With some planning and discipline, starting a law firm can be one of the most rewarding endeavors of your professional life. Let’s go through some key tips on how to start a law firm as an entrepreneur.
What You Need Planned Before You Dive In
Before starting your own law firm, proper planning must take place. One of the most important aspects of any business before diving in is a business plan. A business plan will identify essential items such as your firm goals, strategy, business advantage, and financial information. Your business plan will also allow you to assess the market, enabling you to position your solo law firm for success.
Consider, also, the amount of capital required for starting your own law practice. The recommended amount depends on a variety of factors, including the type of law practice, but anywhere between $15,000-25,000 is a good start. Have at least 9-12 months’ worth of cash in your bank to cover the operation expenses when first starting a law firm. It may take a few months before you actually start generating revenue, so plan accordingly.
Find a Niche or Your Area of Expertise
Figuring out how to start your own law firm requires you to zero in on a niche or area of expertise. Becoming a generalist nowadays is extremely tough for a solo law practice. As a generalist, you’re competing against much larger law firms that employ lawyers of all specialties. You’re also spreading yourself thin as a generalist and won’t be able to excel in any particular field.
From a potential client’s perspective, would you rather go to a generalist lawyer or a lawyer who specializes in precisely what they need in their particular circumstances?
Choosing a niche or specializing in an area of expertise like car accidents or wrongful death will give incentive for potential clients to come knocking on your door. Whether it’s criminal, tax, real estate, family, immigration, or other types of law, choose a niche right at the outset of your business plan.
Name and Location Matter
Coming up with a name for your law firm is vital as it is the first part of your business people will come in contact with, and must give off a positive first impression. When deciding on a name, keep it short or easy to remember.
This holds true for all types of law firms, especially if your firm has multiple named partners.
Location is another important factor to consider. The physical location of your law firm can determine the type of clientele and, ultimately, the amount of business you get. Factors in deciding the optimal location include the area where your clientele situates, ease of access, vicinity of your competitors, and more. The location is also important for clients to find you online through search engines, so make sure you choose your physical address wisely.
Make a Website, Join a Listserv
Your website is likely one of the first places a potential client will visit before even contacting you. A well-designed and professional site will give off a good first-impression, enticing potential clients to want to work with you. An optimized and informative website will also help your site rank higher in search engines, making it easier for clients to find your business online.
Joining a listserv is also a good idea when starting your own law firm. A listserv is essentially an electronic mailing list that you can join based on your field of specialty. For example, subscribing to an immigration law listserv will gain you access to other immigration lawyers. With this access, you’ll be able to tap into the community’s resources, ask questions, and network with one another.
How to Build Your Network
As with any business enterprise, building a network is crucial for growth. Here are some ideas to expand your network:
- Conferences & Events: Take the initiative to introduce yourself to professionals you don’t know at legal conferences & events. Have business cards ready and always have a quick elevator pitch prepared for when a business opportunity arises.
- Reconnect with Law School Classmates: Having gone through the thick and thin of getting through law school together, touch base with your former classmates to see how they’re doing. You’ll never know what type of working relationships may form with a simple email or phone call.
- Social Media: Whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, professionals and clients are utilizing social media for their business and personal use.
- Everyday Life: Be attentive in your daily life, even outside of a professional context. Build relationships in your community sports teams, clubs, and volunteer activities. It’s easier for potential clients to reach out to you if a genuine relationship already exists.
How to Set Up Your Office
Once you start a law practice, you’ll need to figure out how to set up your office to maximize efficiency and productivity. In particular, plan for:
- Workflow Systems: Calendaring & docketing cases, accounting, billing, filing, all require systems to ensure proper workflow and documentation.
- Software: With your workflow systems in place, come up with a list of software that will help improve your workflow.
- Office Supplies: Every office will require office supplies such as stationary, computers, printers, photocopier, and phones.
- Staffing: While the beginning stages of opening a law firm may just be a one-person operation, over time as your business grows, you’ll want to consider hiring out certain tasks. This will free you up from time-consuming administrative tasks to focusing on growing your business.