Many people who graduate law school have a ten-year plan, or even longer, and in a lot of cases, ‘start own law firm’ is top of the list. After all, who can resist the thought of having their name on a shiny plaque on the door, and that’s not to mention the potential profits that can be made when you run your own firm.
However, starting your own law firm isn’t as easy as renting an office and picking out some nice business cards. Here are some things you need to consider before you take this step.
1. You’ll need business skills
While you may have grand ideas about the amazing projects your law firm will take on, at the end of the day, it’s a business. Running a law firm means you aren’t just focusing on your cases, you have to deal with the business side of things too. It’s worth considering taking some courses to prepare you for running a business, such as the online programs at Suffolk University, which you can read about at https://online.suffolk.edu/programs/mba. However, on the upside, running your own law firm means that you call the shots and can decide on things like internal systems, client relations, and more.
2. You’ll have to juggle roles
When you work for a law firm, you have time to focus on your caseload and give it your all. When you run a law firm, there’s an awful lot of juggling involved, as you’re both a lawyer and a business owner. You may still be dealing personally with cases, but also need to find time for everything from HR to mentoring and accounts. You’ll need an amazing team that you trust to ensure everything is covered.
If you’re starting a law firm because you’re unhappy in your current role, it might be worth thinking of alternatives such as aiming for a promotion, finding a new firm that suits you better, or even a career change.
3. You’ll need to decide on your specialties
A big decision you’ll need to make is to decide which areas of law you’ll work in. If you’re starting out alone, you’ll probably want to choose areas that you have experience in, otherwise you may be out of your depth. It’s better to specialize in a few things and be amazing at them than try to stretch yourself too thin. If you want to expand down the line, you may want to look at hiring lawyers from different areas to round off your team.
4. You may want to start small
You no doubt have grand plans for where you’ll take your law firm, but unless you have an investor willing to throw in endless cash, it’s wise to start small and build things up over time. When you start your own business, it makes sense to keep your overheads low and save money where you can. You need to strike a balance. While you need an office in a central location where clients can get to you easily, you probably shouldn’t splash out on a prestigious address when you’re starting out. While you will need to furnish your office and get some reliable tech, you can choose things that are reasonably priced without looking cheap.
5. It’s important to look at the numbers
Getting financial advice is key in the early days, and you need to know that at the end of each month, you’ll have made enough to pay the office rent, keep the lights on and pay salaries. Of course, you also need to ensure you’ve made enough to pay your own rent or mortgage and feed your family too! Make a list of all your expenses, not forgetting the 30% or so to account for taxes, and you’ll be able to work out how much profit you need to make. This will help you work out how many billable hours you’ll need to put in if you charge a reasonable rate, so you can decide whether this is feasible.
6. You should make a business plan and follow it
If you’re looking to get financing from a bank to kickstart your business, then creating a business plan is usually a requirement. However, even if you’re not going to be dealing with a bank, you should consider putting one together anyway. A business plan will help you define the purpose of your firm, analyze the market, and make projections for profits, so it can be extremely helpful when you need guidance.
7. What your marketing strategy will be
Law firms are like any business, they need marketing in order to find new clients, whether it’s off or online. While you may already have a book full of contacts, your clients may not follow you to your new practice, so you may be starting from scratch. You may want to hire a company that specializes in marketing for law firms, but if money is tight, then there’s still plenty you can do including:
- Improving SEO, so you appear high in search results
- Write articles for journals to improve your profile within your specialism
- Advertise your firm on free listing sites such as Google My Business
- Offer incentives for client referrals
- Build a high-quality website and encourage online reviews
These things don’t cost a lot of money or take up a lot of your time, yet they can raise your profile.
8. Whether you have the time to invest
Let’s face it, nobody chooses a law career because it’s nine to five. Most lawyers work long hours, and when you throw in the responsibilities of running a business, you could be looking at lots of overtime. How will this affect your relationships, childcare arrangements, and life in general? Will the potential profits be worth the grueling hours?
Starting your own law firm is a big decision and something you can’t take lightly. It’s important to spend time thinking carefully about whether this step is right for you, and whether it’ll make you happy and fulfilled in the long term.