It might come as a shocker that the U.S. is home to roughly 1.3 million lawyers. But no matter how many lawyers there are, the world always needs more qualified, dedicated professionals.
After becoming a lawyer, did you dream of starting a law firm? If so, you’re probably wondering where to begin and how to venture off on your own.
This helpful guide covers the basics of starting your own law firm, so you can make a difference in the legal system today.
Why Start a Law Firm?
Before opening your law firm, consider why you want to start a firm.
What are you looking to gain from your decision? Is there a need in the legal system that you wish to fulfill?
Perhaps you’re looking to fill a high demand for a specific type of legal work, or maybe you’re dissatisfied with the law firm that employs you.
Consider if you have the skill set to open your own business, along with the time. Do you have a support system encouraging you as you embark upon this journey? This includes the best attorneys and other professionals whose help you might require.
How do you intend to impact the legal system? Consider all these questions as you prepare to open your firm.
You also need to ask yourself if you want a partner. It’s common for lawyers to work with partners when opening a law firm, sharing ideas and resources.
However, other lawyers prefer to go at it alone. They bring in partners once they’ve established their business and have made important business-related decisions themselves.
Name Your Company
Once you open your law firm, you’ll be in business for years to come. Take your time when choosing a name and pick something that reflects your ethos or expertise.
You should also select a name that clients can easily remember. Pick something that’s internet-friendly for when you create your website.
You also need to consider what legal area of expertise you plan on specializing in. It’s important to consider the competition in the area of law you’re interested in pursuing. It’s best to employ law firm marketing professionals as your business is ready to make its debut.
Figure Out Your Finances
Before starting any business, you’ll need some type of nest egg to fall back on. You might not expend a ton of money upfront, but you’ll need to have a well-defined budget in place. You’ll also need a strong strategy for growing your business financially.
You might be able to start your own law firm for as little as $3,000 or less, but you still need to account for unforeseen expenses, especially if your business isn’t profitable right off the bat.
You’ll also need to open several financial accounts. These accounts include your business’s operating account and an account for your client’s trust.
Operating accounts are for your business’s financials. These finances pay your salary, employee salaries, and any other business-related expenses.
A client trust account is always maintained separately and should never be impacted by your operating account.
Look for other industry experts who started their own law firms and ask them how they got started. Seek out advice and take detailed notes.
Schedule calls, meetings, and lunch dates with other professionals within your industry. Ask how they handle certain issues as they arrive, along with any other information they can share.
Network with other lawyers to gain client referrals. This means maintaining regular lines of communication with individuals in your professional network so they can send prospective clients your way.
At this point in your business, you need to consider everyone a prospective client. This could be friends, family, or referrals.
Always look for professional organizations and groups to join. They’re ideal for networking and can help you connect with attorneys who can offer advice.
Find an Office
It’s common for fledgling businesses to operate out of home offices. This saves money in costly overhead expenses.
Unfortunately, working from home might negatively affect your business if you frequently meet with clients, especially high-profile ones. They might expect to meet in a formal setting instead of your kitchen.
You can look for a shared office space. You’ll save money but still have a professional space reserved for client interactions.
Permits, Licenses, and Insurance
Always ensure your lawsuit has the proper permits, licenses, and insurance as required by your state. You’ll need the proper papers to legally conduct business, so do your research before opening your business.
Once you know what paperwork you must complete, you can apply for the appropriate licenses.
Market Your Business
How will you share your law firm with the rest of the world? A marketing strategy will help you create your brand and your mission statement. Remember that your public image dictates the type of clientele you attract.
There are different advertising techniques you can adopt. Each marketing strategy helps you acquire a specific type of client.
You might want to consider client testimonials and social media to help you grow your business. You can also work with an SEO (search engine optimization) company to help you expand your new law firm.
SEO companies craft SEO-rich blogs for your website (more on that to come) and share them on guest sites. These marketing strategies will help you gain organic traffic to your website as you rank higher in a Google search.
Create Your Website
All types of law firms require a website. Your website provides clients with crucial information and can help prospective clients find you on the Internet.
Your website should include Legal SEO, as this helps bring in more targeted traffic. Your website should also feature high-ranking keywords that are industry-specific. You’ll want to include plenty of fresh, new content on your website so you can engage with your target audience.
All of the information on your website should be clearly written. Be sure to include case studies and client reviews.
Consider if you’ll hire an accountant or if you plan on using software for your law firm’s finances. You’ll also need to determine how you’ll track your time to appropriately bill clients.
In addition, what billing software will you use to bill clients? Will you hire a bookkeeper to help you with accounts payable and receivable?
Determine what software you’ll use for docketing and calendaring, along with file organization and storage. Most businesses are paperless, with information stored on the cloud.
Starting a Law Firm
Now that you know what’s involved with starting a law firm, you can begin to create your new business! Always network with other like-minded professionals and work to secure client referrals from them. But before you open your doors, ensure you have the proper licenses, permits, and insurance.
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