Learn the most essential tips you need to run a successful virtual law office start up.
Starting a solo law practice isn’t easy and managing one isn’t any easier. The key is to plan and prepare as much as possible before you try to get your firm off the ground.
From a cost perspective, your decision to use a virtual office is already a wise one because your office rent could have been one of your biggest expenses. Now, a low monthly fee gets you a prestigious address, mail services and a professional office to meet clients.
However, picking the most affordable office arrangement isn’t the only thing you need to do to launch a successful law practice. If you want to put your virtual law office start up on the fast track towards growth and prosperity, then you must follow these five tips:
Don’t spend a fortune each month
When you’re first starting out, it’s critical that you keep your overhead as low as possible. Even if billable client work starts immediately, it’s very likely you won’t see see that first client check for about three months.
Sam Glover, the founder of Lawyerist, has said that your total start-up costs for a law practice could be between $3,000 and $5,000 dollars. According to Debbie Foster from Affinity Consulting Group, you can start a law firm for as little as $3,500. Not a lot of money considering that you are starting a business. However, most experts recommend that have enough savings to cover 6-12 months of personal and professional expenses before you even consider launching a law firm. A virtual law office start up will mean you need less money to get started, since you are not spending money on traditional office space.
In addition to your virtual office rental and malpractice insurance, your biggest monthly expenses will be the software and services you need to run your firm’s day-to-day operations. Luckily, you can actually keep these costs fairly low. In fact, you can run a virtual law office start up for less than $400 per month.
Take time away from your home office
One of the downsides to being a solo attorney who works from home is that it can become very isolating. New solos often underestimate how much working in a traditional law office can add to their professional success and overall happiness.
Solos practice better when when working alongside other lawyers. They also need the referrals those relationships can generate. If you’re always working from your home office then you’ll be missing out on easy opportunities to build professional relationships that could be the source of your next client referral.
Don’t allow your virtual law office start up make you feel trapped or secluded. Take a few days every month to rent a workstation at virtual law office suite. Be friendly and introduce yourself to people around the office (or have the manager of the space make introductions). You never know when you’ll hit it off with someone who could be a great source of referrals or practice advice.
Get more mileage out of your networking
If you come across a referral opportunity that isn’t a good fit for you, never assume that it isn’t valuable. You can increase the return on investment of your networking time by paying it forward to other attorneys.
Pass the referral along to another attorney at your virtual office. Enlist the assistance of the virtual office staff for help finding an attorney who would be the best fit for the referral. You’ll instantly have a new professional contact who will feel grateful for the new business.
Even if the referral doesn’t work out, you can still use it as an icebreaker to meet a new potential referral source. They’ll appreciate that you even tried to send them a client and, therefore, will feel more inclined to meet with you or return the favor.
Constantly be learning
Have you ever heard someone say “you don’t know what you don’t know”? It’s very true and, truthfully, there will be a lot you don’t know as a solo lawyer.
Running a virtual law office start up is just like running any small business and starting a law practice wasn’t covered in law school.
So if you think you know everything, then you’re going to be setting yourself up for failure. You must take operating your virtual law office start up in stride. There will be setbacks and there will be things you don’t know how to do, but you will succeed as long as you’re willing to learn and seek advice.
Again, never hesitate to contact the staff at your virtual office suite. They can connect you to a qualified solo attorney who would be willing to chat with you about small firm practice. And who knows, that attorney could even turn into a mentor or referral source for you.
Don’t try to be a jack-of-all-trades
When it comes to selecting a practice area, you’re better off narrowing it down to one or two related fields than trying to be a jack-of-all trades.
Many lawyers think having several practice areas will create a wider pool of clients and result in more opportunities to generate revenue. Unfortunately, this may not be soundest logic.
Intellectual property attorney Kelli Proia perfectly explained why in a Solo Practice University article. She said:
“While it is tempting to expand our service offerings, thinking we’ll attract more clients, the opposite just might be true. The more practice areas you claim, someone will wonder whether you can possibly handle them all well. And if that someone decides that you can’t possibly handle them all well, they won’t hire you.”
It’s better for your image and your marketing to work on building a reputation as an expert in a specific practice area. In fact, you should try finding a practice niche based on demographics or circumstances because it’ll make your marketing efforts more targeted.
These tips will not only help your law practice start strong, but they will also set you up for long-term success. Keep them in mind as you navigate managing your virtual law office start up and remember that being a solo lawyer is a journey. You’ll learn what works for you and your firm as you go.