Many people fantasize about running their own business. Some believe it’s easier than working for someone else. The truth is, it’s like having two full-time jobs. The hardest part is, it’s not enough to be a great lawyer; you need to be an entrepreneur too. But don’t let the cruel reality deter you from starting your own firm. There is nothing more rewarding than working on your own enterprise and watching it blossom all because of your tireless efforts.
For many people, opening their own firm is the next logical step in their career. Maybe you made it to a partner role in a firm and finally have enough experience and capital to create something of your own. Maybe you never felt like you belonged and opening your own law firm has always felt right. It’s hard, but you can make it work if you have the right expertise. You will need a lot of business knowledge, but that’s what we’re here for.
Write a business plan
Writing a business plan is a great place to start! Identify all the basic elements of your business. Here are some things to think about:
Name: Think of a suitable name for your firm. It can represent your area of expertise or contain your first or last name.
Focus: Which area of law will your firm specialize in? Generic practices are rare in this day and age. It’s better to focus on one area of expertise. This way you can provide a better service to your customers. Consider what your strengths are and try to work with them.
Location: Where do you want to be located? The location of your business will ultimately determine which state laws apply to you. Because every state has its own jurisdiction, it is recommended to practice in the state where you’re familiar with the laws.
Mission statement: What does your company stand for? What are your most important values?
Unique selling proposition: How are you better than your competitors? It’s important to have something that others don’t. That’s where specialization comes in handy; you can be the biggest/cheapest/friendliest criminal law firm in your city.
Goals: Identify your goals and objectives. It’s good to know why you’re starting this business and what you want to achieve in the next month/year/5 years.
Marketing strategy: Create a marketing plan in accordance with your mission and vision. Find channels through which you will approach your audience. Think of any connections in the field you can utilize.
Create a budget
Creating a budget is the next crucial step in starting your business. Consider the following expenses you should include in your financial plan.
- Starting capital: How much money do you need to get going?
- Daily expenses: How much money do you need every day to run your business? How much money do you need to run for the next month, 6 months, year?
- Marketing: How much can you afford to invest in marketing? How much do you need to implement your marketing strategy?
- Software: Legal software for law firms (e. g. Loio, Clio, DocuSign and others), Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and others. What kind of software do you need and how much does it cost?
- Legal fees: How much money do you need for business registration fees, licensing fees, and taxes?
- Insurance: You need to ensure your business, equipment, employees, and so on. How much will all of that cost monthly/yearly?
Your budget should include dates, such as when you expect to break even. Account for everything and more. You will almost always end up spending more than you accounted for, so leave some room for error.
Once you know how much money you need you can think about ways you can acquire it. If you’re going to apply for a loan, you need a solid business plan. Borrowing from friends or family is easier, but you still need to make sure you have a payback calendar. That will make you both feel secure and confident.
When you start spending, you need to open a bank account for your business. All of the expenses should go out of that account. The fun part is identifying your rates. Are you going to charge your clients by the hour or create fixed prices for your services? What are your rates?
Open your firm
This is the part that many people fear. You’ll find that it’s actually not that scary! Do you want to be a sole practitioner, an LLC, or a partnership? Determine which structure will work best for you depending on the way you intend to run the firm.
Do some research to find which licenses you need to apply for and which organization you need to send your applications to. This will vary from state to state, so be as thorough as possible.
Furnish your office
Once you’ve settled on an office, you need to furnish it and create a comfortable work environment. Find all the necessary equipment, such as computers, printers, desks, chairs, office supplies, and so on. If you’re going to use your office for meetings with clients, make the atmosphere friendly and professional.
Build your website
You can and should start working on your website before you officially open your business. In the future, you can change the content of your website as you go.
- Make sure your style and tone fit your mission and vision.
- Use SEO tools to make yourself easy to find.
- Update your blog regularly to encourage people to visit your page.
- Include your contact information to make it easy for clients to contact you.
- Include an overview of your services.
What’s a business with no clients? If you have no clients of your own, you need to start looking for leads as soon as possible. Marketing can make you more noticeable, but it won’t sell the services for you. Adopt a more hands-on approach and network!
- Attend conferences and events where you can meet professionals in your field.
- Ask your colleagues for referrals.
- Connect with any friends you have in the field.
- Join legal organizations and groups that provide support to lawyers and business owners.
There is so much more that goes into opening a legal services firm; this is just the tip of the iceberg. Start by mapping out your steps in each category and you will gain a better understanding of what you have to do. Questions will come as you go; embrace them!