Tips for Starting and Running a Law Firm – It’s that time of year again when you think about starting your law firm. The big question is: “where to begin?” With the number of law firms out there and the variety of different tasks they take on, it can be difficult to know where to start and what kind of advice you should follow to help guide your firm in the right direction. Many people have a natural tendency to look for shortcuts and think that working with other lawyers will give them an edge over their colleagues. But this approach almost always backfires! Instead of helping you become a better lawyer, working with other lawyers can actually be detrimental if not done right. So, how do you know when it’s the right time to open a law firm or start another? To help you get started in the right direction, we asked some seasoned professionals for some helpful tips for running a law firm — from the get-go!
Focus on fundamentals first
One of the most important things you can do as an attorney is to clearly understand the fundamentals of law. This includes the fundamentals of how law firms operate, the different roles and responsibilities of every member of the team, and the importance of following proper procedure. If you don’t understand the nuts and bolts of how a law firm works, then you won’t be able to effectively run it — and you definitely won’t be able to help your firm reach its full potential! To get a headstart on this, find a firm with similar business practices to yours that you can look to as examples. Make it a rule to conduct at least one basic financial review for each new client that comes in. This will give you a good indication of how your firm is doing financially as well as give you something to shoot for when you’re starting out.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback
Feedback is always valuable and helpful, but especially so when it comes from other lawyers. Not only will it help you to identify areas of your own practice that you need to work on, but it will also give you insight into how other lawyers in your field are doing and help you to identify areas of strength. When you’re just getting started, you don’t have the luxury of being able to hire the best lawyers in the field — instead, you have to focus on what you’re good at, and what works best for your firm. This means being open and honest about how your practice is going and how you can improve. To get started, reach out to your peers and ask them for feedback on your work. Let them know how you’re doing and what areas of your practice you’d like to improve upon. You may even want to take the feedback one step further and map out your goals for the year and the firm. These are all things that will help you to be actively engaged with your practice and help you to grow as an attorney.
Try out different tasks
If your initial foray into the legal profession was as an intern or paralegal, you may have been assigned a lot of “lesson” tasks. You might have also been tasked with helping to set up a law firm office or doing some shoddy administrative work. Don’t let these types of tasks define you as a law firm representative or prevent you from pursuing tasks that are a little more challenging. Agile, collaborative and results-driven, our clients are our most important team members. They deserve the best, and our employees deserve to be the top of their game. Take advantage of the diverse skills our firm has to offer and work with clients and attorneys who are on the same page as you.
Don’t limit your practice area
When you first start out, it’s important to stay broad in your practice areas and work toward developing specific areas of expertise. This is a great way to build a strong foundation and make yourself more attractive to clients and firms looking for lawyers with specific areas of expertise — especially if those areas relate to the products or services you provide. However, stay broad in your practice area but stay disciplined in your approach. Adhering to this rule will help you to avoid overspecializing and ending up with an overkill practice. For example, if your firm does business in real estate, you’ll want to be very focused in your practice area — but not so focused that you neglect other important areas of law such as employment and contract law.
Always remain flexible
When you first start out in law, you’re going to experience volatility in your career. You may find yourself working for a couple of different law firms at different times in your life, and you’re going to feel like an impostor in some of them. This is perfectly normal and expected. You don’t need to be rigid in your approach or ten-pin bowling in order to stay relevant in this ever-changing field. As long as you stay open-minded and flexible, you’ll be fine.
The good news is that running a law firm doesn’t have to be a full-time job! In fact, it does tend to be more challenging than being an individual attorney, but the rewards are worth it. Knowing how to run a law firm starts with becoming aware of the tricks and pitfalls of the business world and working on becoming more defensive in your own attorney role.