Are you planning on branching out and starting your own law firm? If so, you are likely experiencing a range of emotions – there is the excitement of getting the idea off the ground, but also the apprehension about crashing and burning.
Unfortunately, while law school prepares you to be a professional lawyer, it does not dedicate time and resources to teaching you how to begin and operate a business. That is likely why you have ended up here. Although law school might have let you down in that regard, this guide is here to fill in the gaps.
Are you ready to learn how to start your very own law firm? The following advice will highlight some of the key points to consider for a successful venture.
Starting a law firm: is it the right decision?
Before you jump head-first into the idea of beginning a law firm business, you have to be 100% sure it is the right path to take for you. Being a lawyer is hard enough work as it is – are you prepared to also add running a business into the mix?
Not only do you have to take on extra work, but the skills required to run a company are noticeably different to those needed to practice law. This means you have additional challenges to take on and these never disappear, they can even grow as your business grows.
Are you ready to take on these extra challenges? Can you commit the time and effort needed to run a business? Do you even want to be involved in the operation of a business? If you cannot answer ‘Yes’ to all three questions, then it probably is the right decision for you.
Getting the budget right
The good news: starting a law firm is not as financially demanding as many other business types. If you truly want to start on the cheap, you could operate from your home, use your current laptop and other supplies and advertise for free via the internet.
However, just remember that a professional appearance is key for any law firm. If you are conducting meetings with clients in your dining room, for instance, this is not going to create the best first impression. As a result, a dedicated office space makes sense. The amount you spend on your office could vary drastically depending on its location and size.
Of course, an office is only the start. You will also want to purchase furniture, hardware, software, insurance plans, etc. A sizeable amount of your budget will also go towards advertising, because getting prospective clients through the door quickly is vital for any start-up law firm.
As for how much you will spend, a budget of $5,000-to-$15,000 is a reasonable starting point for new law firms.
Running a business is difficult. However, the task is made significantly easier if you lean on technology for support. Technology has changed significantly over the past decade or so and there are many tools available which can optimize your productivity levels.
The technology you will want to use includes tried and tested software, such as Microsoft Office. This can make it easy to read and prepare documents, put together presentations, and keep track of figures. Speaking of figures, accounting software is also a wise option if you are not receiving external assistance with balancing the books.
There is also software which can directly benefit your tasks. Think about how long it would take to manually caption video and audio content, particularly if you are dealing with files that last hours. Well, with closed captioning software, which makes use of AI technology, the process can be done much more efficiently.
In addition, you will want to implement specialist management software to keep track of all your cases and tasks. Legal research tools are also imperative in this line of work.
Marketing your services
You have your office kitted out. You have incorporated all of the technology and software that will make your life easier. Everything has been checked over multiple times and the stage is set – you can now launch your law firm.
With that said, you will need to ensure you have all of your marketing materials ready to go. Ultimately, time is money. The longer your law firm is open and not attracting clients, the more your money is going to go to waste. Budgets are not unlimited either, and you may only have enough financial resources to stay in operation for a few short months without generating any income.
There are various approaches you can take when it comes to marketing. Both traditional and digital marketing techniques are applicable for a law firm. Regarding the former, you will want to get a hefty quantity of business cards printed out for your business. Advertising via billboards can also be effective in getting your name out in the local area during those formulative stages.
As for digital marketing, the world is your oyster. There are many tactics available which can deliver big results. Before anything else, however, it is vital you have a professional website built. As this will be the hub for all of your other online marketing activities, it is essential your site is an accurate representation of your law firm. If people see a site which is difficult to navigate, features low-quality imagery, and there are spelling mistakes littered throughout the content, this is going to reflect badly on your business.
On top of a website, it makes sense to use the likes of social media, pay-per-click (PPC), local SEO, and Google My Business.
Receiving a helping hand
Even when you start acquiring clients and turning over a healthy profit, the aim should always be to keep growing your law firm. As you take on more work, you will naturally need to hire employees to carry the additional burden.
When doing this, however, make sure you budget accordingly as in-house staff members are a significant investment. This is why it may make sense to go the freelance route or enlist the services of an external provider. By doing this, you do not necessarily have to stick to paying a consistent wage, benefits, and other expenditures.