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Why friendships with clients are critical to this firm’s strategy

The idea of being friends with one’s clients can be seen as taboo. For Law Squared director Demetrio Zema, building such relationships goes to the heart of his business approach.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 19 April 2022 NewLaw
Demetrio Zema
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Most law firms, big or small, and across sectors, host clients for dinners, drinks, golf days and charity functions, among myriad other social engagements.

Law Squared – one of the earlier adopters of NewLaw methodology and now one of the biggest national players in that space – likes to take a different approach to such client engagement.

Demetrio Zema (pictured) founded Law Squared over six years ago and serves as the firm’s director, managing its now 40 staff. For him, client engagement means so much more than hitting KPIs.


At the height of the 2021 lockdown, he hosted a virtual cooking class, during which he walked clients through a pizza-making experience, sharing his family’s secret recipes for dough and sauce. Occasionally, the firm will host themed dinners, most recently bringing together a diverse cabal of clients to Sydney’s Chin Chin restaurant during Pride Week to facilitate a conversation about how best to continue driving progress in the legal profession with regard to diversity and inclusion. Attendees at that dinner walked away with a box of goodies, including wine from Mr Zema’s family winery, Coonawarra-based Zema Estate.

These themed dinners occur on top of the “Law Squared LSaaS” soirees, which occur monthly in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane (where the firm is based). 

Law Squared is, of course, likely not the only firm to operate in such ways. But, against the backdrop of broader conversations surrounding new ways of working for legal professionals, moving past what Resolve Divorce founder Rose Cocchiaro describes as a “golfing mindset” for lawyer-client interactions may be fundamental to business growth and success moving forward.

Law Squared’s philosophy on BD and marketing

At its core, Mr Zema explained, his firm believes in three things: positively changing the conversations that people have about lawyers, creating an environment and culture that rival law firms cannot compete with, and building “deep” relationships with clients – that is, being friends with those clients.

The latter point, he noted, is critical to the firm’s philosophy on business development and marketing.

“We build deep and authentic relationships with our clients, referrers, friends, and supporters, which allows us to engage and interact with them in a meaningful way,” he said.

“We believe in not following traditional norms or conventions in our business development approach, and we do not believe in having a sales or target focus in our marketing efforts.”

Such approaches, Mr Zema submitted, have an “underlying insincerity” to them, particularly if they are grounded in converting that conversation into a sale.

Pushing back against taboos

Building friendships with clients, Mr Zema told Lawyers Weekly, can often be “seen as taboo”.

In spite of this, such connections are a “key passion area of mine”, he said.

In understanding why, one must zoom out and identify the characteristics of friendship and why they are important to a lawyer-client relationship, he advised.

“Like any relationship, we want to be with someone we trust, someone that cares about us, someone that has our best intention at heart, and someone who will provide an honest opinion,” he explained.

“Our events bring people together who ordinarily would not be in the same room, we provide and curate an environment that allows people to offer their thoughts, insights and perspective on a range of topics/issues from both within and external to the legal profession.”

“I learn so much from our client, friends, supporters and referrers that it allows me to be informed, abreast of various perspectives and to continue to challenge the status quo of the traditional law firm model,” Mr Zema surmised.

By hosting activities like the aforementioned cooking class and regular dinners, he went on, the firm can engage with a broad range of people across the community, via different mediums, thereby allowing them to “personify” the lawyer-client relationship.

“There are enough firms focusing on the usual traditional corporate sponsorship events, and as we continue to push the boundaries and seek out different and new opportunities, we continue to get to know our clients and community on a more sincere basis,” he said.

Balancing philosophy and business needs

When it comes to striking the right balance between ensuring fiscal viability for an emerging legal business and making substantial investments in BD and marketing, Mr Zema said that irrespective of a firm’s size or age, any strategies implemented must speak to an intended audience.

“For us, we’ve grown from one to a team of 40 in six years, working with household global and national brands across our four practice areas. We’ve been able to achieve this by having a sincere, transparent, and bold vision to change the legal profession for the better and to offer a true alternative to the traditional law firm model for both clients and lawyers alike,” he outlined.

“Firms need to have clear strategic plans, clear visions, and clear focus on their reason for being, their why, and then make appropriate investments in time, money and effort in BD that is meaningful and sincere.”

Excitement on the horizon

Looking ahead, Mr Zema said that Law Squared would continue to change how people converse about lawyers and position itself as a global leader in NewLaw.

The firm will keep challenging the status quo, he said, and look to offer a true alternative.

“Our engagement with our community of clients, referrers, friends, and supporters will continue to evolve as we continue to seek insights and knowledge into how we can offer a better client-lawyer experience and continue to positively influence change across the legal profession,” he concluded. 

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Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy

Jerome Doraisamy is the editor of Lawyers Weekly. A former lawyer, he has worked at Momentum Media as a journalist on Lawyers Weekly since February 2018, and has served as editor since March 2022. He is also the host of all five shows under The Lawyers Weekly Podcast Network, and has overseen the brand's audio medium growth from 4,000 downloads per month to over 60,000 downloads per month, making The Lawyers Weekly Show the most popular industry-specific podcast in Australia. Jerome is also the author of The Wellness Doctrines book series, an admitted solicitor in NSW, and a board director of Minds Count.

You can email Jerome at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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