How to Value a Law Firm in 10 Steps (and FAQs)

The valuation process of any business is typically described as difficult and, for some, even intimidating.

Despite its reputation for difficulty, understanding the valuation process is a non-negotiable for making strategic decisions about your law firm, including positioning yourself for a successful exit.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll get into all the particulars of the valuation process – from the major factors affecting a firm’s valuation to the 10-step process you must undergo to achieve an accurate valuation. Now, let’s get the ball rolling!

TL;DR - How to Value a Law Firm

Need a quick summary? We’ve collated all the essential steps to value a law firm:

1. Review Financial Statements

2. Evaluate Revenue Streams

3. Consider Client Base

4. Analyze Market Position

5. Assess Assets

6. Calculate Net Profit

7. Examine Liabilities

8. Apply Valuation Method

9. Factor in Growth Potential

10. Get Professional Appraisal

What is The Common Law Firm Valuation Rule Of Thumb?

A simple way to obtain a law firm’s valuation is through the rule of thumb. The calculation is as simple as multiplying a firm’s annual revenue by a multiplier of 0.5 to 3.0 – a value often used in the legal sector.

So, if you’re selling a law firm that generated a revenue of $1 million last year and was evaluated with a multiplier of 2.4, the estimated worth of the firm is $2.4 million.

You might say, that’s a vast range – what number do I use? The truth is that it varies on several factors. One of the major ones is the demand for a law firm’s services. Generally, the higher the demand, the higher the multiplier.

Other determinants of a law firm’s valuation include the number of clients and geographical location.

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5 Factors Affecting The Valuations of Law Firms 

There are 5 main factors that impact a law firm’s valuation. Let’s discuss each one further:

1. Financial Performance and Profitability

Any law firm that shines financially indeed shimmers in terms of its valuation. When an external entity assesses the value of a law firm, this is often the first criterion they look at.

When assessing financial performance, evaluators look at metrics such as revenue growth and profit margins. At the same time, it gives an idea of how consistently profitable a law firm is, which can increase its valuation.

2. Practice Area Specialization and Expertise

The higher the demand for a particular practice area, the higher the expected valuation. According to the JD Supra, these specializations within the legal sector are deemed to have significant demand:

  • Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Law

  • Artificial Intelligence Law

  • Cannabis Law

  • Environmental Law

  • Health and Telemedicine Law

  • Blockchain Law

  • Space Law

Three people working on a laptop in an office.

3. Client Base and Revenue Sources

A law firm with a vast client base can command a high valuation. However, it isn’t just about how many clients they have – it’s also about their loyalty. If the firm has maintained a long-term relationship with these clients, that’s a green flag for many buyers.

Multiple revenue streams are also seen as positive, increasing a firm’s valuation. Diverse revenue sources show that a firm can mitigate risks by not solely depending on a single service or sector – showcasing its financial resilience.

4. Reputation and Brand Recognition

Don’t discount intangible assets such as a law firm’s reputation and brand recognition. These speak volumes about trust and reliability. However, they are valuable as these assets do not grow overnight; they require excellent service, significantly contributing to a law firm’s valuation.

5. Competitor Analysis and Market Conditions

When a law firm holds a valuable edge against its competitors, it will likely be considered valuable. When conducting competitor analysis, these are the seven factors that are often analyzed:

  • Services and Products

  • Pricing

  • Target Market

  • Marketing

  • Strengths

  • Weaknesses

  • Unique Attributes

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How to Value a Law Firm in 10 Simple Steps

Valuing a law firm is often believed to be a lengthy and complex process. We’ll simplify it into 10 straightforward steps:

1. Review Financial Statements

Is the law firm in good financial standing? Only numbers can answer the question. The following financial statements will tell you more about a firm’s financial strength than any other document.

Financial Statement


Income Statement

Shows a firm’s profitability within a specific time frame

Balance Sheet

Provides a glimpse into a firm’s assets, liabilities, and equity

Statement of Cash Flows 

Highlights the sources and uses of cash

2. Evaluate Revenue Streams

Next, you have to assess the firm’s revenue streams. Are they solely reliant on a specific service to generate income, or do they have multiple revenue streams? Having several income streams is an excellent way to stay financially resilient and strengthen a firm’s market impact.

By having a diverse revenue portfolio, law firms can explore opportunities for expansion within existing services or into new areas. Therefore, these income streams make up a significant part of a firm’s valuation.

3. Consider Client Base

Another way to value a law firm is to assess its client base. While many valuation methods focus on the financial aspect, Harvard Business Review states that implementing customer-based company valuation (CBCV) can also help assess a firm’s value.

Together with financial data, these models are also taken into consideration:



Customer Acquisition

Forecasts the inflow of new clients.

Customer Retention

Forecasts the duration of time a client stays engaged.


Forecasts the frequency of client transactions within a firm.


Forecasts the amount a client spends per transaction.

4. Analyze Market Position

A crucial step in finding your firm’s worth is analyzing its position in the market. Here’s how you can perform this analysis:

  • Competitor Analysis: Identify key competitors and analyze their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT).

  • Target Market: Define the firm’s target clients and their demographics. Analyze the effectiveness of marketing strategies and client feedback to understand its market position better.

  • Type of Services: Determine if the firm provides general or specialized services. Study the demand for these services in the legal market.

  • Market Trends: Analyze how a firm rides trends or adapts to industry changes.

  • Geographical Presence: Consider the geographical reach of the firm’s services and evaluate its location on its client base.

A person and another person sitting at a table in front of a laptop.

5. Assess Assets

When determining a law firm’s true value, including its assets in the calculation process is essential. We can break these down into 2 types: tangible and intangible.

The former refers to physical assets, while the latter covers non-physical assets that add to the firm’s overall value. Let’s classify each asset:



Real estate

Brand reputation

Office furniture and equipment

Human capital – the skills and expertise of attorneys

Cash reserves

Client base

Office furniture and legal library

Intellectual property

Tech infrastructure

Marketing assets, including firm name or logo

6. Calculate Net Profit

You must never leave the net profit out of the equation, especially when evaluating a firm’s value. Net profit is calculated using a simple formula:
Net Profit = Total Revenue - Total Expenses

The net profit is a financial metric that provides insights into a firm’s profitability. The higher it is, the better.

7. Examine Liabilities

It’s not all about the profit. If a law firm has numerous debts and liabilities, then this could affect its valuation.

Liabilities can be short-term (current) or long-term (non-current liabilities). The following are examples of each:

Current Liabilities

Non-Current Liabilities

Wages Payable

Deferred Tax Liabilities

Interest Payable

Long-Term Lease Obligations

Dividends Payable

Bonds Payable

8. Apply the Valuation Method

There are multiple valuation methods to choose from. Hence, selecting the one best suited for your business involves considering various factors.

The two most commonly used methods are the Multiples of Earnings and the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) analysis. Let’s compare them below.


Multiples of Earnings

Discounted Cash Flow


Focuses on current earnings as a basis for valuation.

Emphasizes the present value of future cash flows

Time Horizon




Simple and straightforward to use.

Requires more financial forecasting than the multiples of earnings method


Well-suited for stable law firms.

Well-suited for firms with variable earnings or huge growth potential

9. Factor in Growth Potential

Arriving at an accurate valuation will require considering a law firm’s present state and growth potential. Here’s what you can assess to determine a law firm’s growth potential:

  • Client Expansion: Evaluate the firm’s strategies for acquiring new clients.

  • Tech Advancements: Assess the firm’s adoption of technology and its impact on operational efficiency.

  • Investment in Human Capital: Evaluate the firm’s approach to recruiting and retaining top talent.

  • Adaptability to Trends: Analyze the firm’s ability to adapt to trends in the legal sector.

10. Get Professional Appraisal

When in doubt, consult a professional appraiser or financial expert for an accurate valuation. 

To maximize exit values, ExitWise can connect you with handpicked industry-specialized bankers, M&A attorneys, and tax accountants. Schedule a call with us to speak to an M&A expert.

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Common Challenges of Valuing a Law Firm

The road to obtaining a successful valuation can get a little bumpy. Here are some of the challenges you might encounter.

  1. Assessing Intangible Assets: Valuing intangible assets can get tricky due to their subjective nature.

  2. Diverse Billing Practices: Different billing methods, such as hourly rates and fixed fees, can complicate the valuation process.

  3. Regulatory Environment: With rules and regulations evolving daily, compliance becomes challenging for many firms.

  4. Retirement Obligations: Assessing financial obligations related to retirements, such as pension plans, adds complexity to the valuation process.

  5. Technology Integration: Technology integration can be difficult to evaluate as its influence on a firm’s value may require a more technical approach.

  6. Partner Contributions: Measuring partners' contributions can be challenging, as these are often a mix of tangible and intangible contributions.

  7. Revenue Fluctuations: Law firms often deal with revenue ebbs and flows due to the cyclical nature of legal work. This makes it burdensome to determine an accurate financial representation.

  8. Succession Planning: Planning for a seamless succession process is a huge obstacle, as it impacts the firm’s stability and long-term worth.

  9. Client Dependency: Dependency on a small number of clients makes it difficult to predict the firm’s financial stability, affecting its valuation.

  10. Market Conditions: External market conditions, such as economic downturns or shifts in demand, influence a firm’s valuation. The issue lies in their unpredictability.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

These are some of the most commonly asked questions about valuing law firms:

How Much is a Small Law Practice Worth?

You’ll get different answers when asking about the value of a small law firm practice, as this depends on various factors. Consider financial performance, client base, or law firm reputation to assess its value.

The previously discussed Multiple Earnings method and Discounted Cash Flow Method are the approaches you can use to assess the worth of a small law practice.

What is The Average Law Firm Revenue Per Year?

The 2020 Martindale-Avvo Attorney Compensation Report surveyed 823 practicing attorneys in the United States, revealing that the average law firm made $192,000 – slightly down from 2018’s $194,000.

What Role Does Client Base and Retention Play in Valuation?

While client base and retention are subjective, they do play an important role in valuation. Earlier, we mentioned two types of assets: tangible and intangible.

Client base and retention fall under the latter. Thus, it must be included when estimating an asset’s worth. This ultimately impacts a firm’s value.

How Do Partnership Structures Impact the Valuation?

Partnership structures make the arduous process of law firm valuation even more challenging. It starts with taking into consideration the contribution of each partner, whether that may be capital or knowledge.

Because we’re speaking about partnerships, they could have different tax implications depending on the law firm's location. Hence, this must be considered when obtaining a firm’s valuation.

How Should Future Earnings Potential Be Factored into the Valuation?

The future earnings potential can be factored into the valuation process as it reflects a law firm's future growth and profitability.

This method involves looking at a longer time frame, about 5 years or more, and discounting them to the present using an appropriate discount rate.

The discount rate signifies the risk and opportunity of investing in a law firm. It can be determined from the expected return on comparable law firms or the firm’s cost of capital.

The total of the discounted earnings will then represent the business value derived from its future earnings.

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That wasn’t so difficult, was it? All you’ll need is 10 simple steps!

While you may face many obstacles along the way, from assessing intangible assets to adapting to unpredictable market conditions, the result of your valuation ultimately relies on your analysis and the decisions you’ll make throughout the process.

To assist you with that, ExitWise will form the bridge between you and M&A experts who can guide you in each step of the valuation process. Not only do you get to sell faster, but also for the best value. Get in touch with ExitWise to learn more!

Brian Dukes.
Brian Dukes

Brian graduated from Michigan Technological University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and as Captain of the Men's Basketball Team. After a four-year stint at Deloitte Consulting, Brian returned to school to get his MBA at the University of Michigan. Brian went on to join his first startup, a Ford Motor Company Joint Venture, and cofound a technology and digital marketing services agency. Through those experiences, Brian embraced the opportunity to provide M&A education and support to his fellow business owners as they navigated their own entrepreneurial journeys.

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