Whether you’ve recently graduated from Law School or you’ve been in the Legal Industry for many years, starting your own Law Firm can seem like a challenge. And in many ways it is – you’re not only working in your field of expertise, but starting your own business at the same time.
You’re reading this article right now probably because you’ve been practicing law on someone else’s time. Regardless of why you want to start your own firm, there’s no better time than now to establish your business in the legal industry.
Here’s a list of some essential things you must do to successfully start your own Law Firm.
1. Plan Ahead
The first thing you must do is have a clear and extensive business and marketing plan. This requires you to not cut any corners and know your mission statement, your competitive advantages, financial and marketing analysis methods, etc.
You should also consider initial costs and the necessary business registration prerequisites associated with starting the law firm as well as the operating expenses you will encounter during the lifetime of your business. Depending on the area of law you choose, it may take several months before you make any revenue. Therefore, you also need to figure how long you can work without receiving any revenue and the break-even amount in your first year.
2. Choose your Practice Area
As mentioned above, choosing the area of law you will practice is a vital decision as it will not only impact the type of clients you will provide services for, but also your revenue structure will depend on it.
Do not approach your law firm with a “whatever comes in the door” attitude. A better strategy is to pick one or two areas of law that you are most interested in, have studied extensively, and focus exclusively on those areas. Specifying your practice to fewer areas is essential for a few reasons:
- Trying to do everything will not get you anywhere as you will merely be average and not good at anything you do. Do not forget that law firms separate from others through their reputation which comes from being successful. It is much better to be very good at fewer areas of practice than not being good at anything.
- The more areas of law your firm will practice, the more you will be a competitor to everyone, making it extremely difficult to build a referral network.
Therefore, pick a few areas of law that really interests you and focus solely on those at the start. It’s also unethical (and sanctionable by the law society) to take on cases that are outside your realm of expertise. For example, someone who has established a career solely as a defamation lawyer cannot suddenly take on a case in medical negligence, as this is a disservice to the client and the legal profession itself.
3. Build a Network
Thirdly, you must network and build strong relationships with your fellow practitioners and clients. Regardless of your legal experience, you need to expose yourself to other lawyers and other aspects of their service.
How else would you find clients?
Recognise the lawyers in your area and build a mutually beneficial relationship with them. Tell them that you are planning to start your own practice and ask them where and how they get their cases. Once you have developed a strong relationship with them, ask them to send you work when you start. Many experienced lawyers will gladly help you.
Furthermore, you need to network with people who do not practice your chosen area of law. For example, if you are a criminal defence lawyer, it will be really useful for you to know a few personal injury lawyers.
Also, pay people referral fees if your jurisdiction permits which will incentivise them to send work and clients your way. It is very useful for small firms to have consultants that bring in clients from their personal networks as you will gain many clients.
4. Create a Website
Nowadays, potential clients research about law firm online which means not all of your potential clients will come directly to your firm’s physical location. For this reason, having a professional website is crucial. Think of it like advertising your firm 24/7 for a fee starting from $20 per month depending on the size of the website.
You need to make sure that your website is user-friendly and the information, images and other content displayed will represent your core firm values effectively. To do this, you may want to hire a website designer if you do not have the required technical skills or the time to do it yourself.
Furthermore, use “search-engine optimization” (SEO) for your potential clients to see your firm quickly on the web search as clients looking for a law firm would want a quick solution to their problems.
5. Join Committees and platforms
A very useful way to be familiar and close with your colleagues is to join lawyer associations in your area. In New South Wales, NSW Young Lawyers provides lawyers with committees in different areas of law that consists of enthusiastic individuals who have joined to improve their own knowledge of that area and raise awareness of this area in the profession.
These communities also have a listserv, an email address that you can email and every single member immediately gets your email. A listserv is really powerful because if you need a question, the community almost always has an answer.
Alongside the listserv benefits, these communities and organisations connect you with individuals you can co-counsel with. It is very beneficial to work on a case with a more experienced lawyers as you not only split the fee but also gain invaluable experience- a win-win situation. There are also online legal marketplaces through which you can create a profile and find clients who require lawyers in your area of expertise. Online legal marketplaces such as LawPath’s offer a great way to market yourself and attract clientele for a fraction of the cost.
6. Bonus Tip: Be Confident and Ignore the Naysayers
As a bonus tip, you have to ignore the naysayers and trust yourself. The reason why we included this is because most of the advice you will receive regarding building a law firm from the ground up will be negative. Attorneys can be pessimists by nature and love telling everyone what they cannot do. Surely, finding new clients and establishing a business is a difficult process. However, you will never succeed if you believe them. Believe in your skills, work hard and prove them wrong.
Unsure where to start? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest Legal Marketplace.