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Bringing retail to the law: stores, customers and footfall

Posted by Darren Gower, head of marketing at Legal Futures Associate Eclipse Legal Systems [1]


Is the language and approach of retail the future for high street firms?

Forster Dean Solicitors is – based on a ‘number of branches’ metric – the UK’s largest law firm. The practice has 29 offices across the north-west and midlands region, despite having only 100 staff.

As revealed last year on Legal Futures [3], in the last six years earnings have risen by 170% with headcount increasing by less than 10%. Such growth has led to Forster Dean being ranked a ‘Lawyer Top 200’ firm, with its CEO – Gregory Shields – listed in the ‘Lawyer Hot 100’ published this week.

Such growth doesn’t happen by accident, and this type of expansion doesn’t happen by throwing a handful of darts at a big map. So what is Forster Dean’s strategy and what makes it unique?

Crunching the numbers

The firm has essentially adopted a ‘supermarket’ or ‘retail’ approach – such strategies are largely unheard of in the professional services sector (although the creeping number of commercial investors and alternative business structures is slowly beginning to bring a more ‘transactional’ lingo to the market).

What does this ‘retail approach’ actually mean in practical terms?

Changing times

This ‘model’ means that Forster Dean has in its hands a scalable business that can be replicated and expanded rapidly and uniformly. The retail analogy continues in the language that Forster Dean uses throughout the organisation:

The future

It’s a very investable model, and the firm’s CEO, Greg Shields, makes no bones about the fact that he sees future external investment as very much part of his grander business plan.