So, you are done with your law degree and now looking forward to start your own law firm but confused deciding the starting point. Well, this is what everyone in the law field face sooner or later in our careers. There is nothing you should worry about, rather figure out your doubts positively with some expert help. Go through this article and you will have all your queries answered and problems resolved in relation to the cost and right way to start a law firm.
Starting your own law firm checklist:
1. Ignore negative criticism
First and foremost, never entertain comments you feel are negative towards your motivation level. It can be anyone – your friend, law professor, classmates, lawyers who judge your skills and confidence, saying ‘you can’t’. Simply ignore these statements or you would never be able to start!
2. Plan well
Always make sure you keep your obsession since law school at bay and think practically when planning the details of your law firm or practice. Take help from the lawyers who have been into the business and go through their critic reviews. You should never cut corners during this stage of opening your own law firm. Make close research on the financials, mission statement, market analysis and look at the competitive advantages you could have with proper planning. Set up your yearly targets and plan ahead to achieve them positively.
3. Select just one right area of law
This is a crucial stage indeed. Don’t just pick up that comes first to your mind when it is about the area of law you need to choose for your firm. Give up the old school habits of going with the first random thing on your mind and choose your area exclusively based on your interests, expertise and knowledge. Opening a law firm takes a lot of study and research while selecting your practice area of the field you can excel in. Your internships could help you in this regard as you can choose the area you have already worked a bit successfully.
Remember, some areas are really difficult to break in. You can’t target staring a solo law firm for a treasure of 500 corporate clients right away. For this, one needs a successful history and good relationships with the in-house attorneys and many such traits existing in the law world. What you need to do is go with the right area instead of wasting time and money into the complex and wrong side.
4. Create a referral network
Contacts always come to help when starting a business. When you have finalised about which area to choose and designed your marketing plans well, start publicizing your ideas to friends and acquaintances. Tell people about your plan to starting your own law firm and area of your practice. Let your known lawyers get the idea of your new business in the field on lunch. Ask your acquaintances and relatives to promote your business becoming your referrals. Maintain good relationships – they could come to your help anytime soon! Also create networks with people who are not into your field of practice as here’s where you will get most of your referrals from.
5. Have your website
As the advancement of digital era is trending, like every other business you should also have your website to seek prospective clients online. People using Google for daily queries would probably find you there and reach you instantly. Now, isn’t that beneficial in getting good potential clients? You can easily create your website on WordPress at a minimum cost. Focus on your area of law and design a helpful and informative website for your visitors and prospective clients. Discover how to create a website from scratch that looks clean and professional.
6. Join Listservs and organisations
When you have chosen your area of law, join an organization of the picked area for opening a law practice. You will find many such organizations that have lawyers who can come to your help greatly. They have listservs which is represented as an email address that is provided you to email and every member of the organization gets your email instantly. Staying in touch with these communities or organisations help you get answers to your query which demands advice from an expert or mentor in the area.
7. Your GPA, age or Law review is never a constraint
This is to give you some more confidence. No sensible and potential client will bother about your GPA in the law school or your age. You will never be asked if you were ever on Law Review. The point is nobody really cares! The sole thing that matters is your practice and work product. Just keep working on your practice tricks and quality of results, rest would be eventually sorted.
Moving on, let us see how much you would need to spend for your first law firm set up. Read on!
How Much Does It Cost to Start Your Own Law Firm?
Look, there’s no point of rushing into dollars of investment and getting no results off late, right? When planning your budget for the establishment of the new law firm, act smart and logical.
- Start with the practical minimum
Always be practical enough to decide your priorities and extras. See the minimum areas of investment that you need to make for the physical existence of the law practice.
Basically, what is involved is:
- Office supplies
Starting a law practice means having a place to meet clients. Your existence makes a great difference in how you represent yourself as a lawyer. You will find successful lawyers working from home and some having a private office for practice. To decide what suits you best. Meet some lawyers practicing from home and the ones having an office for the purpose. Know their idea about the place to choose for a law firm and then get to a final decision. However, experts suggest even if you start working from home, it is significant to get a real office after a year or less.
Now, when you have an office, furniture and office supplies come invariably along with it. Get good quality furniture and supplies like paperclips, manila folders, etc to add to your reputation.
- Malpractice insurance
- Continuing legal education
None of the mentioned professional expenses are optional, better save some place for these in your budget plan. However, some lawyers skip on malpractice insurances but experts strongly recommend not to, especially when starting a law practice of your own. Isn’t it amazing knowing even when you make a mistake, you will be covered legally? What could be safer while practicing law!
Don’t go for the cheapest insurance instead, find a trusted insurer who can guide you with the right decision. For memberships, you can contact a community or organisation serving your niche.
- Backup drive
- Document scanner
When you start your own law firm with a good office, you need the right hardware for the job. You can choose between desktops or laptops for the job based on your interests and way of work. Don’t forget about backup drives, keeping the documents safe should always be a concern. Get good external hard drives for easy back up. Select one considering your budget but ensure you do not cut down on the product quality. You will also need a printer for scanning and printing documents. Go with the HP LaserJet printers for quality print outs or Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 just for scanning. There are many more options you can choose from.
Software and services
- Accounting software
- Remote backup service
- Document creation
- Legal research
- Billing and timekeeping software
Getting the Google Apps suite for email and calendar software is the best existing option. You can also use Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Office 365, as they are recommendable for Windows users. Choice of software totally depends on your needs and requirements.
External drive backup won’t always suffice, especially when you are completely paperless. It is recommended to have two backups in different locations. In case of an accidental burn out of the system and backup drive, you will need a remote backup. Legal research won’t cost you a lot of money as you can have memberships at popular law libraries to conduct the research work.
Finally, you need to include the marketing expenses into your budget plan. Get more social networking with people you know personally and professionally. Build a website – promote it to get potential clients searching lawful support in your niche. Make sure it is good looking, has your picture in the home page and most important, correct contact details. Now, it comes to advertising – Google Adwords is the most affordable option for this.
The final estimation:
One-time fees you have to pay:
- LLC: $1,000 (approximate; varies by state)
- (Optional) Web Designer & Developer: Rates will vary
Annual fees you have to pay:
- Liability Insurance: $500 (approximate. Ranges between $400–$600 on average)
- Web Hosting + Domain Name: $100
- Clio (Boutique): $708
- Maintain LLC: $200 (approximate; varies by state)
- Quickbooks Online: $120
- Microsoft Office 365 for Business: From $73 annually
- (Optional) Shared Office Space: $2,640 (approximate; ranges between $220-$450)
Now that you know how to start your own law practice with the clear idea of costing and planning an effective budget, you can probably get started with your chosen niche. If you haven’t decided your area yet, start thinking right away!