Braxton Alliance FAQs for Members

Why join an international or national alliance, network or association?The motivations for joining an alliance, network or association of firms can be summarised as follows:

– Retaining firm independence
Joining an international or national professional services alliance / network / association is a route increasingly being taken by firms that are seeking to extend their client service capabilities to new marketplaces, yet retain their independence, rather than be swallowed up in a merger with a larger professional firm. Becoming part of such an international organisation can be an effective way to achieve both objectives, as well as create economies of scale.

– Client retention
As their clients grow and move into new, foreign territories, small and medium sized firms need fast, easy access to contacts in cities and countries they can rely on, where they can’t necessarily justify the risk (or cost) of opening their own offices.

Rather than lose the client to a larger, more international law or accounting firm, smaller firms are able to confidently refer their client to a similar sized network or association member in another jurisdiction who is able to offer the same levels of local expertise, personal service and value for money. Many firms find that joining an international accounting or law network or association broadens the firm’s client service capabilities by being able to leverage the services provided by other member firms.

Prior to joining a network, alliance or association, many local professional firms find that sourcing reliable, English-speaking law or accounting firm contacts in foreign jurisdictions can be problematical and, indeed, something of a lottery. Being part of a network or association of member firms that have been carefully selected for their service excellence, and that continue to adhere to the organisation’s charter (or quality control procedures in the case of networks), minimises this risk and provides clients with reassurance that they will receive similar levels of service from any firm in the group, and that the local firm can continue to serve them as they develop their business in new geographic territories.

– Answers to technical questions
When the client doesn’t need to be referred, but instead needs an answer to a tax question or a matter related to a foreign country’s legal system, the spirit of co-cooperation that runs through most law and accounting firm networks and associations ensures that a reply is forthcoming, usually without delay and without cost. Although some firms sometimes see this as a burden at first, particularly during busy times, they soon see the upside when one of their own clients needs the answer to a technical question that can only be reliably answered by anther member firm. Few member firms would disagree that this adds tremendous value to the services they can offer their clients.

– Practice development
The leading international networks and associations of independent firms have developed beyond all recognition since the 1970s when most were perceived as clubs, rather than the serious, commercially-driven, globally branded organisations that most of them have evolved into today. As business has become increasingly global, professional firms view networks and associations as key to developing their international practices and to attracting larger, more profitable clients operating on a multi-jurisdictional basis to whom the firm can offer a seamless, global service through their relationships with trusted contacts across the affiliation.

– The kudos of exclusivity
Many networks and associations, though certainly not all, offer their member firms exclusivity, meaning that the firm has contractual rights over its own geographic territory for client development and inward referral purposes. Being the exclusive law or accounting firm member in a particular city or country provides the independent law or accounting firm with valuable endorsement and extra marketing clout when pitching for work with larger, more internationally-focused clients, and when trying to position the firm as a more attractive employer. For independent firms in certain countries, attracting the right talent is difficult; being able to demonstrate the firm’s involvement in cross-border transactions, through the firm’s international membership, can only strengthen a local firm’s ability to recruit and retain suitable candidates.

– International branding
Membership of an international network or association of independent firms gives the member firm the legal right to promote its affiliation in its territory through use of the organisation’s international logo (and in the case of accounting networks, prefix the firm’s name with the network’s initials).

It is in both parties’ interests that the logo is displayed prominently wherever and whenever possible – with each organisation’s brand lending force to the other’s. Use of the brand is encouraged, but not usually required, and would typically be implemented across firm stationery, marketing brochures and the firm’s website, ensuring that all touch points with existing and prospective clients are covered.

Although some member firms prefer not to adopt an umbrella brand so as not to deflect business from existing non-affiliation introducers of work, the growing need for firms to project a more international image means that access to a global brand is viewed as an increasingly important membership benefit.

– Open discussion in a non-competitive environment
Networks and associations generally consist of non-competing independent firms and therefore provide their members with the opportunity to openly discuss issues affecting their firm. Whether the topic is staff or practice related, firms are able to lower their guard and learn from each others’ experiences.

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