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Lessons from Lawyers Who Started Their Own Firm

March 23, 2016

Whether you’re just graduating from law school or making the leap from junior status to private practice, creating your own law firm offers a wide spectrum of unique challenges and advantages. Sure, being a part of BigLaw has its own set of benefits, but if you’re a lawyer who wants to work independently and make big decisions on your own, opening your own solo practice is the only way to go.

This same rule applies to those who are just entering the profession for the first time. As daunting as it may seem to start your own law firm right away, there are also plenty of upsides to getting out on your own. With this in mind, here are a few lessons from lawyers who have already walked the path of opening their own firm.

1. Ignore the Cynics

Nothing is more crushing to an entrepreneurial spirit than a chorus of onlookers telling you that starting your own law firm is a ridiculous idea. Yet, unless you embark on this personal journey as a lawyer, you’ll never really know if you have what it takes to succeed in a solo practice. Why not give it a shot? You might be surprised at the results.

2. Make a Game Plan

Intelligence, skills and determination aren’t the only elements involved in creating your own law firm – you also need to come up with a game plan well in advance. Here’s a quote from former President John F. Kennedy that perfectly sums up the need for a game plan:

Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.

You can expend a lot of energy without receiving an equal portion of results if you haven’t taken the time to write down a detailed business and marketing plan beforehand. This includes knowing everything from how to deal with your financials and clients to doing a thorough market analysis and outlining your competitive advantages.

3. Choose a Single Practice Area

Lawyers who specialize in one area are often far more successful than those who work for clients seeking every type of legal service imaginable. As you become an expert in a specific legal field, you not only solve your client’s issues a lot more efficiently, you also open up your practice to receiving referrals from other potential clients needing similar help in the future.

Additionally, there’s also the chance other attorneys will consider you their go-to person for consultations on certain legal problems, thus allowing you to build a referral relationship among other law professionals.

4. Go Virtual

Overhead costs are one of the biggest deterrents for lawyers starting out on their own. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep these costs down, including the use of virtual offices and cloud-based case management software, which both allow you to work from home, and ultimately let you operate as a large firm on a small firm budget.

And if you really want to maintain your focus on building your clientele without handling all the ins and outs of accounting and bookkeeping, you can also turn over your billing and bank balancing to legal accounting experts who ensure you’re in compliance and collecting on every one of your accounts.

5. Build a Website

With more people using the web as a tool of identifying and narrowing down prospects for lawyers, you’ll want to create a website right away for showcasing your legal expertise to potential leads and referrals. If you’re setting out to do this on your own, the learning curve can be fairly substantial, even if you’re using sites that offer website templates. While it can be done, a reasonable alternative is using a competent web designer who can deliver the goods at a reasonable price – and you will likely discover your website as your most powerful lead generation tool.

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