10 Valuable Resources for Starting a Law Firm in New York

By Stephen Furnari - September 11, 2015
10 Valuable Resources for Starting a Law Firm in New York

Ten must-see resources for any attorney thinking about starting a law firm in New York.

We scoured the Internet far and wide to come up with a list of must-see resources for any attorney thinking about starting a law firm in New York. Within this list you’ll find guidance from Harvard trained biglaw refugees to straight-out-of-law-school-solos earning a respectable living  in the Empire State as self-employed attorneys.

1.  New York State Bar Association’s Starting a Practice in New York Section.

One of the biggest challenges when starting a law practice is learning all the additional skills you need to run a business, for example, accounting, marketing, law firm management. As an added layer of complication (and one that other entrepreneurs don’t have to worry about), you must also understand how to perform each of those new skills without running afoul of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The New York State Bar Association’s Starting a Practice in New York section provides endless resources that not only cover how to execute the skills you need to start a law firm, but also how to stay in compliance with ethical rules. Many of the resources are low cost, pre-recorded CLE classes. But if you have to learn this stuff anyway, you might as well earn CLE credits. And because there’s such a heavy focus on ethics, you’ll get a renewal cycle’s worth of hard-to-get ethics credits out of the way fast.  The big dog of these offerings is the 8-hour course, STARTING A SOLO PRACTICE IN NEW YORK, which features our friends, legal marketing expert Carol Greenwald, NexFirm CEO David DePietto, and Peter A. Giuliani, a law firm management consultant.

Link: New York State Bar Association’s Starting a Practice in New York Section

Twitter: @NYSBA, @NYSBACLE, @NexFirm

2.  Law360’s How to Start a Law Firm

I find that when it comes to resources about starting a law practices, the most authentic are those that include advice from real-life self-employed attorneys. Two major caveats though, because these lawyers earn their living from practicing law rather than coaching other attorneys, there’s little financial incentive to drill down into specifics – the advice can often be a little light. The other caveat is that one lawyer’s experience may be entirely different than yours when taking into consideration their professional background, years in practice and practice areas. This being said, there are fundamental issues that are universal to all lawyers starting a firm, and this Law360 article by Erin Marie Daly covers many of them. It features interviews from an interesting cross section of practitioners, including long time self-employed lawyer and New York small firm advocate, Olivera Medenica, former Manhattan prosecutor and small firm defense attorney Jeremy Saland, and ex-biglaw associate turned small firm partner turned public sector attorney Nicole Giacinti. The article covers an interesting mix of topics ranging from having a location to meet with clients to choosing law partners (or not) to marketing through social media.

Link:  Law360’s How to Start a Law Firm

Twitter: @Law360, @omedenica, @defenselawyerny

The best resources for starting a #solo law practice are written by attorneys who actually did it Click To Tweet

3.  Fast Company’s The Counselor: How Rachel Rodgers Built Her Virtual Legal Practice

If you have ever researched virtual law practices, you have likely run across one of any number of articles about Rachel Rodgers. In 2010, New York attorney Rodgers set out to build a virtual law office where she could practice what she loved (helping entrepreneurs), but do it from anywhere in the world. Rodgers was one of the first attorneys to successfully integrate business tactics from the online marketing/passive income world into the business of law. This article takes an inside look at some of the tools Rodgers used to get her practice started and how she did her initial marketing. Whether a mahogany trimmed office is your bag, or your law office can literally be carried around in a  bag, this article is a must read.

Link: Fast Company’s The Counselor: How Rachel Rodgers Built Her Virtual Legal Practice

Twitter: @FastCompany, @RachRodgersEsq, @daniellejenene

4.  NYCourts.gov’s Setting Up a Law Practice

Our skilled research staffers found a gem for you that, to this day, I have no idea how they located it.  The resource is so deep in the interwebs that, unless you have the direct link to the NYCourts.gov website, I don’t think it’s possible to find it on Google. The resource is an outline of a CLE presentation from high profile Manhattan divorce attorney Bernard E. Clair. Clair has a reputation for being, among other things, one of Manhattan’s most sought after divorce lawyers among the one percenters and a guy you don’t want representing your soon-to-be ex-spouse. The document itself looks like it was printed on a dot-matrix printer and sent by fax to the Unified Court System before being scanned. But you can get past that, you’ll find a checklist of solid information from a man who has built a powerhouse matrimonial practice representing New York City’s elite. It’s said that the fastest way to get to the top of your field is to model those who are already the best. So if you have ideas about representing the powerful and famous (or at least the thought leaders in your practice niche), this is your chance to do just that.

Link: NYCourts.gov’s Setting Up a Law Practice

The best way to succeed is to model yourself from the best. Here’s 10 resources to do just that. Click To Tweet

5.  ABA Law Practice Magazine’s 10 Steps to Prepare Yourself for a Graceful Launch

Continuing with this theme that the best advice about starting a practice comes from real lawyers who have done just that, this article is penned by self-employed commercial litigator, ex-biglaw associate and former circus performer (I kid you not) John H. Snyder. In 2010, Snyder left Proskauer to open his Midtown Manhattan office space. Most advice pieces about starting a law practice tend to deal with subjects like IOLA compliance, client billing and marketing. But biglaw attorneys who often measure their professional success by whether or not they make partner have an additional hurdle to contend with: managing the feelings that come with giving up on biglaw partnership. Snyder’s article devotes an entire section to discussing the mental adjustments a biglaw attorney must make when going solo. For this reason alone, Snyder’s article is a standout.

Update on John Snyder: Snyder wrote this ABA article in 2011 shortly after forming his firm. Today, Snyder’s practice is still going strong. He’s received a number of partnership offers that he’s turned down – Snyder loves being self-employed. He says that the advice in his article is still sound, but he gave me two additional thoughts: First, having biglaw litigation experience is extremely valuable because you know how to exploit your adversaries’ weaknesses, but that going solo made him a much better lawyer. Second, after becoming self-employed he was amazed by the number of professional opportunities that he’s been exposed to, both in and out of the law, things that that never seemed to come up when he was employed with a firm.

Link: ABA Law Practice Magazine’s 10 Steps to Prepare Yourself for a Graceful Launch

Twitter: @LawPracticeTips, @jhsnyderlaw

6.  Law Firm Suites’ eBooks and Whitepapers for Self-Employed Attorneys.  

We may be the experts at operating shared law office space in NYC, but we’ve also been self-employed lawyers long before that. We’ve amassed a library of 15 (and growing) eBooks and whitepapers that are chocked full of practical, step-by-step advice about running a more profitable and efficient small law practice, with a focus on New York lawyers. And to show our love for the practice, we give it all away for free! The most popular eBooks are 7 Deadly Mistakes that Prevent Law Practice Success, 7 Steps To Running a Successful Home-based Law Practice and How to Rapidly Increase Your Referral Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Attorneys. As we like to say, these are legal resources that were meant to demystify the “business” of law.

Link: Law Firm Suites’ eBooks & Whitepapers For Self-Employed Attorneys

Twitter: @LawFirmSuites

7.  NYS Bar Association’s Checklist for Starting a Practice in NYS

Who doesn’t appreciate the simplicity and directness of a checklist, right? If you’re thinking about starting a practice you probably have your own list already. Supplement your list with this one. From budgeting to entity choices (PC, PLLC, etc.) to technology requirements, the Bar Association has got you covered.

Link:  NYS Bar Association’s Checklist for Starting a Practice in NYS  

Twitter: @NYSBA

Because who doesn’t love the simplicity and directness of a good checklist? #StartingaLawFirminNY Click To Tweet

8.  New York City Bar Association’s Tips for Starting Your Own Law Firm

Manhattan small firm practitioners, Tudor F. Capusan (IP) and Matthew A. Taub (Personal Injury who has since left the practice for a career in journalism) penned this article for the City Bar. It covers all the basics: picking a practice area, office options including the merits of coworking or virtual office, banking, retainer agreements and marketing. But Capusan and Taub, who were members of the City Bar’s Small Firm Committee at the time this piece was written, highlight some of the resources that are available to small firm practitioners through the City Bar, including the benefits of networking at City Bar committees and events.

Link: New York City Bar Association’s Tips for Starting Your Own Law Firm

Twitter: @NYCBarAssnNews, @TudorFCapusan, @MatthewTaub1

9.  Student Appeal’s What Business Form to Use for Your Law Firm

Manhattan attorney and Accountant (a Harvard attorney who can actually do math is a rare breed indeed), Ian E. Scott, penned an informative article about corporate entity choices for New York law firms. Confused about whether to form a P.C., PLLC, LLP or sole proprietorship, this article will take you through the benefits and drawbacks of each. Scott also discusses a clever trick by claiming S-corp status in either a P.C. or PLLC that can save you $6,000 to $8,000 on the first $100,000 you earn. It will be the easiest money you ever made.

Link: Student Appeal’s What Business Form to Use for Your Law Firm

Twitter: @StudentAppeal, @VirtuaLawFirm

10.  JDBlogger’s Ten Tips for Starting Your Own Law Firm

What’s a resource written by an Arizona attorney doing in an article about about starting a firm in New York you ask? How could we not! Self-employed bankruptcy attorney and JDBlogger author/podcaster John Skiba started a law firm…twice. The first time only 18 months out of law school, and the second time a few years after merging his practice into another practice and realizing firm life wasn’t for him. I decided to include this resource because Skiba talks about three things that none of the other resources above discussed. First, plan but don’t delay. Lawyers overthink everything. It’s in our nature. We are trained to think about every contingency. Every weak spot of any issue. This is a good skill when representing clients, but horrible for being an entrepreneur. Skiba touches on the reasons why. Second, Skiba describes how, the second time he started a firm, he transitioned from a virtual law office to an law office rental once his practice could support it. A subject that that (obviously) I am passionate about. Finally, Skiba talks about a serious competitive advantage that solos and smalls have over law firms: innovation. Nothing you want to try has to be run by a committee (occupied by plenty of those lawyers who overthink everything). In his own practice, Skiba is podcasting, blogging and recording videos.  Skiba is all personality and it really comes across in all his content. And for this reason, New York gives a nod to AZ.

Link: JDBlogger’s Ten Tips for Starting Your Own Law Firm

Twitter: @JohnSkiba
7 Deadly Mistakes That Prevent Law Practice Success

About Stephen Furnari

Stephen Furnari is a self-employed corporate attorney and the founder of Law Firm Suites, the operator of coworking spaces for law firms. Through Law Firm Suites, Furnari has helped hundreds of attorneys launch and grow successful law practices. He is the author of several eBooks, including “7 Deadly Mistakes that Prevent Law Practice Success” and “An Insider’s Guide to Renting the Perfect Law Office”. Stephen has been featured in the ABA Journal, Entrepreneur, New York Daily News and Crain’s New York. Connect with Stephen on Twitter (@stephenfurnari).

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