Any entrepreneur, law or otherwise, encounters fear and doubts when they consider opening their own firms. Imposter syndrome, cashflow threats, and reputational damage are among the most immediate risks to spring to mind. However, knowing the best method of starting up rationalizes concerns.
In this guide, we take you through the savviest way of starting your own law firm including choosing a name, location and touching on what legal software for law firms can help you gain a competitive edge.
1. Avoid the Naysayers
We will get to the specifics, but this must be the first step. As a graduated lawyer, you will be surrounded by educated prudent opinions and many of your peers will advise against opening. Their opinions don’t matter because they are on a different path. It might seem insipid, but negativity can seep in and derail you, especially in the beginning.
2. Stay in Your Lane
Any graduate or experienced professional has an area of specialization and this is where you must start out. Business owners from all walks of life will tell you that they once considered supplying close relatives of their products for cashflow purposes, but this should be avoided.
Lawyers who command authority, typically do so in one or two fields. Venturing far outside your remit dilutes your reputation or worse, provides weaker counsel for a paying client. Aim to make a name for yourself as the best firm in one area before offering services in others.
3. Choose an Appropriate Name
2020 and 2021 have changed the entire landscape of how we do business, especially as lawyers. In fact, this is where the pandemic plays in your favor. Everything now exists in the digital space now and web searchability must be a factor of consideration. Big firms cannot just change their names quickly, but you can.
Choose a name that clients search. The more SEO appropriate you are, the more your name becomes a competitive advantage. Examples might include Hayward Family Law or O’Brien Criminal Defence Group. Put the name into Google and find something relevant but unique.
4. Draft a Business Plan
Drafting a business plan isn’t solely about appeasing the bank or stakeholders. A well-designed business plan articulates important complexities and guiding principles such as:
- Your vision for your firm
- Your roadmap to success
- Your unique value propositions
- Your competitive advantages
- Your marketing plans
- How you will finance the firm
- The market you want to attract and where they are
5. Carefully Choosing a Location
Just as the firm name has digital implications, the address listed on your certificate of incorporation needs to work virtually.
If a prospective client hasn’t been referred by word of mouth, their next stop in the search for a lawyer is Google. However, when they type in their predicament, the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) will only return those within their locality.
What this means is that your location of business needs to be surrounded by your market base. For example, corporate lawyers should be stationed in the business district to ensure visibility both physically and digitally.
6. Build a Website
A strong case could be made for this to be number 1 when opening a firm. Without a website, not only do you not have a presence on the most used search system on the planet, but you lack credibility.
Potential clients are choosing between you and several other law offices and need to be won over before deciding. Without any online information available, how do you expect them to trust you?
7. Enhance Your Digital Presence
As Covid-19 continues, the world around us will remain remote and access services digitally. This is a challenge for new firms, no doubt about it. However, starting out allows you to craft your online presence based on the most up to date information available.
Once you have created a website, find as many locations and profile platforms as possible to highlight your services. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are likely your best social media channels. Google My Business, Business Associations and Chambers of Commerce or even the Yellow pages provide visibility and backlinks to your website. Finding a way to expand your digital footprint and link back to your website will all improve your SERP rankings.
It is as true now as it has been forever, networking is an essential part of law firm success. Join business lunches, boards of trade, local organizations, legal conventions, webinars, town halls or wherever you can go to befriend lawyers and clients. Getting your name out there is the biggest challenge and strengthening your network opens new doors and opportunities. Referral and word of mouth are as influential as ever.
9. Use Technology to Your Advantage
The most frequently levied criticism of the legal profession is the inability or disinterest in adapting to change. When the pandemic set in and virtual offices became the preference, giant firms struggled like an 18-wheeler on a small windy road.
The magic of starting out small is having the agility to avail of efficiency supports like Loio.com and Clio. Early adopters of ABA-approved technology are primed to make up huge ground on established. We are living in the technology era and many of your competitors are reluctant to accept it. The ball is in your court whether you follow suit or change the game.
Opening a law firm is not as worrying a conquest as many would have you believe. While there will be doubts and doubters along the road, inevitably it boils down to your skill as a lawyer and your appetite for success.
Each item mentioned above merely serves to illustrate the mechanics of opening the firm and cultivating a client list allowing your ability to shine. On a final note, never be afraid to ask for help or request a meeting as no great entrepreneur or lawyer got to where they are now by themselves.