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How relationships are the foundation for law firm growth

Here, award-winning lawyer Sven Burchartz underscores the nature of forging client relationships to ensure the success of a law firm.

user iconGrace Robbie 16 May 2024 Big Law
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Sven Burchartz is a senior partner at Kalus Kenny Intelex, which was a finalist for the Australian Law Awards Commercial Team of the Year in 2022, 2021 and 2020. He also won the litigation category at the 2021 Partner of the Year Awards.

Speaking on a recent episode of The Boutique Lawyer Show, he emphasised how building and nurturing relationships with clients are fundamental to the growth and sustainability of any law firm.

Looking back on his early career, Burchartz credits his mentor, Michael Thornton, for imparting invaluable lessons on the significance of cultivating client relationships.


“When I started, I had a great mentor partner who was quite a senior partner, and he was also the firm’s innovator.

“I remember him fondly. His name is Michael Thorton, and he was very good to me. He taught me the first and probably last lesson of any sort of professional services firm. That is, it’s all about relationships. The tools and methods to establish and maintain relationships are different,” Burchartz said.

Burchartz emphasised that the key to expanding your firm lies in building genuine relationships with clients and stakeholders, prioritising understanding, and generously sharing knowledge to nurture trust and loyalty.

“In order to grow your practice, you have to have solid relationships with all the people that support you. That fundamentally goes to knowing what they are, what they want, what they don’t know that they want, but should, and taking an interest in them and giving them and sharing your knowledge,” he said.

While modern platforms such as LinkedIn and electronic communications facilitate seamless interactions, Burchartz advocates for a return to face-to-face engagement, citing its numerous benefits.

“I think the current environment, you said earlier, what do we do today? I believe we lived through those two horrible years when we were all shuttered away, and we did nothing but communicate electronically.

“But certainly, our firm has one key way that we are now pressing and will continue to do so. That is literally face to face. Go and see your clients. It’s firing off an email, how are you doing, or a telephone call, that’s OK. But see them, and you’ll make yourself memorable,” Burchartz said.

Burchartz stressed the value of these encounters, not only for addressing immediate legal matters but also for uncovering additional opportunities and strengthening bonds.

“Inevitably, when you’re there for one reason, perhaps to solve a problem, answer some questions, or get some instructions. But if the people at the business know you’re coming, there’ll be something else on their mind that’s, “oh, by the way, while you’re here’ [to ‘you help us for this’],” he said.

He stressed the importance of lawyers distinguishing themselves through personalised experiences and transparent dealings, challenging the notion of legal services as generic.

“It’s the generally held view out in the populace that law and how it’s practised is pretty cookie cutter and very generic. But it isn’t; we’re all able to deliver what we do and how we do it in our way,” Burchartz said.

Burchartz expressed how lawyers can position themselves as trusted advisers and enable relationships to flourish with their clients by fostering open communication and being transparent about costs and expectations.

“But the little things are important. Making sure that you’re transparent with your fees and that there’s a very upfront conversation about that. It’s the question that a lot of clients don’t always ask when they should. So the key is to get on the front foot and tell them. It’s quite simple,” Burchartz said.

Following Burchartz’s guidance in prioritising personalised engagement, transparency, and proactive communication, lawyers can meet and exceed client expectations, paving the way for sustained success and trusting relationships with clients.