There are a variety of reasons why launching their own law firm can be an attractive proposition for qualified lawyers: greater flexibility and the ability to determine their own career path, family needs and lifestyle choices, having the opportunity to handle complex cases which would be taken on by senior personnel of a bigger organization, develop a distinctive and individual professional persona, avoid the uncertainties and vagaries that are usual in employer-employee dealings, bypass the office politics that are usual in any large organization, develop direct and solid client relationships, and enjoy the satisfaction of building their own practice. If you are entrepreneurial minded and are about to embark on launching your own law firm, here are a few pointers to keep in mind.
Ascertain if you are ready to launch your own law firm
. Before venturing out on your own, it is vital that you have business sources. If you are new in the field, or a geographical location, you must take into serious consideration whether you have enough contacts in the business to be able to begin your practice straightaway. In case you already are practicing as an attorney and are thinking of utilizing the business contacts of your current firm, you need to be cognizant of the ethical rules of your state that indicate what you are allowed to do or not, and regulate your actions accordingly.
. Assess the expenses involved in starting up on your own, and make certain that you have the financial wherewithal to cover for them.
. Consider the amount of time you will need to commit to your new practice, and determine if this is really the right thing for you, your finances, your lifestyle, and of course your family. In case you take on shareholders or partners, ensure that everybody makes the same kind of commitment of time to the practice, specifying the commitment in a shareholder, partnership or PLLC (professional limited liability company) agreement.
. One of the best ways to get your business up and running is by identifying yourself as an authority in your field of expertise. You can do this by speaking in public fora or publishing articles in journals, both online and in the print media. If you have not specialized yet in any area of practice, you need to determine whether concentrating in specific areas will mean future growth.
. You could discuss with other lawyers who have begun their own law practices, particularly those dealing in your area of specialty. This will help you to avoid the pitfalls and teething problems that they may have experienced.
Choose the structure of your organization
Before beginning your practice, or launching an advertisement about it, you need to determine a specific structure for your organization such as being a sole practitioner, getting into a general partnership, becoming a professional corporation, or a PLLC. Get the advice of a professional accountant to help you to ascertain which kind of organizational structure will be the most suitable for you.
Abide by the government registration, filing and deposit requirements
As an employer, a functioning business, or a corporation, you need to comply with various filing stipulations set by the government related to taxes and startups. Reconciling your tax records is essential in order to prevent the IRS making inquiries. If you hire staff, you also need to file the appropriate documents related to new employees.
The various kinds of insurance that you should think about buying for your practice are: malpractice, property, business, life, health, liability, vehicle, and disability. In fact, you should buy malpractice insurance right away.
Create a reliable system of accounting
In order to verify your business profitability, to keep a control on costs, to determine your fees, and to file tax and employment returns, an accurate and dependable accounting system is essential.
Open trust and bank accounts
One of the most important tasks when beginning a practice is to open trust and bank accounts that your firm will need to use.
Furnish your office
You will have to choose the space for your office and equip it with office equipment, furniture and supplies. You will also have to set up a library for all those bulky tomes associated with law.
Market your new practice
It is essential to devise a strategy of marketing your firm in order to attract business.
Set up your methods of billing and establish fee arrangements
Generally, charging fees on an hourly basis for the time spent on dealing with a case is the usual method of billing. However, lawyers use many other methods of billing as tools for marketing their business or according to their client requirements.
Set up a docket control system
Many malpractice insurance application forms have a stipulation that require attorneys to give details about the docket control system of their firm. This is required because an inefficient docket control system has the potential of resulting in missed dates and exposure to liability.
Establish standardized office procedures
The more systematic the procedures are in your office, the smoother will it function. Hence, it is important to devise standardized routines in the office for all the regular tasks that need to be carried out. This will help to cut down on the time spent on performing repetitive jobs.
When it is economically feasible, hire staff with the best qualifications possible at salaries that are the most reasonable.
Check for client conflicts
Lawyers are ethically obliged to prevent the occurrence of client conflicts.
Create a policy for document retention
All law firms, big, small and solo, are also ethically obliged to have a plan or policy for document retention.
Keep fine-tuning your practice
Once your law firm starts functioning profitably and smoothly, continue devising ways of improving the service quality you provide your clients. The better the quality of service, the higher the chances of success.