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How to Start a Law Firm

How to Start a Law Firm

Starting a law firm is not for the faint of heart. Striking out on your own and building up your own firm takes guts, grit, skill, and creativity. It’s not enough just to be a good lawyer. To start your successful law firm, you’ll need to become a solid business operator, a good marketer, and a relationship builder.

If you think you have what it takes to start your own firm this article is for you. We’ll go over some of the basic requirements of starting your own law firm and speak to some of the things we have learned from working with numerous attorneys who have started their own law firms

If you have any questions about this article or if you are serious about starting your own firm and want the backing of an award-winning marketing agency to help you get the word out about your services, feel free to reach out to us.


Creating a business plan for your firm

A business plan, along with your training as an attorney, is the foundation that your firm is going to be built on.

It’s important not to overlook detail when you are creating a business plan.

Here is a list of things you’ll want to add to your business plan:

1. Research, research, research

The goal of creating a business plan is to discover under what circumstance your new firm can generate a profit, and to do this you’ll need to do a lot of research.  You need to define target market (ideal client), establish the services you will provide for them, figure out your firms start up and operating costs (office, personnel, advertising, etc.) and balance that against what you are projected to make and when you start to generate sales (acquire clients). You need to figure out who your competitors are and how your firm will be able to win business form them (competitive advantage). You will also need to determine how long you’ll be able to keep your firm running without any revenue, this is especially relevant for contingency-based practices, like personal injury or inheritance disputes.

2. Determine the purpose of your firm – write your mission statement

This is the statement that will guide your decision making. You need to do some soul searching to nail your mission statement. Is your law firm’s ultimate goal to give underprivileged communities access to quality legal representation at an affordable price? Or is it you to land enough big clients that you can afford your own yacht? Whatever it is, write it down and revisit it often. Your short term and long term goals need to align with your statement; it is your guiding light.

3. Create a Brand Identity For Your New Firm

If you are going to start a firm, you are also going to be building a brand. A brand identity, or brand bible, is an inward facing document that you will reference when creating marketing material, onboarding new employees, and making business decisions.

A brand bible needs to include the following things:

  • Your logo/brand colors and rules about their use.
  • Font families you’ll use in your marketing material and the tone of voice your brand speaks in.
  • Your mission statement, notes on your target market, your firm’s brand promise and value statement to potential clients.
  • A list of firms or business you like and would like to emulate some aspect of.

4. Document all aspects of your business

Document everything: your expenses, cash flow, and industry projections, anything involved with the cost of starting and maintaining your new firm. You’ll need all this to figure out your return on investment. Take good notes when you start your firm and continue to keep them up to date.

5. Create a marketing plan

A marketing plan is essential to all new law firms. You’ll need to figure out how you are going to reach your target market, what you are willing to spend to acquire a client, what channels you’ll be using to get the word about your firm, and how you will measure the effectiveness of your efforts. We’ll talk more about marketing in the next section.

Once you have created a business plan, you need to look to your friends and other attorneys to critique it. You will benefit from getting as many eyes on your plan as possible.

Encourage your reviewers to poke holes in your business plan, so you can figure out possible solutions to problems now instead of waiting for them to crop up later on down the road. Remember the easiest time to affect the trajectory of a ship is before take off.

Marketing Plan

It will be difficult to impossible to build a successful law firm without some sort of marketing plan. As we stated before a good marketing plan lays out who your target client is and how you will reach them.

We’ve written at length about marketing for lawyers. So if you want to take a deep dive into different marketing channels, defining target markets, building a digital presence, and measuring your efforts, you can take a look at our lawyer marketing guide.

Build a Website Immediately

Full disclosure, we design, build, and host websites here at ONE400.

Regardless of what practice area your firm is going to serve you need to produce a website as soon as you decide you want to start your business.

Prospective clients judge you if you don’t have a website.

Your law firm’s website is your always on calling card. No potential client is going to look you up in the phone book (is that still a thing?). They are going to Google your firm’s name or they are going to find you organically through a search term like “personal injury lawyer near me.” Your website (for better or worse) will be the tool that educates potential clients about your firm. Your website should help you convert potential clients into paying clients.

We recommend using a professional webs design company to create your site. Just like most people won’t go to law school if they need a lawyer we don’t recommend that lawyers build their own websites unless they are willing to commit a lot of time and effort into understanding content creating, UX design, SEO principles, and analytics.

A professional law firm web design company will be able to help you create your vision online.

If you would like to learn more about what makes a good law firm website then check our web design for lawyers ultimate guide.

Build a Referral Network For Your Firm

Tell everyone you meet that you are starting a law firm. Reach out to other lawyers in your area and offer to buy them lunch, ask them how they get their cases. Once you’ve met with them and developed a relationship, ask them to send clients your way. Many will be happy to do so.

You also need to meet with people and who don’t practice in your area of the law, you can get many referrals this way, especially if your jurisdiction permits you to offer a referral fee to incentivizes people to send work your way.

Joining Organizations and Social Media Groups

Social media groups and professional organizations and places where you can find other professionals that are looking to amass and share knowledge about a particular area.  Linkedin groups for lawyers and marketers are great resources for getting questions answered and social media groups are free to join.

Starting your own law firm checklist and questionnaire

  1. What’s your budget?
  2. What are your start-up expenses?
  3. What are your monthly expenses?
  4. Who is your target market? Why do they need you?
  5. How will you attract them to your firm?
  6. What your firm’s name?
  7. What is your brand promise?
  8. How will you deliver on your brand promise?
  9. What is your practice area?
  10. How much will you charge for your services?
  11. Who are your competitors?
  12. How will you outcompete them?
  13. Do you have a professional website?
  14. How will you reach your target market?
  15. What are your long-term goals?
  16. What are your goals?
  17. How do your short-term goals contribute to your long-term goals?

Final Thoughts: You Can Do It

The most important thing to remember about starting your own law firm that you can do it.

If you need help along the way or have questions about this article don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Helping entrepreneurs service the legal industry is what gets us out of bed in the morning.

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About the author

Allen Rodriguez Allen Rodriguez is a legal product development strategist who has been serving the legal industry for over 21 years. Over the course of his career, Allen has built a reputation for creating innovative legal services products as well as developing highly effective law firm business and marketing strategies. Allen is a valued speaker on the topics of law marketing, legal services product development, and future of law issues.

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