Starting a New Legal Practice: Setting Yourself Up For Success
For many attorneys, their work at a traditional law firm is a great fit for their lifestyles, professional goals, and personal fulfillment. For others, practicing law in this way has left them wanting more. Life has a way of shifting priorities for everyone, and sometimes, the career path we started on is no longer the right one.
If you’re looking to venture out on your own solo or outsourced GC career path, I understand the anxiety and hesitancy you may be feeling, as it’s a leap that I took myself. Here are some of the top ways that you can set yourself – and your new practice – up for success.
Legal Entrepreneurship 101
Kick-starting a new practice is much like starting any new business. Here are some of the most important pieces of the “new business” puzzle. They might seem basic, but they’re critical to laying the foundation correctly:
- Create a business plan: I don’t necessarily mean a business plan in the traditional sense, although those are great. However, you’ll need to have an idea of what clients may be coming with you and/or how you are going to generate new business. The exciting part here is that as the owner of your own firm, you’re free to make the business decisions that best fit with your business style, goals, personality and passions. You can build your firm around the specific solutions you want to offer your clients, as well as a workplace culture built around your personal and professional values. You’ll want to be as clear as possible about your goals, your business strategy, and your financial strategy and budget.
- Find the right tech: Let technology help make your job and managing your clients as easy as possible — why make those tasks harder on yourself than they need to be? Some of my favorite tools include:
- Carta – Their super-intuitive online platform helps make light work of managing your business clients’ cap tables and equity-related tasks.
- PandaDoc – More than an electronic signature tool, this software lets you enable and automate contract approval workflows and create contract templates.
- Toggl – An amazing (free!) timekeeping tool.
- Gusto – This is a great payroll tool for your new law firm and integrates with several accounting systems.
- Guideline – Use this tool to set up your personal 401(k).
- Entity formation: Come up with your business name (if you are in a jurisdiction that permits unique firm names), file your professional entity formation documents, and obtain your federal tax identification numbers and open a bank account.
- Obtain malpractice insurance: Regardless of your area of practice — and the differing levels of risk involved — you’ll absolutely need to obtain malpractice insurance. I suggest giving this page on the ABA’s site a review regarding the FAQ’s on obtaining malpractice insurance for the solo practitioner.
Your branding and marketing strategy are critical components of your new firm’s growth. I would encourage you to not simply rely on referrals from other lawyers and clients, but to take a holistic approach. Think about your business plan and the “brand” approach you’re making. What’s unique about you and your firm? What messages do you want to get across?
It would also be beneficial to put some technology into place to help with these efforts. A modern, mobile-friendly website will help your new firm look legitimate and help prospective clients find you. I also recommend coming up with a manageable, trackable marketing strategy (this differs from your business plan, although the two should compliment each other). You’ll want to have a plan and a system in place in order to manage the conversion of prospects into clients, so you can see what’s working — and more importantly — what isn’t.
Just because you’re going solo doesn’t mean you have to go at it alone. Bernard Williams of Company Counsel, LLC recommends finding like-minded attorneys who can offer a wide range of experience across different areas of practice. This will help clients with problems that can arise across the scope of their business dealings. Having that experience as a referrable partner — or even as part of your team — prevents your clients from having to look to large traditional firms to tackle matters outside your collective expertise.
There are also ways to gain the benefits of a partnership without the actual partner. As this article in Forbes describes, solo practitioners can glean these benefits through mentorships, co-working spaces like LawBank, and creating project-specific teams.
Auxana also offers peer collaboration and support, along with vetted educational resources at your fingertips. We’re all about helping attorneys make the leap into their own successful practice, leading to a predictable income and better work-life balance.
If you’re ready to explore the possibilities of your own firm, see how Auxana can help you grow the kind of legal practice you want.