Many legal professionals dream of opening a law firm themselves, but most end up working for a large company. There are plenty of reasons why, of course, but ultimately, starting a legal practice is risky, hard work, and the lure of a regular – and large – wage packet each month can be irresistible. That said, starting your own firm can give you a fantastic sense of achievement, and you have the opportunity to make something of yourself. Here are some of the critical guidelines you need to consider if you want to make the leap from employee to an independent legal firm.
Focus on Client Relationships
When you are starting out in your own practice, you might be tempted to charge your clients a top rate for your services. But the truth is that unless you have a lot of experience, you won’t get much business. Building a firm from the ground up takes time, patience, and a large focus on establishing excellent relationships with your clients. And if that means charging less than your competitors for a few years, it’s something you will need to take into account.
It’s a business
Making the leap from being a student or employee to becoming your own boss is a big task, that requires a lot more than excellent legal skills and knowledge. You will also need to develop the skills that everyone needs to run a profitable and viable firm. There is help available, though. For example, you could get help from an executive coach for lawyers, who can help you look at expanding your firm, increasing your profits, seeking out partners, and all kinds of other vital principles of business. Never forget that even the sharpest of legal minds often know little about running a successful company, so don’t be afraid of seeking out help to get things up and running now, or to expand and grow in the future.
Marketing and Building Reputation
All businesses live or die by the success of their marketing, and your new firm will be no different. The simple truth is that your phone will not magically start ringing the day you open – even if you have a decent roster of happy clients. Word of mouth takes time – as does building a first-class reputation – and competition might be fierce. It is essential that you invest your profits into marketing your firm, to ensure you have a constant stream of clients coming through the door.
Care about Clients
It’s easy to take on clients that you don’t like or care about when you get told to do it. But you just cannot do this when you have your own firm. If you don’t feel like the client is the right fit, don’t take them on – never take a case just because you need the money. The fact is that clients will know you don’t care pretty quickly, and your reputation will soon take a nosedive. Be honest, and be prepared to defend your client’s interest wholeheartedly and aggressively. Doing so will see your stock rise, and those client lists are growing by the month.