For many attorneys and aspiring young lawyers, there’s nothing more satisfying than opening up a law firm. But pulling that off, especially if you’re a young lawyer, requires a lot more than moxie, a brand-new law degree and a wealth of knowledge.
If you’re wanting to open up your own firm, you’ve probably got a million questions. What kind of office do you need? What kind of law firm are you going to open? Where will you find clients? How will you keep clients? Where do you start?
Opening up a law firm doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as you might think. By breaking all your tasks down into smaller manageable jobs, you can open your firm and find success.
Why Start Your Own Firm?
Even if you’re dead set on opening your own practice, an obvious question lingers: why should you do it? After all, armed with a law degree you can always join an existing firm, gain experience, and work your way up the ladder. With the knowledge you have, it’s going to help you that much more if you’re seeking employment in the legal field. There’s also no doubt that working at large firms has plenty of advantages including clients, a marketing team, and a solid infrastructure.
But if you want to be your own boss and you’ve got a specialized area of legal expertise, opening up a law firm on your own is the way to go. By starting your firm, you get:
- Freedom and control to set your own priorities and make your own choices.
- The chance to take on a variety of interesting projects that you might not otherwise get to do at a larger firm.
- The chance to save some money since, depending on your office setup, startup costs can be relatively low.
- The chance to directly enjoy the results of your hard work since you’ll be working hard to establish yourself.
As you can see, there are many advantages to opening up a law firm and here’s how you can do successfully:
Turn Your Passion Into Profit
With a law degree in hand, it’s obvious that you’re passionate about helping people. The key is finding a way to keep the clients coming to you whether you specialize in accident law, business law, or even immigration law. If you pursue a common specialization, you should have no trouble finding clients, but you also want to keep in mind that you’re probably competing with perhaps dozens of other firms that do the same thing you do.
If you’re serious about opening up a law firm, you should take a look at the area where you’re thinking about setting up your practice. If you’re in a big city trying to practice law, you may find yourself lost in the rat race. But if you can set up shop with a very specific specialization, you might find clients flocking to your business.
Regardless of which path you take, you need to balance your hopes of practicing with economic reality; in short, you need to find a way to turn your knowledge of the law into a good-paying job.
Have A Solid Plan
As you work toward opening up a law firm, you need to keep in mind that, at its heart, a law firm is a small business. If you open one, it is therefore your small business. That means you need to have a plan for paying the bills, taking care of taxes, paying rent and other financial responsibilities.
If you don’t have much experience or knowledge when it comes to finances, hire some accountants and tax specialists if it’s in your budget.
Get Yourself An Office
With the way technology is advancing these days, not all lawyers need your traditional brick-and-mortar setup. You may find that it’s more practical to set up a home office—and you may find you’re more productive working from home too.
But if you’re opening up a law firm in a real, physical office building, you need to know what to do to get your firm up and running. After all, it’s easy to envision a busy, buzzing law firm in an empty office building, but it’s an entirely different matter to set up your firm in an office building. Making that a reality takes some hard work, the help of contractors and even some good old elbow grease.
Whether you’re in an office building or a home office, everything you setup is going to play an important role in your success. If you’re renting an office space, make sure you invest in some good office furniture. Get comfortable chairs that you, your colleagues, and your clients can feel relaxed in. Make sure you get yourself the right desk; one that’s big enough for you to conduct business on.
As you set up your office space, you might also consider getting plenty of storage space. While technology has made it easier to store files, you’re likely going to need some cabinets for your paper files. If you need privacy in your office space, consider setting up privacy areas such as conference rooms. By considering the needs of yourself as well as the needs of others, you can create the ideal office space that’s going to allow you to get work done and make every comfortable.
Of course technology plays a vital role in any office setting and you’re likely going to need a computer network setup as well as wireless internet. When it comes time for all your technical needs, network cabling services can provide all that you need, from fiber optic cables or cables for internet, data, video and voice.
While setting up an office in a commercial building, don’t forget about security. If your firm shares its offices with other building tenants, then there’s likely a security system in place. But if you’re renting an office space that’s yours alone, you need to check into security measures. Invest in surveillance equipment if necessary. Call a commercial locksmith in your area and have them check all the locks on your building. If some are faulty, have them replaced right away.
If you’re new in town and opening up a law firm, you need to make marketing part of your rock-solid business plan. Without proper promotion, you’re selling yourself short, even if you believe you’re the best at what you do.
So what can you do? Attorneys can do themselves a big favor by getting a brand-new, easy-to-use web site that tells prospective clients who you are and what you do. As technology advances, prospective clients want to visit a web site where they can find all the information they need in a matter of minutes. Many web hosting sites allow you to build your own web site, but if you plan on sticking around, find yourself a web design specialist and get a top-of-the-line website that’s going to catch people’s eyes.
Your marketing plan also needs to include the use of social media and SEO services. It’s estimated that more than 90% of people in need of legal advice often find it by using a search engine such as Google or Bing. When they do, you need to make sure your web site is one of the top results that pop up, especially in your area. SEO specialists, also known as search engine optimization specialists, can help you appear high in web searches by using specific keywords.
While you may not think people find legal advice on social media, it’s hard to find a business these days that doesn’t have a Facebook page. You can use Twitter to post short messages on the benefits of your firm and you can use Facebook to elaborate on the services your firm can provide to clients, especially if you can explain complex legal terms in simple, clear language.
Social media can benefit your practice, but an important part of opening up a law firm is networking. In many areas of business, the power of the network can’t be understated. Think of it this way, the bigger your network is, the more potential you have for your firm to grow.
What’s the best way to network? You can make yourself known around town by attending community events, volunteering, and even serving on local boards. You can also attend functions at local bars or community sporting events to let people see you. It’s important to also consider that your network can also include other lawyers. Say for example that you have a friend who runs a local business law firm and has a client looking for a specific type of lawyer. If your practice is able to offer those specific skills, your friend can recommend your practice to that client.
Stay The Course
Opening a law firm can be challenging, it’s true. But be patient. Don’t give up too early. You aren’t going to gain dozens of clients overnight and you might even get negative advice. The key is to remain optimistic and stay the course. You’re going to make mistakes along the way and you’re going to have ups-and-downs, but if you believe in what you’re doing, you’ll learn from those mistakes and grow with each new experience, good or bad.
Staying the course also means focusing on your expertise. Many a young, up-and-coming lawyer makes the mistake of taking on any and all cases that come their way. But if you’ve got a specific area of expertise, narrow your focus to just that. If your legal specialty is finance, take on cases dealing with the financial sector. If your expertise is in criminal law, take on criminal cases.
By focusing on your niche, you can build your network easier. If you’re one of the few lawyers in town, for example, that deals with business law, then you won’t have to fight for clients with a large field of competitors.
By staying the course, you’ll not only enhance your skills as a lawyer, but you’ll also enhance the soft skills that can go a long way toward making your clients feel comfortable. What are soft skills? These are things like courtesy, empathy, punctuality, and paying attention. Remember, while clients are coming to you for legal advice and your legal expertise, they’re also coming to you in hopes of being treated fairly and having you listen to them as a person, not just as a client.
Name Your Practice
Another important part of opening up a law firm is naming your practice. Ultimately, you need a name that indicates your expertise in whatever branch of law you’re practicing. For example, if you practice law dealing with business acquisition, your law firm’s name needs to reflect that.
Naming a firm isn’t as easy as you might think. Naming a firm something like Jones and Associates can come off as cliché. But naming it something like Jones’ Business Law Firm or Business Criminal Defense Law Group, lets potential clients know what you do. If you’re having trouble, throw some name ideas into Google. You’ll likely find names similar to the ones you’re trying out and you can ultimately decide on what that works best.
Embrace Your Decision
Opening up a law firm can be a daunting task for a young lawyer. After all, becoming a good lawyer and building a reputation takes years of experience and dealing with a variety of cases and situations.
But by having your own practice, that you named, in an office space that you chose, you’ll have total control and total freedom to gain that experience. You’ll be able to pick the cases you take on, the projects you pursue, and the people you network with. You’ll also be able to choose how you market yourself and let people know that you’re open and ready to help them.
Given time, you’ll come to familiarize yourself with your community, your client list will grow, and you’ll see the fruits of your labor pay off.