You’ve finally graduated law school and passed the bar.
You’re now ready to join the over 1.3 million lawyers who’re in active practice across the United States. However, unlike the over 50 percent who find work in law firms or the 12 percent who go to work for the government, you want to be among the 1 percent who go into solo practice. Or perhaps you’ve been employed for a while and now you want to start your own law firm.
Either way, starting your own law firm is a smart move. You’ll be your own boss and have greater control over your career and work-life. However, starting a firm that will be successful isn’t a walk in the park.
To enhance your chances of being successful, here are important things to keep in mind before getting started.
1. A Law Firm Is a Business
Quite a number of lawyers who start their own firm don’t quite embrace the fact that a law firm is a business. And like any business, what matters at the end of the day is the profit.
You’ll find experienced lawyers who think their occupational experience will readily translate into business success. Entrepreneurship is a whole new experience for any lawyer who goes into solo practice.
As such, it’s important to learn about entrepreneurship before starting a law firm. Sure, you learned about the business of law firms in law school, but that education isn’t enough. Take short entrepreneurship courses or get mentorship from a lawyer who has built a successful law firm.
2. You Need a Business Plan
You probably have everything about your upcoming law firm mapped out in your head. After all, you’re a lawyer. Planning is at the heart of everything you do.
However, while your mental plan is helpful, it’s super important to put it down on paper. Every business needs a business plan; otherwise, it will be flirting with failure.
A business plan fleshes out the key details about your law firm, from the name and address to the mission statement, financial projections, capital requirements, and sales and marketing strategy.
You’re probably capable of writing a useful business plan, but it’s best to hire an expert to do the job for you. This is because there are details you can’t afford to get wrong. For example, you need to know the amount of money you’ll need to start the law firm. An experienced law firm business consultant will provide an estimate when they write your plan.
3. Solo Law Practice or Partnership?
When you’re starting a law firm, you have a big decision to make.
Do you want to go solo or you’re better off partnering up?
Either method has its own pros and cons. When you go solo, you’ve got complete control over your law firm. You make decisions on every aspect, including law firm name, location, marketing, hiring, and financial expenditure.
However, the law firm’s services will be limited to your area of specialization. For example, if you’re a medical malpractice attorney, your law firm can only attend to medical malpractice clients. Of course, you can expand your service range by hiring more attorneys who have specialized in other fields, but this can take time.
In a partnership, you join forces with two or more lawyers to start a jointly-owned law firm. This can be beneficial when raising capital to start the firm since every partner will chip in. Plus, if the other lawyers have specialized in other areas of law, you’ll have a firm that offers a more diverse range of legal services.
On the downside, you won’t be in a position to make unilateral decisions about the firm since you aren’t the sole owner. Because you have to reach a consensus with the managing partners, disagreements are bound to arise.
4. Digital Law Firms Have an Advantage
Traditionally, law firms aren’t digital operations. In the past lawyers would set up law firm offices and advertise their services on print media, radio, and television.
This can still work today, but it won’t deliver results. The modern law firm is a digital enterprise.
Therefore, it’s crucial to embrace digitization right from the onset. Create a professional website for the firm and optimize it for search engines.
There are firms that specialize in offering IT solutions for law firms. Instead of trying to digitize your firm on your own, outsource the task to such a firm. This is not only efficient and cost-effective but also enables you to focus on doing what you do best: practicing law.
5. Your Personal Brand Is Key to Law Firm Success
When people hire a law firm, they aren’t hiring the company, really. They’re hiring the lawyers behind the firm.
As a law firm startup, you and your firm are inseparable. If your reputation as a lawyer isn’t any good, your firm will likely start out with the same reputation.
As such, guard your reputation with your life and do what you can to build it. You’ll give your firm a head start as it embarks on building a reputation of its own.
Starting Your Own Law Firm on a Solid Footing
Starting your own law firm is a smart move. However, it isn’t an easy one. The small business failure rate in the U.S. is sky-high, which means your firm could easily fail.
With this guide, though, you have the information to start a firm that will succeed.
All the best and keep reading our blog for more tips and insights.