Solo practitioners make up an enormous percentage of legal firms in the country—something close to 50 percent. And it’s easy to see why—after all, owning a law firm gives you an opportunity to build the perfect work-life balance. That’s not to say it’s easy—far from it, in fact.
Whether you have just qualified or are planning to break away from the firm you currently work with, starting out as a solo practitioner can be tough. Essentially, you are starting a business from scratch, and it’s the business side of things that might let you down.
Your legal training has taught you a lot, but unless you have combined it with learning business skills, you will struggle with the nuts and bolts of running a small company. Here are some of the problems you might encounter—and how to deal with them.
Find the right name
The name you choose for your business is a lot more important than you think. It’s standard practice in the legal field to use your real name as the company name. But is this going to help you find new clients? The simple fact is when you strike out on your own, no one will know who you are, so, no one will be looking for you. What they will be looking for is a particular service—family law or an accident attorney. If you can find a way to convey your services within your business name, you have a far greater chance of being found.
Find the right advisors
As I mentioned above, while you have excelled in learning about the law, you might be severely lacking in general business skills. It is vital that you find the right people to support you as advisors. Seek out an executive coach for lawyers, who will help you “think business” and develop a strategy to grow your firm. Make use of contacts that you have within the legal industry—maybe a mentor figure who has experience of building up a solo practice. Going it alone does not mean failing to ask for help when you need it—and you will.
One of the things you will learn fast is that your cash flow will be vital to your business’s survival. Without money, you won’t last long, so when you are just getting started, it is critical to keep your costs down. Stay as lean as you possibly can—maybe even start your practice from a home office to remove extortionate rental costs. Use Skype or other VoIP services instead of a traditional and expensive phone line. Stop using paper for file sharing and posting and use services like Dropbox instead. The leaner you are, the better chance you have of survival.
Get your name out there
Finally, marketing will be vital to find new clients and attract new prospects. And, while it is easy to overspend on marketing, there are a few cheaper alternatives that you can use to get started. Focus on your particular niche, and start networking at relevant events. Get flyers and business cards printed up and leave them in places where your ideal clients frequent. You can even get a basic website up and running for a fraction of the price it used oo cost, so use it to provide helpful information for your audience. Good luck with the new practice—let me know how it goes.
The most important thing when starting your own law practice is to be diligent and smart with the decisions you make. If this is truly the career you want and you work for it, you will get there!
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