The Savvy Attorney: Adding Business Planning to Your Estate Planning Practice

Mar 29, 2019 10:00:00 AM


There are many reasons an estate planning attorney should consider expanding their legal practice to include business planning. According to the Census Bureau, there were 32 million businesses owners in the US last year. So, chances are that you probably already have clients who have business planning needs. Additionally, since many business owners are still reeling from the changes brought on by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, they'll be looking to legal professionals for advice on redeveloping their business planning strategies.  

In addition to helping businesses navigate new taxation laws, there are several other convincing reasons to expand your practice this year: 

  • Protect your business from market fluctuations. Single service businesses carry greater risk to market fluctuations due to their reliance on a single stream of revenue. Many estate planning attorneys will experience unreliability in their business income. Some years may be great, but for one reason or another, clients are not always easy to come by, and you find yourself cutting business expenses to stay afloat. This volatility in cash-flow not only interrupts daily operations, but it also makes it impossible to grow your business. The answer is business diversification.  Diversification minimizes risk by allowing income to rely on multiple, noncompeting revenue streams. Additionally, it stops income leakage by providing for all legal needs in-house rather than referring clients to outside counsel.
  • Opportunities for recurring income. Unlike your clients’ estate planning needs where a client may only need to update their will or trust infrequently, a business planning client will have a multitude of different legal issues arising throughout their business’ life. While every business is unique, typically most owners will need counsel on business formation, liability, and management, as well as end-of-life strategies on retirement or sale of the business. This array of legal needs makes an attorney an integral part of any business, providing business planning attorneys with an excellent opportunity for recurring income.  
  • Cross-pollination. Whether you have realized it or not, you most likely already have business planning leads. Identifying these current connections will make this service addition an easy add-on to your business model. Best of all, business and estate planning are complementary fields of service, making cross-pollination of clients a breeze. And while not all of your clients may own a business, all of your business clients will most certainly need estate plans.

How does business representation differ from estate planning?

As you would expect, business clients have very different needs and expectations than your estate planning clients. Because legal problems tend to impact business operations, your business planning clients will want quick solutions to their problems. Most often, this will require you to be readily accessible should an emerging issue demand your immediate attention.

In addition to this relationship change, keep in mind that most of your business planning strategies will have an emphasis on tax planning. Secondly, adverse parties are a more common presence in business planning than in estate planning, and you will likely have to deal with upset partners, employees, and vendors on your client’s behalf.

Alongside this change in mindset, there are also a few operational changes you should make to your practice.

Service offerings and pricing strategies

Businesses are incredibly diverse. When designing your service offerings and pricing, keep this diversity in mind. We suggest offering multi-tiered levels of engagement. Not only will your clients appreciate the flexibility in your scope of representation, but they will also be more likely to utilize your services.  Tiers can be created based on the business type, stage of development or required level of representation. For example, formation packages would be useful for clients looking to start a business. Maintenance packages could either be offered in tandem with a starter package or individually for businesses that have ongoing needs.    

Want to go more in depth on this topic? Then register for Symposium 2019. As the estate and business planning conference of the year, you can choose from a variety of classes that meet your skill level and professional goals. 

Greater variability in types of legal documents 

For estate planning attorneys, the greatest learning curve will be familiarizing oneself with the plethora of different legal documents that clients may need you to draft. Luckily, there is software and a community to help you navigate this particular minefield.

Business Docx® is the premier document drafting tool for business planners. Utilize the library of document templates to meet all of your business planning needs. Intelligent automation makes sure all of your documents are created efficiently and accurately, so you can spend more time with your clients. The Add-A-Clause feature allows for easy customization of any document. Learn more about Business Docx here.  

Marketing strategies

There are many different strategies an attorney can utilize to attract prospective clients. We recommend combining a few strategies to get your mix. 

  • Cross-selling is selling another service to an existing client. This technique will come naturally. When you’re sitting down with a client for their initial interview, you may learn they have a need for an estate plan or business service, which you can address in the moment. Remember, it’s more cost-effective to retain clients than it is to acquire new ones, so always take advantage of your current client relationships.
  • Up-selling is selling additional (often more expensive) services to a client. Usually, when a client comes in, they have an idea in mind of what they need. As an expert in your field, attorneys are duty bound to educate their clients on all potential legal issues. Thus, it’s important to highlight other legal options that your client may not have originally considered.
  • Developing referral networks is establishing relationships with non-competing businesses who refer potential clients to one another. Word of mouth and personal referrals are still some of the most compelling marketing strategies. Capitalize on these strategies by establishing professional business relationships with CPAs, business coaches and consultants, bankers, and brokers.
  • Direct mail and internet marketing is the act of engaging with potential clients through different mediums. In casting a wide net, you’re more likely to bring in a wide range of clients. Younger potential clients and tech-savvy entrepreneurs frequently utilize the internet to find answers to legal questions. Consider engaging with them in a blog post or a Facebook Live video. More mature clients are more likely to be influenced by direct mail marketing, so remember to send out promotional and educational material to potential clients in your community.

We know that attorneys didn’t go to law school to become marketing experts, that’s why we offer webinars, education materials and professional networks to help empower our members. Learn how WealthCounsel can help empower your practice by scheduling a demo today. 

²2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study. (2015). Retrieved March 14, 2018, from

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