There are many reasons that you might want to start your own law firm. Maybe you’re tired of being passed over for a promotion at your current partnered firm, or you’re ready for greater freedom and flexibility in the cases you take.
Whatever your reason, it’s important to start on the right foot. Here are three essential steps any attorney should use when starting a law firm.
Choose Your Specialty
Just like doctors specialize in a particular type of medicine, attorneys must choose a legal specialty. Specializing allows you to become an expert in a particular field of law and give better advice than if you were practicing general law.
It’s okay to dip your toe in the water of different specialties to see what you’ll enjoy practicing.
“It is always said that it’s better to jump into a pool feet first than to dive in head first and it’s that mentality that will help you choose a legal specialty,” says Jaros Abraham of Legal Career Path. This means that it’s always easier to leave one industry and try learning another if you’re not fully submerged in the coursework, practicums, and years of study.
“…Don’t think you have to make a decision about your specialty before you get into a training program,” he continues. “Very few law firms expect a candidate to already have an area picked out.”
However, you should have a general idea of what you want to do, whether you want to be a probate lawyer, who typically works outside of a courtroom, or a criminal defense attorney, who sees a lot of action in front of a judge and jury. Make your final decision within the first year or two of law school so you can specialize before you get too many years of the wrong profession under your belt.
Find a Place to Practice
After you’ve defined your specialty and finished law school, find a place to set up your practice. This may be an obvious next step, but that doesn’t make it easy.
Many attorneys gravitate to their hometown to be near their family and friends. It’s a natural inclination, but that shouldn’t be the deciding factor for your final location.
The most important thing is choosing an area that has a need for your services. There should be a gap in legal coverage in that area that your legal expertise will fill. Finding clientele won’t be nearly as challenging if you’re solving an obvious problem rather than over saturating the market.
For example, if you open a personal injury law firm in a city of 20,000 people that’s serviced by five existing personal injury law firms, you’ll have steep competition that will severely challenge your success. You might have better luck setting up shop an hour away in a town of the same size with only one personal injury attorney.
Use Online Marketing to Gain Clients
You’ve finished your degree, chosen your location, put down a deposit on an office, and now it’s time to build clientele. You don’t have the luxury of inheriting clients, like you would if you were joining a partnered firm or buying out an old practice. The key, then, is relying heavily on marketing.
Online marketing for law firms focuses primarily on getting your name out there. It will involve improving your website design, boosting search rankings through search engine optimization (SEO), Good Adwords campaigns, social media marketing, native advertising, and other digital forms of marketing.
When starting out, it’s probably best to outsource the marketing to a firm that knows how to maximize your presence in a new place. You need clientele as quickly as possible so you can cover business expenses and make a profit. You can focus on providing excellent legal advice while your legal online marketing firm will help you find and keep clients.