How to Start Your Own Law Firm: Starting a law firm can be an extremely rewarding endeavor. If you have your own firm, you can set your own hours, hire people to work for you as you please, and choose your own clientele and specialty.
It can also be exhausting to start your own law firm! In the beginning, you will have to work a lot of hours. You will also have to get used to wearing multiple hats — lawyer, marketer, secretary, accountant, janitor, etc. As you gain success, you can start to hire help and delegate (which are two other skills that are difficult for some).
I (Ashley Heidemann) started the Heidemann Law Firm which specializes specifically in bar exam appeals, and in a few short years, became the firm with the highest bar exam appeal success rate. (Last February we wrote 5 of the 6 passing bar exam appeals in the state and last July we wrote 5 of 7.) If you are looking to start your own law firm and wondering where to start, follow these five steps.
How to Start Your Own Law Firm
1.Think about what practice area you want to specialize in.
Do not decide to have a “general practice”. If you practice everything, you will have no clients! Start with a specialty. Represent truck drivers. Or food trucks. Or single-member LLCs. The more specialized your business is, the more growth you will attract.
Even if you want to practice, say, probate law, ask yourself: Who is your clientele? Young couples with children looking to set up a simple will? Or wealthy individuals who need more complex trusts? This will make a difference in how you market and who you network with.
2. Follow the formalities required by law.
Make sure your name complies with your jurisdiction’s requirements. Also, open the trust account required by your state. Simply go to your bank and tell them you need an IOLTA trust account. (Some banks require client money to deposit to open the account, so it is possible you will have to wait until you have a check in hand to complete this step.)
3. Get a website.
A professional website is extremely important. The first thing most clients will do after (or before) retaining you is look you up online. This does not mean you have to spend thousands of dollars on a website off the bat. However, you should invest in at least a simple and professional website where clients can contact you. If you decide to invest more in it later, that is fine. Just start with a simple but easy to use website.
4. Market your services.
How you market your services will depend on your niche. Regardless, you should have a website and you should strongly consider a blog. If you are targeting a younger population, you may want to work on developing a presence online and other social media sites.
If you plan on mostly practicing law very locally, it may be a good idea to use more “local” means (e.g., flyers, local deals, a storefront presence). If location is less important, developing an online presence is more important because you will reach a broader population.
Many lawyers “network” by attending lawyer events or going to organizations geared toward lawyers. This is valuable. However, what is more valuable is attending events or getting involved in organizations that are not composed of all lawyers.
If you are one of five family law lawyers in the room (not to mention perhaps the one with the least experience) you are probably not the first person that the others will refer clients to. If you are the only family law lawyer in a room, however, you are much more likely to be referred to.
If you have any questions about how to start your own law firm, feel free to ask in the comments below.