Starting a solo law firm is not an easy task, but these tips will make sure you’re as prepared as possible to make the jump!
Did you know that 20% of small businesses do not make it past their first year — and nearly 50% will close their doors before their five-year anniversary? Solo and small law firms fall under this same shocking statistic. Nonetheless, eager entrepreneurial lawyers regularly take the plunge in order to follow the American Dream of owning their own firm and being their own boss. If you are thinking about blazing your own path, despite the odds, you are not alone.
Law practice is a business and a profession. To start your own law firm successfully, you must agree to see it as both.
The skills that it takes to run a business aren’t the same skills it takes to practice law. While many of the skills you need to practice law will help you in your business, running your business will require you to tackle different problems than practicing law. And these challenges don’t go away as your business matures and grows. They just change and challenge you in new ways. So if you think you are ready to take the jump into solo law firm ownership, then you will want to consider these few suggestions and principles first!
Identify a specific niche you want to serve
Starting a law firm is not easy, and scaling it is even harder, especially when you consider how many law firms already exist out there. But the strongest fuel is a personal connection to what you’re doing, and an instant way to make that connection is to specialize and serve a very specific niche market within your practice area. This could mean if you practice divorce or child custody law, it will benefit you greatly to narrow that field down. For example, maybe your practice specializes in helping working fathers to retain custody of their kids. This is a much smaller pond than trying to go after every single divorce or child custody case in your area, meaning you’ll face a lot less competition.
Then once you establish a reputation in this niche, you will become the go-to source for future cases and referrals from your peers as well. Think about it this way, if you were going to get your car fixed and you had two options, a generic garage that works on every make and model or a shop that specifically works on your car, which would you pick? I know which I would choose.
Consider your personal brand as the founder
More than ever, people care deeply about who’s behind the companies they’re purchasing from. It’s hard to feel a personal connection to a nameless, faceless entity, and far more rewarding to support brands that are built by individuals with a compelling story. This concept is especially true for attorneys! Sadly, the media portrait of lawyers has shown them as often unpleasant people to work with. While we know this couldn’t be further from the truth, you still need to go out of your way to highlight your great personal brand.
One great way to do this is with social media! Use these tools to show your audiences who you really are. People want to work with other people, not robots. So show off your human, non-lawyer side as well. If you have a cute cat, then scatter in some images between your content that showcases your expertise and knowledge of the law. This doesn’t mean that in order to start a solo law firm you need to be prepared to be a public persona who reveals every aspect of your private life. However, a willingness to communicate directly with your potential clients, in whatever form that takes, goes a long way towards establishing an authentic relationship. Helping you to not only get more clients but also increase the number of people who will advocate and support you in other ways as well.
Going Solo Doesn’t Mean Going Alone
The first is cost. If you choose to go the route of setting up a traditional office, you may find that overhead can be incredibly expensive. Most solo lawyers don’t need any additional expenses or all of that space to do exceptional work for their clients.
The second is the missed opportunities for referrals and networking that happen naturally in larger practices. As a solo lawyer, the small conversations and meetings that often lead to new client referrals are much harder to come by.
No law firm, regardless of size, can operate effectively without containing costs and building connections that lead to sustainable business growth. No law firm can survive for very long in a vacuum. So what can be done to mitigate these issues and help your solo law practice grow?
One such way is to utilize shared law office space. Embracing a collaborative economy by choosing shared office space provides a satisfactory solution to both impediments including:
- A prestigious office address without the crushing overhead that goes with it
- Conference rooms and offices for client meetings on an as-needed basis
- Secure mail and package delivery services
- A shared receptionist to greet clients and screen calls
- Cultivating new referral sources becomes much simpler, even if you only come into the office space once a week
Take the Jump!
Running your own law firm is more like having five jobs than one part-time job. If you try to run your practice as a side hustle it will take you much longer to reach any kind of milestone. All the while, your competition is gaining traction. So whether you need investment, a loan, or a creative way to get some short term revenue, recognize that the very long, exhilarating, terrifying, exhausting, but the oh-so-rewarding journey ahead of you only begins when you fully commit and take the leap!