Thanks to the internet, there are a ton of myths out there regarding starting a law firm that, sadly, seem to make a lot of sense—which is why we keep falling for them. However, even if these so-called pieces of “advice” are based off of common sense, they can’t hold a candle to hard truths based off of experience.
As a lawyer and/or law firm owner, here are three common misconceptions you should absolutely not follow:
You Should Always Look for More Work
When starting a law firm, it seems logical to try to sign on as many clients as possible. After all, a law firm is just another small business. Small businesses sink hundreds of thousands of dollars into marketing just to attract new customers. The thought process is, “if I want to succeed and break even as soon as possible, I need to line up as many paying customers as I can.”
This is simple, straightforward, and utterly misguided. The goal shouldn’t be about finding as many clients. It should be about finding the right clients—people that are happy to meet your price, regardless if it’s a couple dollars above average industry price points, because they believe in the quality of your work. People who will readily pay your professional fees because they share your beliefs, your passions, and your work ethic.
Focusing on finding clients that will readily refer you to other people who subscribe to your principles, your values, and your mission and vision is the trick to securing loyal, well-paying patrons.
Since You’re New, You Should Keep Your Prices Low
Yet another misconception that could damage your practice before it even starts is regarding your prices, and how you should keep the low if you want to have the “edge” over your competition.
This is extremely detrimental for two reasons: one, you’re making it so that price is your biggest selling point, when it really shouldn’t be. Your practice, your expertise, your mission and vision … those should be your biggest selling points—not your price. When you start competing on price, you cheapen the value of your law firm.
Which leads us to reason number two: you end up attracting clients who only care about saving a buck or two on legal services rather than the quality of the service itself. If this already leaves a bad taste in your mouth, can you imagine these types of clients referring you to their friends simply by telling them that your services are “the cheapest?”
This is not what you want to be known for.
Rather than start with rock-bottom prices in the hope that you can eventually increase your fee—which isn’t a very economically sound decision either—price your services according to what you think is fair. Take into account the value you can give to your clients and the average going rate in the industry and use the data to come up with a justifiable pricing model.
All Other Law Firms are the Enemy
Just as every story needs the villain or the anti-hero, every small business needs competitors. They are benchmarks to measure progress with and guinea pigs to test new strategies on. However, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid socializing with other firms and lawyers altogether.
Believe it or not, it’s better for you to focus on building a network rather than outdoing your competitors—especially when you’re starting out. Forming solid, mutually beneficial relationships with other law firms outside of your practice area is a great way to meet new clients, get referrals, and stay up-to-date on any social, political, or economic concerns that could potentially affect your practice.
Basically, when starting a law firm, you can’t afford to be seen as an anti-social threat. You want to focus on associating with as many firms as you can—both in your practice area and outside it.