Starting a Small Law Practice Alone or With a Few Partners

 Before considering Private Practice, You Must be Realistic About the Area of Law You’ve Been Trained In

lawA graduate of law school that’s passed the bar exam can open his own private practice. However, if you hadn’t worked with an established law practice prior to doing that, you could be making a mistake. Engaging in such an endeavor wouldn’t be easy or even recommended. A more sensible path would be to go to work for an established law firm first.

There, you’d be able to get training and exposure to the area of law in which you intend to practice. The career path for most attorneys is determined on their first job with a law firm. It’s extremely difficult, but not impossible,  to change the area in which you would be best qualified to practice. Thus,  If you are going to stick with law long-term, it’s absolutely essential you enjoy what you do.


If you’ve decided to take the plunge be certain you’re prepared for the challenge

If you decide to go into private practice, it makes the most sense to build a practice around your core legal skills, which would likely be those learned at the first law firm you worked for. It’s during your internship with a law firm you’ll find there’s a huge discrepancy between what you learn in law school and what’s required for actual practice. Having tackled the issue of your practice area, you must identify, the groups of companies or individuals most in need of your core competency. These will be the groups you target to market to, once you hang out your shingle to practice.

Upon Understanding The Area of Law You Plan to Practice,

Determine How Much It’ll Cost to Get Started

Potential clients won’t be sitting in a court room trying to decide who’s good and who’s not. Consequently, you must develop multiple means of making people aware you’re available to offer help for specific legal issues. Most new attorneys have limitations on what can be spent to setting up shop. Thus it’s critical to determine what your budgetary limitations will be.

There are essentially two possible paths from which to chose. You can start your practice in a brick and mortar location, which you’ll have to furnish. An office without computers, copiers and other office equipment won’t work. And, that’s another expense you’ll have to factor in. It enhances your image to have a receptionist available when you’re unavailable. So you may have to factor in the cost of at least part time help.

A less expensive alternative would be to have a virtual office. You’ll have to ensure clients understand you’ll need to meet them at their homes, offices or over lunch or dinner.  With subsequent meetings conducted by phone. An essential service you need to practice law is a human answering service. If a potential client calls and has to leave a message on an answering machine, it increases the probability he purchases legal services from the first attorney he’s able to speak directly with. A live answering service capable of reaching you, can delay client losses, due to frustration. If you’re serious about practicing, the virtual office, should be viewed as a short term alternative. It’s best used to get a few initial clients.

Hidden costs that must be addressed

No matter what type of office you plan to have, a live answering service is a must. It presents the right facade when you’re out litigating or simply unavailable. Initially, it can save the cost of an administrative assistant for a short time. Typically, live answering services have the ability to reach you on a cell or remote phone during normal business hours. This will help you earn a few fees on your way to setting up a real office. If you don’t have an office, it’s best to get an answering service in a location offering shared office space and mail drop services. If you should have a meeting with an important client insisting on coming to your office you can rent offices for the day, and satisfy their curiosity.

Other minor cost must include business cards, stationary and envelopes. These can be made on a good word processor, but will look a little low class for someone asking for several hundred dollars per hour for professional help. Initial orders for startup packages including those things can become semi expensive. a first order will require a printer to make plates or impressions on computer software and in virtually every case you’ll pay extra for that setup. Their costs may be minor in comparison to the major costs of setting up your practice, but, their existence is essential.

Most new attorneys can’t afford a paralegal. This could easily require you do legal research yourself. In those cases you must have access to legal research websites like West Law. To avoid doing non-billable work like accounting, stuffing envelopes making copies envelopes etc. you may also want to invest in remote support services services.

We live in an electronic age and you shouldn’t neglect getting a good website

An attorney without a website fails to project the right image. Your website is an anchor point, where people can learn about you. A good website will allow them to sign up for appointments, apply for employment when you reach that point, and more. Hiring a developer can get extremely expensive depending on the type of website you’re after. You must then spend additional money for website maintenance. Performing website maintenance yourself without the developers documentation is near impossible. Further, doing it yourself is not a realistic option when you’re practicing law. You can purchase business cards, stationary, envelopes, a website, help in selecting the best form of business for you at this website for a fraction of the cost of purchasing those items individually. Our premium package is a complete startup package sought after by individuals considering starting a private practice or professional partnership.

Take a serious look at your ability to finance everything you’ll need to start your law practice

Upon graduating from law school, passing the bar and getting some exposure to how to interact with clients, you must realistically determine your ability to finance a law practice. I previously described many of the costs associated with starting your practice in an office or starting a virtual practice. Neither can be accomplished without costs.

There are many ways to finance a new legal practice. However, there are three methods you should avoid. Borrowing from a financial institution shouldn’t be used for startup. Because, the only assurance you’ll have is  you’ll need to make a regular loan repayments.  Investors can cause the same problems. Though, in some cases they can be made to wait for your payment as long as the wait isn’t too long. This typically isn’t a problem for attorneys as there aren’t many investors interested in investing in a solo or small law practice.

Finally, grants can be great because you don’t have to repay them. However, seeking one puts you in competition with potentially tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of other grant seekers. Many of those people will have been through the process multiple times, some have professional writers, and other professionals increasing their chances of getting a particular grant, and if you think you can beat them, good luck. Many grant recipients will have lost the fire to start a business by the time they receive grant funds.

Whether you’ll be practicing alone or with partners you must select the right form of business to practice under

Upon completing your cursory analysis of your ability to finance and start a legal practice, you should decide if you want to try to get some of these items prior to opening your practice or if your situation allows for the purchase of all of it at once. Having made that determination, it’s time to create your business entity. You must decide the form of business you’ll practice under. You may review the posts on this website and on Bizdoks for matter of fact answers to that question. Or you may contact a CPA for advice on what form of business will work best in your situation. You can then take the first step toward starting your law practice. You can go online to the IRS website to get your EIN, find the paperwork to register your practice with your state and it’s highly recommended you visit the Dun and Bradstreet website to get a DUNs number.

The only way to address these issues is to plan.

My list of cost are not designed to discourage you from private practice. They’re aimed at preventing you from thinking passing the bar is enough to begin a career practicing law. Many of the aforementioned costs can be addressed with your salary earned at jobs while you’re getting experience to practice law. But, once you’re open you’ll find you’ll find there are operating expenses that must be addressed that weren’t previously mentioned. The primary cost will be marketing, which should be your primary cost until you hire staff and incur payroll cost. As long as you want to get new clients, you have to make them aware you’re  available to address their legal issues; It wouldn’t matter how great a lawyer you are if no one knows you exist. 

Understanding the requirements for establishing a legal practice, you must develop a business plan. Your business plan must outline how you will address the issues associated with getting started an what you’ll do to grow your practice. Starting any business without a plan is a gigantic mistake. And starting a law practice is opening a business. After planning how you get to the point of opening for business you must determine how you’ll get clients so your law firm pays you what you feel you’re worth. otherwise you may as well have remained on a job.

If you decided to major in accounting rather than go to law school, and intend to pass the CPA exam, you’ll be entering a profession of trust as well. Read the next post if you’ve ever considered opening a CPA firm.

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