Most law schools don’t teach their future lawyers how to run a practice. Often times, law students graduate knowing how to practice law but not knowing how to run a law firm. With more than 37,000 new law grads entering the workforce each year, there are lots of new firms all the time. If you’re starting a new law firm, here are some business tips to get you up and running:
- Think of what you don’t need
Today, you can run a law firm with as little as a laptop, a printer, a ream of paper and an internet connection. You can start a law firm for just a few thousand dollars. You need a business entity, malpractice insurance and an IOLTA account.
The list of things that you don’t need is far greater than the list of the things that you need. You don’t even need an office. Most courthouses have plenty of meeting space or you can go the office day-rental route until you can afford your own place. In fact, more than fifty-two percent of small businesses are home based. There’s a lot of legal research to be done for free online, and you don’t need fancy tickets to attorney training seminars at luxury resorts. When it comes down to it, you can get started in just a day or two.
- Work on your virtual presence
Today, people don’t turn to the phone book to find their lawyer. Rather, they reach for their laptop or phone. You might have some time on your hands, so spend it creating a great website. There are lots of authorities with plenty to say on how to make a great website, but at the least, make sure you include a lot of content about you and your practice areas. Make sure your contact information is easy to find.
- Follow the rules
Now is not the time to cut ethical or professional corners. In your eagerness to get up and running, you might be tempted to skip the trust account. You might think about signing a client without a written fee agreement. These errors can cause all kinds of problems on down the line. Do yourself a favor and do it all properly from the beginning. Your future self thanks you.
- Network with other niches
Not every other firm in town is your competitor. In fact, most of them aren’t. You can network effectively by reaching out to these firms to send you cases that they don’t ordinarily handle.
For example, if a senior citizen goes to ABC Law Firm in Salt Lake City to get her will done, she might reach out to the firm when her nephew wants to get divorced. If ABC Law Firm handles only estate plans, they might not know any child custody lawyers in Utah. That’s where you come in. If you’re available to take the case, ABC Law Firm might be happy to tell their client that her nephew can contact you.
This is often more effective than trying to network with direct competitors. The other firms benefit too, because eventually you’ll refer a case or two back to them. Go to networking events and hand out business cards. You never know who might remember you later and send you a great case.
- Don’t listen to the critics
When you’re starting your own law firm, your competitor, your classmate, your friend from the gym and even your law professor will tell you that you can’t. Don’t listen to them. There are more than a half million solo and small firm attorneys in the United States. They’ve done it, and so can you. Work at your new startup deliberately, honestly and with enthusiasm, and you can join the ranks.
Starting a law firm takes determination, persistence and surprisingly little in terms of equipment. Take advantage of free research and practice management tools available on the internet today. Network wisely and make ethical choices, and you can win for yourself and for your clients.
by: Dennis Hung