Starting a law practice can be a frightening prospect, but the rewards can be incredible. Running your own practice will allow you to be the top dog and will give you the chance to create a law firm that suits your vision for helping clients and achieving success. Of course, getting a great law firm off of the ground is easier said than done. Here are a few things to think about as you move forward.
Creating a business plan
A law practice is a unique sort of business, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that it has nothing in common with start-ups or mom-and-pop retail shops. Just like any other sort of for-profit operation (and, for that matter, like many nonprofit operations), a law practice needs a business plan.
Is there a market for your practice? How will you differentiate yourself from the competition? What sorts of costs can you expect, and how much revenue can you bring in? And what about financing — can you get it at favorable rates and pay back loans fast? These are critical questions to ask, and they should be answered in a business plan before you set up shop in the first place. Knowing the plan for getting started and growing will be invaluable to you in the busy early days of your practice, and you’ll need a great business plan to get the loans that you will almost certainly need in order to start your practice.
Advertising and marketing
Lawyers offer valuable services and can help clients enormously. But, in many cases, lawyers can’t rely on repeat customers. A great divorce lawyer can help a client, but — unless that client is the second coming of Elizabeth Taylor — it’s unlikely that much repeat business will be on the way. A personal injury attorney can win a big award for a client and then never see them again (hopefully, anyway, for the client’s sake!). Legal representation is steady work but often means serving a steady stream of different clients.
Like it or not, it will take more than great work to draw in clients. Your happy clients may tell their friends, but most people don’t keep careful tabs on who the most reliable family law attorneys in the area are or which personal injury attorneys are netting the biggest wins. You’ll have to reach people through advertising.
That means traditional ads, explain experts in attorney marketing, but it also means digital marketing — including search engine optimization, or SEO. Being the top local result in Google for your area of legal expertise can make a massive difference in the fortunes of your new practice.
But don’t worry: You don’t have to learn marketing yourself. Just outsource the work to a company that specializes in attorney marketing.
Creating your dream team early on
A law practice usually has more than one attorney. You’ll need partners or associates to expand your caseload beyond what you can personally tackle, and these other attorneys should be just as driven as you are to make the new practice a success.
You want great attorneys, and you want them now. Your new practice is essentially a startup, and startups need to be very careful about their first hires. These are the people who will build your vision, and they’re the ones who will be the veteran presence and senior employees or partners years down the line. If you hire the best possible attorney third instead of first, then you’ll have an office-politics mess when you try to make the less senior attorney a partner first. So be very, very careful with your initial decisions; ideally, you probably want your partners in place before you even open the doors of your new practice.