How Law Firms Can Evaluate Their Bank

First Republic Bank
May 5, 2021

  • Does your bank understand law firms’ complex challenges and unique needs?
  • Can your bank provide the products, support, and holistic approach that help drive profitability?
  • First Republic has 30+ years’ experience with law firms and ~2,400 law clients

Law firm owners need more from a bank than just accounts and transactions. The right banking partner can help law firms grow their businesses, retain talent and drive profitability by taking a holistic, relationship-focused approach.

Law firms can only find the right banking partner if they ask the right questions. Here are 5 things for law firms to think about as they seek out the right banking relationship for their business.

What is the bank’s track record with law firms?

When you’re establishing a banking relationship, experience matters. You want to work with a bank that understands law firms’ transactions, challenges and unique needs.

For example, some law firms tend to need more support than other businesses when it comes to opening and managing accounts. To prevent commingling of attorney and client funds, law firms need to open separate “client trust” or “escrow” accounts for different cases or clients.  Sometimes these accounts need to be opened en masse.

Working with a bank that is accustomed to providing that support can help law firms streamline their processes for working with new clients. To help you learn what it’s like to work with them, any bank that has law firm experience should be open to discussing their track record in the field and providing referrals to long-running customers. (First Republic Bank, for one, has been working with law firms for more than 30 years and has roughly 2,400 law firm clients in our network.)

What does customer service & support really look like?

Once you know that a bank has deep experience with law firms, you can ask questions to understand the bank’s service model. Who will my contacts be at the bank? How do I know I’ll be able to reach them?

Ultimately, law firms engage in a lot of complex transactions; you need to know that in times of urgency or emergency, you can connect with a person who knows you and your business, rather than deal with an 800 number. The ideal support model should provide the law firm with a single point of contact — either a business banker or relationship manager — for all of their account and transaction needs, as well as supplement that relationship with access to an extensive support team.

How can the bank support our growth?

In addition to executing on law firms’ day-to-day needs, a bank should be able to provide products — such as loans or lines of credit — that can help firms manage cash flow and make investments to grow their practice.

Having access to these products can also help a firm provide better service to its own clients, allowing them to offer flexible or extended payment terms. It can also help smooth out some of the firm’s growth milestones, such as the acquisition of real estate.

Many firms look to buy commercial property at some point in their growth. At this point, it can be helpful to already have a banking partner in place that can help the firm finance the acquisition — and do so with a relationship-focused approach to pricing loans. With that partnership in place, the bank may also be able to help the firm navigate related challenges that can arise when buying real estate, such as the financial constraints of working off a lease while getting newly acquired real estate ready for occupancy.

What can the bank do for my employees and partners?

Your bank should be able to not only service the firm but also everyone in the firm. Can the bank provide customer accounts for my employees? Is the bank able to offer my employees home loans, or provide them with the ability to refinance their student loans? Does the bank have a professional loan program for partner buy-ins and a wealth management arm that meets partners’ needs?

Working with a bank that services your firm holistically can help you be more competitive in attracting and retaining talent. In this sense, your bank can act as an extension of HR and benefits by providing high-value programs to partners and staff throughout their entire professional lifecycle with your firm.

How else can the bank add value beyond transactional banking?

Your banking partner is a high-value part of your business network, and they should be able to open up their network to you in ways that can help improve your firm’s performance. When asked, your banking partner — and specifically, your business banker or relationship manager — should be eager to provide you with recommendations for new service providers or introductions to new clients within your firm’s area of practice.

First Republic’s bankers, for example, frequently connect our law firm clients to CPAs, IT providers and other specialists we’ve come to know over our 30+ years working for law-firm clients. It’s all part of taking a holistic approach to servicing the whole firm, which can help law firms drive profitability and business efficiencies.

In conclusion: It’s about relationships

A best-in-class bank can provide white glove service to not only law firms, but also their employees, clients and partners, regardless of the firms’ size. By finding a partner who can serve you well now, your firm can be better prepared to grow in the future.

At First Republic Bank, we’re committed to a holistic approach to banking that always puts our clients first. Learn more about First Republic Bank's law firm banking services today.

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