ELITE ADVISOR BEST PRACTICES

Lawyer Up: Strategic Alliances with Attorneys

Private client lawyers can help you grow your business dramatically

By Jonathan Powell

Key Takeaways:

  • No other type of lawyer comes close to the private client lawyer in terms of working with a consistent stream of affluent clients.
  • Private client lawyers make introductions for substantial amounts of potential business to investment professionals.
  • Introductions from private client lawyers usually result in new business for financial advisors.


You’re probably aware that strategic alliances with CPAs are a highly effective way to grow your business. But did you know that there is also another type of professional advisor who has deep relationships in place with clients and can help you ramp up?

It’s the private client lawyer.

No other type of lawyer comes close to the private client lawyer in terms of working with a consistent stream of affluent clients. By forming strategic alliances with this kind of attorney, you’ll gain access to their clients at the times when they most need your assistance. You’ll also position yourself to receive introductions to clients who have just received inheritances or who are in the process of restructuring key aspects of their financial lives.

What is a private client lawyer?

Broadly defined, the private client lawyer is a specialist in the areas of trusts and estates as well as wealth protection (two key areas of concern for today’s affluent investors). In addition, the private client lawyer works with affluent clients and does so from within a law firm (as opposed to trusts and estates lawyers employed by private banks or life insurance companies).

The private client lawyer provides a very specific set of services to the affluent, including:

  • Estate planning
  • Wealth protection planning
  • Income tax planning
  • Succession planning
  • Business planning for successful entrepreneurs
  • Developing charitable giving programs

Benefits of alliances with private client lawyers

There are four main reasons why alliances with private client lawyers are so powerful for financial advisors:

1. Private client lawyers make referrals. Introductions from private client lawyers have the ability to put significant wealth into motion. According to research by affluent market expert Russ Alan Prince (author of The Private Client Lawyer Now and In the Future), private client lawyers are already making introductions for substantial amounts of business to investment professionals. His study of 619 private client lawyers found that they were referring an average of 10 percent of their clients to investment professionals.

2. Referrals from private client lawyers result in new business. One indication of the influence that private client lawyers have with their clients is the rate at which their introductions result in new business for financial advisors. The Prince study found that nearly three-quarters (73.2 percent) of clients used the financial advisors recommended by their attorneys.

3. Private client lawyers are actively looking to make referrals. Attorneys are motivated to make referrals to you. The Prince research also shows that one-fourth, or 24.7 percent, of the private client lawyers surveyed were actively looking for eligible clients to introduce.

4. Investment professionals do not seek referrals from private client lawyers. Perhaps best of all, the potential for financial advisors appears to remain largely untapped. Even though many private client lawyers would like to make introductions, investment professionals largely fail to seek out these introductions proactively. The research found that three out of four of the lawyers surveyed had not been approached by a single investment professional in the previous year. This spells opportunity for those financial advisors who do take the initiative in contacting private client lawyers.

Key concerns of private client lawyers

To position yourself to build strategic alliances with private client lawyers, you must understand their most important business concerns. Here again, the Prince research offers valuable insight identifying major concerns of these attorneys, which include:

  • Downward pressure on incomes. The overwhelming majority of surveyed private client lawyers feel that they have reached a limit in terms of what they can earn. They know that there are only so many hours of their time and only so much a wealthy client can be billed per hour.
  • An adverse impact on lifestyle. Attorneys’ concerns about lowered income are directly related to concerns about their lifestyles being negatively affected.
  • Not enough wealthy clients to go around. This is a question of supply and demand: These attorneys fear that there are too few wealthy clients and too many private client lawyers.
  • The cost/value sensitivity of wealthy clients. As wealthy clients have grown more sophisticated, they’ve also become more demanding and interested in cost-effective results. As a result, a high percentage of private client lawyers are concerned about the increasing cost/value sensitivity of their affluent clients.
  • Significantly increasing competition from other private client lawyers. Nearly two-thirds of private client lawyers overall are concerned about rising competition.
  • Nonlawyers encroaching on the world of the private client lawyer. More than half of the surveyed lawyers overall see competition from other professionals as a concern. Accountants are seen as the top competition, followed by brokers and life insurance agents. Significantly for you, financial advisors are not seen as important competitive threats.

In a future article, I’ll cover the key differences between forming alliances with attorneys and alliances with CPAs, and offer a process to successfully build alliances with private client lawyers.

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About the Author

Jonathan Powell is a managing principal at CEG Worldwide, LLC in San Martin, California. Working with many of the nation’s top financial firms, he enjoys helping financial advisors transform their professional and personal lives by implementing CEG Worldwide’s research-backed principles.