Kicking off the new year with a bang, two of the best-known companies in the United States providing business coaching and technology consulting to law firms have merged, creating a combined entity of nearly 100 people with expertise across virtually all sectors of law, particularly small- and mid-sized law firms.
Lawyerist Media LLC, which started as a blog in 2008 and evolved into a leading business coaching and training company for small law firms, is merging with Affinity Consulting Group LLC, one of the top companies in the U.S. providing strategic business and tech-implementation consulting for law firms and legal departments.
Describing the merger as “two brands, one team, healthier firms,” the companies say that, together, they are better positioned to provide a range of industry experts capable of helping law firms and organizations of all sizes and at every stage of business build healthier companies. This includes working with legal teams to:
- Define their businesses through strategic consulting and teaching.
- Build their businesses through business and technology implementation.
- Perfect their businesses through ongoing training and business coaching.
“We see tremendous opportunity,” said Affinity cofounder and managing partner Debbie Foster, who will become CEO of the merged company. “We are excited about the exceptional services both brands offer the legal community.
“This merger allows us to meet every firm where they are, dissect their issues, and provide them with the exact level of service they need — whether it’s developing a business strategy, implementing technology, or ongoing coaching and business support.”
Brands will Continue
While Lawyerist will remain as a standalone brand and continue to offer its existing services, all nine of its employees will join Affinity, including Stephanie Everett, who has been with Lawyerist since 2018 and who became its CEO last year. In addition, Aaron Street, Lawyerist’s cofounder and former CEO, who stepped down from that role last year, is returning.
Both Everett and Street will join Affinity as partner-owners and members of the leadership team, with Everett focusing on future development of product and service offerings and Street serving in a CFO-type role focused on strategy and growth.
“It might not look like much has changed for many of the lawyers in our community, but they will all benefit from the additional expertise and resources the Affinity team brings to the table,” said Everett. “Affinity’s resources will allow us to build more tools and services to help small firms build future-focused firms.”
Lawyerist started as a blog created in 2008 by Sam Glover, then a practicing lawyer in Minneapolis. After originally focusing his blog on technology for solo and small law firms, he relaunched it as Lawyerist on Aug. 24, 2008, explaining at the time that a “lawyerist” is “one who lawyers,” and that the blog was intended to serve as “a lawyering manual — or survival guide, depending on how you look at it.”
In 2009, Street joined the company, later serving as its CEO from 2016 to 2021. He was instrumental in helping develop Lawyerist into a full-fledged coaching and resources company for solo and small firms. The business includes Lawyerist Lab, a paid coaching community; the Lawyerist website, a leading destination for small firm resources and articles; a popular weekly podcast; and the book, The Small Firm Roadmap.
Glover left the company in 2020 and Street stepped down as CEO last year, when Everett moved into that role.
Affinity Consulting Group was founded in 2000 by Foster and three other law firm consultants, Steven Best, Barron Henley and Paul Unger, who met at a software conference in Toronto. Today, Affinity’s roster of consultants and partners includes a who’s who of names whose frequent speaking and writing makes them familiar to anyone who follows legal tech.
In an interview last week, Foster and Everett declined to disclose the financial terms of the merger, except to say that both Everett and Street will join the merged company as owners.
“Aaron and I have a vested interest in the company going forward,” Everett said. “This isn’t a deal where we’re getting some cash and leaving. It’s just the opposite, where we’re doubling down and really excited about building the company for the future.”
She said that Lawyerist has always been a “small but mighty team,” but the merger means they will have more resources and expertise available to them to do much more.
“There are so many things we want to do, and we often felt that with more help, we could do more. This is growing our team ten times stronger, overnight, we’re going from ten to 100.”
Both Foster and Everett see this merger as enabling multiple opportunities to better serve their clients. For Lawyerist, those clients are primarily solo and small firms. For Affinity, its clients are most typically firms of 10 to 50 lawyers, but span solos to large firms, government agencies, and corporate legal departments.
Even before the merger, Foster said, Affinity was considering ways to expand the services it offers to include more of the kind of coaching that Lawyerist was already providing.
Certain of Affinity’s services, such as a technology implementation for a law firm, are often provided on a “drop in and then leave” basis, Foster explained. But Affinity wanted to find ways to “really get in there with them to help them be able to create the healthy firm that they’re really proud of.”
With this merger, both Foster and Everett see opportunities to expand that kind of coaching to a broader range of firms.
“We do so much project work for our clients and we don’t always have the opportunity to offer them the longer term, longer tail, relationship that they need to help them make the changes they need to make to get where they want to go,” Foster said. “Lawyerist has perfected that and their people have perfected that and have put together something that I think so many of our clients are hungry for – that methodology for what makes up a successful firm.”
Even as the merger enables Affinity to expand Lawyerist’s coaching model into a broader range of firms, it also allows Lawyerist to use its experience in delivering services at scale to bring Affinity’s expertise to solo and small firms in new ways.
“We can take some of the knowledge and expertise that Affinity has in tech implementation, for example, and take what Lawyerist does really well, which is deliver services at scale, and now we can marry those and help small firms who don’t need or can’t invest thousands of dollars with an implementation package,” Everett said.
Two Imminent Launches
For the immediate term, the company will focus on integrating the two teams and planning for the future, so their clients should not expect any product or service announcements until at least the second quarter of the year.
However, they do have two projects that had already been in the works that they are announcing this month.
One is a new podcast, Powerful Leaders, No Apologies, that will launch this week. Hosted by Foster and Beth Thompson, Affinity’s director of client engagement, it will focus on women in legal “owning their power and changing the world.”
The other is the release of The Small Firm Roadmap Revisited, the second edition of Lawyerist’s book on building a successful law firm.
Depth and Scale
For Everett, the bottom line of the merger is that it adds even greater depth to what she describes as “two powerhouses” of experts in the legal industry.
“We’re now going to be able to say to our community, ‘Learn even more, learn more of the things you didn’t know.’ If I look at my expertise, it’s more in business strategy. But now we’re going to be able to offer everything down to how to use Word the right way.”
For Foster, that depth presents opportunities to scale.
“You hear, I’m sure, the same stories that I hear about the struggles that people are having running their firms these days,” Foster said. “They need a process, they need a methodology, they need a system – whatever you want to call it, every firm needs that. So if we can scale the products and services that we have and the Lawyerist’s products and services can be scaled, we really can meet everyone where they are. And that’s what we’re hoping that we do.”