So you’ve decided to start a law firm. You already have your degree and a bar license. Now, you just need a plan. Starting a law firm isn’t easy,but knowing what steps to take can put you on the path to success. Here is your quick guide for starting a law firm.
You need a bar license to start a law firm. If you don’t have a bar license yet, stop here and study for the bar exam. Also, make sure to keep your bar membership active with no disciplinary actions if you want your law firm to succeed.
A law firm is a business. The first thing you need to do is file paperwork with your state to start a business. There are many kinds of business structures that might be available to you, like an LLC, PLC, PLLC, and LP. The structure you can have depends on your state.
While you can act as a sole proprietor without a corporate structure, that’s not a good idea because of personal liability. Figure out the best business entity for you and file the paperwork with your state to start your law firm. Remember that you probably need to update or verify this information with the state periodically.
Malpractice insurance protects you and your business. It may or may not be required in your jurisdiction, but you’re going to want to have it, regardless. The good news is that malpractice insurance tends to be the least expensive in the first years of practice before you have a long history of past clients. Choosing malpractice insurance is like buying any other type of insurance, so be sure to read the fine print and shop around.
Perhaps one of the most important decisions you’re going to make as you start your law firm is choosing your location. If you have frequent court appearances in your area of practice, like state criminal law, you probably want an office that’s near the courthouse you plan to frequent the most. If you choose not to have a physical office or select a location that’s far away from most foot traffic, you’re going to need to have more of a presence with online marketing.
A specialized, complex commercial litigation practice is going to be hard to sustain in a small town. But a general practice of criminal, probate and family law could do very well in a small town. If you’re a personal injury attorney, you may be more successful in a more populated area. Consider your practice areas when you decide on the best location for your law firm.
The next piece of the puzzle is technology. At a minimum, you’re going to need a computer, a printer, internet and an office phone network. You might even still need to use a fax machine once in a while.
Once you have your hardware, you need to consider what legal software you need. There is a wide range of subscription services and software programs that can help you with your legal practice. These services might be essential, and you might be able to add them as your practice grows. It all depends on your jurisdiction and your practice focus. Consider your wants and needs and get the right technology to start your law firm.
Along with technology comes security. You need to make a plan for securing paper records as well as electronic documents. Paper documents can be secured behind locked doors or filing cabinets that lock. Password security and online data security can take time, but it is crucial to your law firm’s success.
A law firm is a business. You need to make plans for accounting records, including a bank account. You also need a plan for handling clients’ funds. Laws for managing client funds and accounting for them vary by state. Be sure that you have a plan for client funds from day one, as well as an accounting system for your cash flow.
All businesses need supplies. It’s time to pick out a desk, an office chair and decorate the client waiting room. You need paper, folders, staplers, staples, scissors, pens and even those stickers that indicate where the client should sign. Letterhead and business cards should be on the list, too. You also need office maintenance items like cleaning supplies, toilet paper and, if you have a sidewalk in a cold area, a snow shovel.
When you start a law firm, you manage people. There are laws for how to hire and fire people. There are payroll taxes and regulations at all levels that apply. Also, employees need clear information about their expectations as employees. As your business grows, be sure that you understand human resource issues, including how to start, manage and end employee relationships.
Think through all of the monthly expenses that come with running a law firm. You’ve got to pay the mortgage or rent, the phone and internet bill, utilities and more. Consider the different monthly expenses that you need to meet. Have a plan for who is going to pay these bills and how to keep track of expenses.
Once you get your law firm up and running, you’re going to land your first client. Congratulations! What now? You need a plan for onboarding new clients, including written fee agreements. What you need to put in your fee agreement depends on your area of practice and how you prefer to charge for services.
Once you start your law firm, you need to spread the word. Today’s marketing is so much more than taking out an advertisement in the phone book. In fact, even making a website is just the beginning. Learn the basics of marketing and create a plan to market your legal services.
To start a successful law firm, think through what you need and the steps you need to take. You’ll need to carefully choose your practice areas and decide what you need to do right away, like filing paperwork and buying malpractice insurance. Make a plan for the tangible things you need to begin running your law firm immediately, and brainstorm for long-term planning and growth.
Attorney Adam S. Kutner has spent more than 29 years fighting for fair compensation for victims of personal injury in Nevada. With more than 40,000 settlement cases behind him, Mr. Kutner knows his way around the court system. As a former insurance defense attorney he knows how to get clients the maximum settlement promptly and trouble-free. Adam S. Kutner, Injury Attorneys has also been recognized by the Las Vegas Review-Journal to be Las Vegas’ Best Accident Lawyer of 2020.