In late 2014, Crumley Roberts agreed to take over the Greg Jones Law brand in Wilmington, North Carolina. While intake and management is now handled out of Crumley Roberts’ main office in Greensboro, the change is virtually invisible to the Wilmington market, with TV spots and online presence remaining Greg Jones Law. We recently spoke with Chris Roberts about the assimilation.
What first attracted you to the Greg Jones opportunity?
I got a call from Greg telling me where he was in his life and what he wanted to do with it moving forward. He had tried several times to develop a succession plan for his firm, but in the end had made poor choices with the people he trusted to be there to take over for him.
Crumley Roberts already has 13 offices throughout North Carolina. Why not just expand the Crumley Roberts brand to Wilmington?
We already had some brand awareness in the Wilmington market, and we’ve had a small office there since 2007. We had even done television and yellow pages there for a time. The difference in this case was that Greg Jones had been in the market, building a brand for 25 years. In my opinion, living and working in a market, especially in a smaller market like Wilmington, helps you grow a brand with deeper roots. Greg had been doing this for quite some time and was generally well liked in the community. I was interested in testing this theory against the Crumley Roberts brand. I wanted to see what kind of extra “juice” a well-established brand could bring to the table.
Did you ever consider a simple co -counsel arrangement rather than a purchase?
We did not purchase Greg Jones Law. We have a management agreement with them that carefully tracks the ethics laws in North Carolina. Every deal would have different circumstances. Greg was interested in focusing in another area of the law and essentially getting out of the areas we were taking over for him.
How was the opportunity vetted internally? Who was involved? How long did it take?
We did look at this internally as soon as Greg called me. All of my Executive team, as well as our corporate counsel and ethics counsel, were involved from the start. Because of the way the deal was structured financially, we had a basic agreement within a few weeks. Of course, working out all of the fine details took several more months.
What has been the biggest surprise so far?
The biggest surprise was how easy the negotiation went with Greg once he understood that I valued brand. Most lawyers out there won’t do that. We were not the first firm Greg approached, but we were the first one that he approached that valued brand awareness. This comes, on our part, from seeing and knowing how hard it can be to build a brand, even over many years.
What has been the biggest obstacle so far?
The biggest obstacle so far has been meshing the culture of Greg Jones Law with Crumley Roberts. That was no surprise to us at all. In many ways, we have done things at Crumley Roberts very differently than at Greg Jones Law. We knew these things had worked well for us, and we continue to try and improve every day. Our people are the most important assets we have at the firm, and we have to show them that on a daily basis. Sometimes, folks who are new to our
type of culture are very cynical, because they’ve been promised things in the past that never happened. I think our main obstacle was not having enough time to show the folks at Greg Jones Law who we were before they had to perform.
How will you judge success in 2-5 years?
Well, first of all, we will look at the bottom line with the clients that were part of this deal. Next, we will look at how profitable the firm has become as a whole and how much that was impacted by being able to leverage our expenses over additional cases. Finally, we will judge success in terms of how many more deals like this we do in the next 2-5 years. If this is a win-win for both firms, there should be opportunity to do it again and again. We have already reviewed two additional deals since we closed this one with Greg. These deals make real sense for firms that want to get out of a practice area or areas on the operations side but still would like to get compensated for the brand awareness they have
built over many years and with many dollars.