Starting a Law Firm: A Checklist for Startup Lawyers

So, you like so many others have suffered that singular positive side-effect of the pandemic: entrepreneurial ambition. You’re a talented attorney who, for some reason or other has grown tired of working for the benefit of someone else’s firm. Or, perhaps, you’re a few years out of law school, have gained the requisite experience, and are now ready to shape your career on your own terms. Whatever the case may be, your ambition is set on starting a law firm. All you need now is a checklist to figure out where to start. And Voilà! Here it is. Read on to discover the essential questions every start-up lawyer needs to be asking.

1. Should You Really Be Cutting Your Own Path?
The first thing you need to know about starting a law firm is that you are committing to running a business as much as you are setting out to practice law on your own terms. Naturally, the skills required of one are not the same as those required of the other, which is why most start-up firms fail within five years. Avoiding this fate means first taking a long look in the mirror. Ask yourself:

    • Do you truly wish to run a business?
    • Are you committed to being a leader, not just an attorney?
    • Are you as excited about law firm business development as you are about lawyering, itself?
      If you answered yes to all of the above, forge ahead.

2. Do You Have the Capital to Start (and Stay Afloat)?
Starting a law firm costs money. While it is true that this is less the case in the digital economy than it was even ten years ago, you nonetheless need to be prepared to spend upfront. Start-up costs range from $5,000 to $15,000. Licensing, continued legal education, malpractice insurance, and professional memberships are non-negotiable expenses. Hardware and legal software and services are likewise fixed costs. Lastly, designing and funding a legal marketing strategy is essential; after all, if you don’t effectively promote your business, you soon won’t have a business to promote.

3. Do You (Truly) Know What You Want Out of Your Firm?
If your answer here is some variation of believing you’re too good of a lawyer to be bossed around by someone else, return to point one above and begin again. Starting a law firm is not a shortcut to professional satisfaction. It is an uphill slog that, yes, leads to a great view but only if you make it to the top. Ensuring you have reserves enough to push when the going gets tough means having clear answers to the following questions.

    • What kind of life do you want to live?
    • What do you need to uphold your mental and physical health?
    • How do you define success?
    • And, most importantly, will starting a law firm contribute to realizing your answers to these questions?

Once you have the resources and vision required for successful law firm business development, the final step is enacting your plan and bringing clients through the door. This, unfortunately, is the hard part but help is close at hand. Legal consulting for small firms and start-up lawyers exists for the precise purpose of guiding you successfully from idea to action while ensuring you avoid roadblocks along the way. To learn more and get started book a call with Hiring & Empowering founder and best-selling author Molly McGrath today.

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