How Roger Lane-Smith Grew DLA Piper Into The Largest Law Firm In The World

Roger-Lane-SmithRoger Lane-Smith is one of the principal founders of DLA Piper which consistently vies for the title of the largest law firm in the world. He started his own single partner firm in 1977 at the age of 31. Roger retired from DLA Piper in 2005 but remains a senior consultant.

DLA Piper has over 4,000 lawyers, 90 offices, £1.7bn in revenue and just over £1,000,0000 in profit per equity partner.

If you want to grow your law firm he is an excellent person to study because there are really only two ways to learn how to grow…

  1. Learn from your own trial and error
  2. Learn from the best

I am going to show you how he became one of the best, by dissecting his philosophy, strategy and tactics.

1. Roger Lane-Smith Aimed High

When I work with lawyers I get very frustrated when I hear modest ambitions. Roger Lane-Smith didn’t understand the term modest.

This is what Roger Lane-Smith says about his start in 1977 – “I was just eighteen days away from my 32nd birthday. Having married at 23, I had two children, aged six and four, a big home, a big mortgage, and a brand new £10,000 (£150,000 in today’s money) bank loan facility to start my own law firm. I had just walked out pretty acrimoniously from another firm that I had joined as partner at the age of 27. The previous four years had been quite stressful and, as you will see, very eventful, but in the end the truth was that I had one burning ambition, which was to do my own thing.

All this began with just me and a secretary, going on to create the world’s largest law firm“.

From the beginning Lane-Smith wanted to create the world’s largest law firm. It didn’t happen by accident, he was driven by it.

This kind of massive thinking gave him the drive to take the kind of massive action necessary to build his firm.

Many people miss the purpose of ambitious goals. I also missed it until I found Grant Cardone.

The purpose of ambitious goals is to excite you to take more action than you otherwise would. It’s not really about hitting the goal.

That’s explains why I woke up at 7.30am on a Sunday and wrote this article. If my goals were modest, I wouldn’t make the extra effort. If your goals are modest, neither will you.

There’s no question that the first step to growing your legal practice is to have ambitious goals.

2. Roger Lane-Smith Dominated A Niche, Then Moved On To The Next Niche

Starksy And HutchRoger Lane-Smith developed a strategy of becoming an expert in certain niches, taking large market shares then moving on to the next niche. First it was commercial litigation, then entertainment product licensing, then management buyouts.

He did particularly well in entertainment product licensing where a trip to hollywood resulted in him eventually representing Starsky and Hutch, Superman, Saturday Night Fever and Star Wars in the UK.

3. Expand Never Contract

Roger Lane-Smith loved to expand via mergers. He says this about the merger with Alsops which led to the creation of the largest law firm in the North West.

“Alsops would definitely catapult us forward in my grand ambition. This deal needed to be done…However, I was not going to give up control on how things were going to be run.”

Always ambitious and never resting Lane-Smith says “The next three to four years seemed to pass in a blur of activity.”

There something to be said for hard work and Lane-Smith did it again and again. Always thinking about the next move.

3. Relationships

If you read Roger Lane-Smith’s biography you’ll notice he had a remarkable ability to build relationships quickly and deeply. Whether it be with entrepreneurs, Hollywood movie producers or the Marquess of Bristol. These relationships brought in a significant amount of work and his clients remained loyal.

Amazingly some lawyers are not “people” people despite the fact their work necessitates interacting with people all the time. If you’re not a people person, work to change it. It’s by gaining the respect and trust of those around you that you will get repeat work and valuable referrals.

Image Credit – Lomond Capital

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