Two law firms, Lowndes Associates of Auckland and Christchurch-based Malley & Co each talk about the workshops they run for clients

Mark Lowndes, Managing Partner, Lowndes Associates:

Lowndes Associates hosts the Business Intelligence Series of breakfast workshops held four times a year but sometimes we hold one or two special ones if we come across good speakers during the year. See 2013 will be the 11th year of the series.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association are partners in the series and the National Business Review, NZ Private Equity and Venture Capital Association and Angel Association New Zealand are supporters.

Busy executives, owners, directors, managers, advisers and corporate counsel attend them.


The speakers

We bring in senior business people and business advisors to speak. These are business topics not technical legal ones. We think that is more interesting to our clients and contacts.

These are informative workshops on current and forward looking business topics. We try to demonstrate some thought leadership in the choices of topics. You can see the entire history of speakers and topics on the website.

There are three speakers discussing practical business topics in an interactive format. The workshops are limited to 100 people and are often full. The goal is that attendees return to their businesses better informed and better motivated.

Why do it?

We think this is a value add to our clients and contacts, to our partner and supporter organisations and to the business community. And the feedback is excellent. We are very proud of this series which has a loyal following. We mostly fill the workshops from our database of previous attendees.

Do you get business from these events?

This is hard to measure. We get a great deal of brand recognition, plus through this series we stay close to many people and demonstrate our knowledge of and interest in some of the real issues facing business each year.

What would your advice be to other businesses thinking of doing a similar thing?

Without hesitation, do it. Being a professional implies technical expertise. Through this BIS series Lowndes Associates demonstrates, we believe, a real understanding of current and looming business issues. This understanding enables us to direct our technical expertise in the right direction.

Ferne Bradley, partner at Malley & Co:

Malley & Co, incorporating Mackintosh Bradley & Price, has recently formed from the merger of two established Christchurch law firms. It includes specialists in all areas of business and personal law, including employment, property, commercial, insurance and family law and civil litigation.

What sorts of client seminars do you run?

We run two different kinds of seminars every couple of months. For our breakfast sessions we invite a small group of people who can discuss things more freely, while after work we run larger sessions for groups of about 40 to 80 where information is presented and participants can then ask questions. Many of our clients and professional contacts, as well as staff, attend our seminars.

What kinds of topics have you looked at?

We focus on personal and business-related legal matters. For example, we look at personal asset planning such as family trusts, how they work, what they achieve and traps and tricks. In terms of business issues we look at employment questions, insurance, leases, financing, succession planning, buy/sell arrangements for owners relating to life insurance as well as business sale and purchase issues. We recently ran a very successful
seminar on how to help your children on to the property ladder.

Do you bring in speakers?

Malley & Co often partners with other professional firms, such as accountants or financial planners, so we can cover these issues from different angles.

Why do you do them?

We think seminars add value for our clients. They can introduce clients to a topic and provide them with the basis to think things through. When they then come to us for assistance they have a better idea of the questions to ask and possibilities open to them.

What is the feedback like?

Generally the feedback is excellent. Clients often refer to them several years afterwards.

Do you get business from these events?

It's hard to tell. Sometimes there is a direct and immediate connection between a seminar we run and instructions received. But sometimes it can be years later, or it just may be that a seminar prompted the client to carry on with something they had already discussed with us but which didn't go anywhere. We think it is good opportunity to connect with our clients and professional contacts in a general way that provides value for them.

What would your advice be to other businesses thinking of doing a similar thing?

Think carefully about who your audience is going to be. A general seminar will attract people with little specialist knowledge of the topic, so the information needs to be simple and practical. If you're running a seminar focused on a specialist business topic you can assume a certain expertise in the audience, so you can afford to get into technicalities and complexities - indeed, the audience will feel dissatisfied if that doesn't happen. The invitation list and invitation itself need to make it clear what type of seminar experience the invitee can expect.

There are plenty of examples where SMEs in the same sector or the same location have joined forces to make a bigger splash locally or internationally. Tell us your experiences.