Whether you’re a lawyer fresh from the exams or a seasoned veteran attorney, starting your own law firm is no small feat. A law firm start up of any scale requires a good deal of determination and a whole lot of courage to push through. Needless to say that the results of a successful venture can be very rewarding, but how do you know you’re set for success?
In this ultimate law firm start up checklist, we’ve put together six of the things you should absolutely have in order. Before you even think about officially opening the doors to your law firm startup.
Choose Your Entity
Because you’re conducting business through your law firm, you’re required to select the type of entity it’s going to be. Your choices are sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited liability partnership, professional service corporation or professional association, and professional limited liability company.
You might want to enlist the aid of another lawyer or firm to undertake the formation on your behalf. Especially if business isn’t your primary area of focus or you’re not sure which option would best suit your vision for your law firm.
Unlike retail stores or conventional businesses, your physical location won’t make or break your law firm startup. However, it’s still a really important factor to consider during your law firm start up. Where you plan to set up your office depends on a number of things. Such as your funds, your current geographic location, your plans for your firm (i.e. expansion, relocation, etc.) and so on. If you’re a little low on funds, for example, you could opt to lease out a smaller office or opt for space sharing. Alternatively, you could set up a home office to save money and commute time.
Secure Licenses & Certificates
You’ll need to secure a number of documents, licenses, and certificates before setting up your firm. After all, you want to make absolutely sure you’re legally allowed to conduct business in your area. On top of your license to practice law and your state business license, you’ll need a Federal Employer ID Number (FEIN). Depending on the entity of formation you choose, you might also need an operating agreement or company bylaws.
If you aren’t 100% sure about what you need, make sure to source your query through proper channels.
Who Manages What?
As the owner and principal lawyer of your law firm startup, you should delegate the administrative, day-to-day tasks to other people. This way, your time is exclusively for cases and clients. Even if you aren’t hiring just yet, make sure you already have an outline of how many staff members you’ll need to handle pertinent aspects of your business. For example—accounting, sales and marketing, maintenance, administration, and human resources are just some potential areas you could eventually hire interns or employees to handle.
Equipment, Tools, and Technology
What kind of equipment or tools do you think your law firm should start out with? What do you consider non-negotiable and what do you believe you can do without for now? You’ll most definitely need a laptop or your own personal computer, internet access, and some sort of filing cabinet or system to keep hard copies of your files organized. A phone, business cards, and basic office supplies are also pretty crucial for any law firm start up.
Lastly, you need to make sure that you have enough resources on tap to fund your law firm venture for at least a year. Optimistically of course, you want to start earning right away. Realistically, it might take a while before you break even. Ergo, you need to make sure you haven’t cleaned out your reserves. Make sure you have the money, time, and relationships you need to continuously improve your business model and strategies even if you’ve yet to hit your ROI.
Successfully setting up a law firm can be tricky, but it needn’t be daunting. The real challenge lies beyond initial startup. So keep this checklist on hand during preparations. Make sure you’ve ticked everything off it, and you’re sure to have a smooth launch.