In order to start a law firm successfully, you must possess the necessary skills to run a business. Running your business will require you to face different problems than practicing law. However, there are many benefits to being a business owner, including:
- The ability to do more than practice law.
- Controlling when choosing your clients.
- The chance to develop a business model that works for you, your clients and your team.
In further text, we will highlight some important steps to get you started in the right direction.
How to Start a Law Firm
Define The Reason
Start a law firm by understanding the reasons behind your decision. Begin with considering what attracts you to being a law firm owner. Your business should exist to serve you and allow you to fulfill your vision and your career goals. Hence, you should build a business that helps you fulfill your personal goals and provides exceptional client experiences. Knowing why you want to start your firm will help carry you through the hard times and make the good times much more rewarding.
Create Business Plan Framework
Create an executive summary of your plan detailing the focus of its practice as well as goals and objectives. Focus on your strengths and weaknesses as a lawyer to choose the best fit. Choosing a clearly defined practice area, such as bankruptcy or family law, will help you build your credibility faster and network more.
Your business plan should include forming your mission statement, knowing the competitive advantages of your firm, planning the financials and the marketing strategy. This will give you a clear vision of what your business will look like and a plan for the future. Your vision should be clear, measurable and the foundation for your law firm’s key performance indicators.
Form Your Entity
Depending on how you intend to manage your firm, decide on the organizational structure. For example, solopreneurs can choose sole practitioner, professional corporation and single-member LLC entities while multi-member firms can select a professional corporation, partnership, LLC and LLP.
Consult with both a business lawyer and an accountant on what type of entity you should form. Your entity selection will affect many business functions, including taxes and your exposure for business debts and other liabilities. Some of the more common entity types for small to medium-sized law firms are sole proprietorship, limited liability partnership, professional corporation and limited liability company. Once you form your entity, file for a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Accordingly, choose a name for your law firm based on your expertise or name the practice after yourself. If you’re opting for a creative name based on your expertise, make sure it’s not misleading. For example, if you use the words “and Associates”, it violates the Rules of Professional Conduct if there are no associates in your firm. Similarly, the use of “Group” violates the rule if the practice comprises a sole proprietor and no other lawyers.
Organize Office Space
Look at various locations and office spaces before settling for the one that fits your needs. Having your own dedicated physical office space remains important for a variety of reasons. For one, you will need a professional setting in which to meet with clients and run your business. Additionally, it is necessary to have a physical location with a unique address or suite number in order to rank well organically in search engine results. With an office, you’ll need office furniture, supplies and equipment such as printers, computers, business telephone etc. Read how to best brand your office.
Develop Client-Centered Services
After you’ve defined your vision, decide on a strategy to attract the right clients and serve them properly. Reframe your law firm from your client’s perspective and incorporate it into your future strategies. Strive to create a client experience that shows you understand who they are and what they need. Most importantly, show them you can provide them with a solution to their problems.
Adjust Your Marketing Strategy
Your marketing should be part of a larger, strategic plan. Take the first step in your marketing strategy to define:
- What your ideal client looks like
- Where are your ideal clients currently looking for solutions
- What kinds of messages resonate with them
With these questions answered, you can start putting together a strategy. Branding and developing your marketing strategy takes time but is critical for the growth of your new law firm. Investigate all potential marketing avenues for your firm and implement those that work best based on your firm’s overarching goals. Adjust your marketing strategy based on measured results you can compare against your law firm’s key performance indicators.
Create Your Unique Company Logo
Your entity needs to have a professionally designed logo and appropriate typography. The logo will, along with its colors and font, determine the tone of your marketing materials. It should, therefore, be considered the starting point for all marketing decisions for your law firm. Accordingly, your law firm logo should be designed very early in the process of creating your new entity. Once your entity is formed and you have the basics completed, you can begin using your logo to flesh out the rest of your core marketing channels, such as a website, social media accounts and online directory listings.
Build a Company Website
Your potential clients are looking for legal services use Google to find a lawyer. Thus, your business website should be the main reference for people looking to check the credibility of your firm. Use it to demonstrate your authority and expertise, as well as drive traffic and inquiries for your law firm. Include your unique value proposition and make your law firm website both functional and accessible to all. By understanding the importance of a high-quality law firm website, you can convert your visitors into leads for your firm.
Make sure to have systems and procedures and the right technology in place to consistently deliver a superior client experience. Hence, create goals and determine the best way for your technology to support those goals. Find the tools that allow you to solve problems and buy technology based on your workflows. Define your ideal systems and processes and buy the right software to support those systems. Make these goals a critical part of your overall strategy.
Plan Your Finances
As a business owner, you will have to be informed about whether your business is making a profit. You will want to know that your firm is financially healthy, and if not, what levers you’ll need to pull to change things. Set attainable goals for your practice in the areas of budgeting, marketing, hiring, revenue forecasting and work toward achieving them. While planning your finances, don’t forget to set money aside for taxes, business registration fees and other licensing fees. Research the various business tax liabilities in your state and when these liabilities are due. Ensure that you have allocated sufficient funds to meet these obligations. Developing financial skills now will power your new law firm with financial health and stability.
To start a law firm successfully, focus on building your firm around your goals, the solutions you want to offer your clients, and your workplace culture for your future team built around your values. Keep in mind that your firm should offer client-focused services, stay current with technology and use profit-oriented business models. These are the key elements to building future-forward firms. Be ready to put in the time and energy to get your business off the ground. Finally, believe that everything you accomplish each day is investing in the future health and well-being of your firm.