are harder than other entities to sell – usually because the business will lack specific assets (eg other fee earners) rather than because you are a sole practitioner per se.
This is a guide to the different services offered by Jonathan Fagan Business Brokers Limited for sellers, and hopefully will give you an idea as to which route to opt for.
The guide is broken down into timeframes, and the first of these is short term or quick sale needed.
Short term – immediate sale needed
If you are in a position that requires you to sell a firm very quickly within the next eight weeks, then it is highly likely you are in a position where it does not matter to a certain extent what your practice is worth, or what steps you take prior to a sale, because any sale is going to need to be done to secure the future of your business, rather than to give you any significant monetary gain.
With this in mind, we would usually recommend immediately selecting the Gold Service, our basic premium service which includes a valuation report.
We would not usually recommend getting a valuation done separately first, but simply to get the practice listed as quickly as possible to ensure you get the most enquiries in as short as possible a time.
Short term – 12 months’ timeframe
If you are looking to achieve a sale or disposal in the next 12 months, then your path is going to be slightly different, and we would usually recommend considering signing up for our Gold or Platinum Service. Both of these services include a valuation report, which will be extremely useful to both you and ourselves in the first instance. It will give you an idea at the outset as to the likely deals that will be offered to you, the likely value of the practice, and anything we think you can do in that timeframe to improve your chances of success when it comes to a sale. The valuation report can be done within three to four weeks from start to finish, and in the meantime we can get your practice listed for sale.
Medium term – 12 to 24 months
If you are looking to achieve a sale within the next two years, you will want to use our Platinum or Platinum Plus services. This will include the starting point of our exit strategy advice in the first instance. This service has been set up to provide you with an early warning system; to get the practice into the best possible position prior to commencing the sale or disposal process. We will come and meet with you, discuss your practice, look at all the various figures and documents, provide a valuation, suggested deal structures and most importantly an exit strategy which will include extensive suggestions for improving your chances of success.
Longer term – 24 months +
If you are in a position to consider future options, but are not yet in a position to sell your business, then you want to be thinking about the exit strategy service as a standalone option. This service has been developed in mind to be completely flexible according to the practice we are assisting at any particular time, and can be varied by what we think is going to be of most benefit to you and your business. For example, if you are in your late 30s or early 40s and thinking about a sale in 20 years’ time, then the exit strategy service would be aimed at looking at your business structure now, seeing how it could be improved in relation to a future disposal, but also looking at how it could be improved to achieve higher profits now, as well as in the future. However, if you are in your late 50s and looking to retire in your early 60s, then the exit strategy report is going to be focused much more on the structure of the business and achieving the best price going forwards.
In summary, which service is going to be best for you will depend very much on the timeframe you are looking at. Short term probably requires you to list the practice as quickly as possible using our Gold Service, in the medium term think about the Platinum Service, and in the long term consider the Exit Strategy Service in the first instance and then go from there in future as and when required.
If you have any questions about the different routes for sellers using our services, please contact by visiting our contact page.
No absolutely not, in our opinion – see here for a detailed explanation – https://www.jonathanfagan.co.uk/should-i-tell-my-staff-that-i-am-thinking-about-selling-my-business/
We have a list of questions to ask yourself when you are preparing to sell your law firm: https://www.ten-percent.co.uk/questions-to-ask-yourself-when-preparing-for-the-sale-of-a-law-firm/
In relation to law firms, by far an easy sale is one where the seller has a realistic idea as to the sort of price a practice is worth. Not only that, they have also communicated quickly each time an enquiry has been made, they have got all the paperwork together ready to go each time a new buyer enquiry gets sent over and they are easy for everyone to deal with.
Accountancy practices tend to have everything ready at the outset and we don’t have so much of a problem collating everything together for these deals.
So many deals happen because of synergy between the buyer and the seller rather than any particular feature of a firm for sale.
Deals often break down because one of the parties gets a bit awkward or doesn’t communicate well with the other side and things start to go off the boil rapidly. Furthermore, if a seller does not respond to a request for further information quickly, then a buyer can quite often decide it’s not for them and walk away.
Quite a few sellers put their firms on the market and take a very long time to respond to queries when they come through from potential buyers, which gets the buyers frustrated and they move on to new targets. The seller then contacts us to ask why no enquiries are coming through (!).
Key factors that will make a sale happen or more likely to happen are a willingness to provide information quickly from both sides, a willingness to discuss and negotiate on prices, and a good spirit throughout discussions.
We do not usually recommend indicating a sale price unless you have something very specific in mind. Law firms in particular are notoriously difficult to gauge a price for, because they do not have the same realisable assets that an accountancy firm for example has.
Accountancy practices tend to be valued on the number of repeat clients who come back year after year to get their annual accounts completed and receive advice in the interim. An accountant tends to know what recurring fees they have coming in, or what likely recurring fees they have coming in, but a solicitors’ firm rarely does.
Solicitors’ firms may have regular clients who, if they have a legal problem, will use them, but they never know how often those legal problems are going to arise, which means that they are unable to give a recurring fee valuation. The only exception to this is when an employment department for example has recurring fees from clients paying subscriptions for ongoing services or business clients are paying an ongoing subscription for their own in-house lawyer provision. Because of this we normally just recommend including the facts about your firm in the listing, and then leaving it up to discussions for a price to be formulated.
The danger of putting a price on the practice on the listing is that you can immediately rule out lots of potential buyers who might look at your price and think it is way too high, or similarly you may rule out higher bids than the price you were thinking of, which surprisingly happens a lot more than you would anticipate.
So in summary, we do not usually recommend including a price on a law firm listing, but to wait until discussions start and then formulating an idea as to the sort of price you want for your business. We offer valuation & exit advice and reports to all sellers and details can be found here – exit strategy advice – and here – valuation services.
As coincidence has it, we have a guide to selling a law firm available right here – no charge! If you have any questions about any of the advice or content, please contact us.