Launching a new law firm can be tough but fulfilling work. Having worked with many law firms to grow and expand from fledgling companies to multimillion-dollar businesses, I’ve seen first-hand the challenges that new law firms face, as well as the unique opportunities they hold. As a lawyer, you want to build a strong, prosperous firm, while also enjoying a flexible work life. The first formative steps on any journey are the most important and launching your new law firm is no exception. Here are the steps I’ve seen that help new law firms start out on the right foot and find success.
1. Design Your Perfect Practice
Just like with any plan, you need to start with a goal and a vision to ensure your hard work pays off. What is it that led you to start your law firm? What would success look like to you? What aspect of your work gives you the most satisfaction? If you’ve spent the earlier part of your career working for another person or another firm, you may have lost touch with your personal career goals or what makes legal work fulfilling for you. By clarifying, defining, and writing down your goals or visions for success, you not only get the motivation to kick-start your firm but a benchmark to track your success and progress as you grow.
2. Choose Your Business Entity
Now you’ve identified what you want from your Perfect Practice, it’s time to design a business that represents that. This doesn’t mean choosing desk and chair styles for the office, but rather how your business will be structured internally to represent your goals. You may choose to build a partnership, a limited liability company, a larger corporation, or perhaps you want to go out on your own as a sole proprietor. Choosing the right business entity means considering your local and state laws, governing ethical rules and tax obligations, so it could be worth discussing your options with a consultant to find the right fit.
3. Build a Budget
Launching a new law firm can be expensive, and you won’t be seeing a steady income for some time after you first launch. This is why financial planning and a rock-solid budget is essential. Look at how you will afford to finance your law firm before you start making money. Create a one-year plan and an expense sheet, taking into account costs for malpractice insurance, office space, phone and fax, marketing, employee costs, office supplies and equipment, business entity formation fees, and of course, your own salary. Starting a business is tricky and financial planning is essential, so don’t be afraid to reach out for professional advice.
4. Find Your Target Market and Reach Your Ideal Clients
Who are your services best suited for? Who stands to benefit most from what you do? What does your ideal client look like? Rather than thinking that offering your services is enough, you need to consider who needs what you’re suggesting. I call this Aligned Marketing because it takes a unique perspective and considers what your client values and appreciates. By using this technique, you can better your business as you attract clients that allow you to perform the work you are best qualified for.
5. Know How to Get Guidance
Although you may have many years, even decades of legal experience and accrued expertise that doesn’t mean you know everything about launching a new law firm. Lawyers are not explicitly instructed about how to run a business, but this skill is essential if you want your new law firm to succeed. It’s not enough to be a great lawyer. Don’t be afraid to seek professional business guidance especially when you’re first launching your practice. Getting the right start means you have the tools for long-term career satisfaction, growth, and success.