Launching a law practice – whether solo or with partners – is a daunting enterprise, to say the least.
The list of to-do items can include everything from opening bank accounts to closing on a commercial real estate purchase.
Also: in addition to being an attorney, you’ll be assuming new roles.
“For many lawyers, owning your own law firm is a major career milestone and personal goal,” writes attorney Dan Christensen in this post for Attorney at Work. “Starting a law practice, however, can mean facing fierce competition. It also means adding ‘business owner’ and leader to your resume, which comes with a whole new range of responsibilities and challenges.”
In his article, Starting a Law Practice: 10 Lessons, Christensen, who owns the personal injury firm DC Law in Austin, Texas, cites two character traits he says were essential to his own startup success.
“I may not always be the smartest person in the room, but I am usually the hardest-working,” he writes. “I also know I won’t have the answer to every question, so I make a point of surrounding myself with smart people who have professional experience that varies from my own.”
Read “Starting a Law Practice: 10 Lessons,” here.
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Three Key Questions to Ask Yourself
Law schools do a good job of teaching you how to think like a lawyer. But they generally fall short of teaching you how to create, capitalize and launch a business entity – i.e., a law firm – in which you can do all that legal thinking.
“The skills that it takes to run a business aren’t the same skills it takes to practice law,” according to this post at Lawyerist. “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.”
Before making the jump, Lawyerist suggests you ask these three questions.
1. Do I actually want to be involved in the entire running of the business?
2. Am I committed to being a business owner and leader – not just an attorney?
3. Do I consider the time I spend working on the business as important as my billable work?
If you answered these questions in the affirmative, says Lawyerist, there’s one more you need to answer: what is your vision for your new practice?
“You’ll hear people say that your vision needs to be a snappy one-liner you can throw out during networking parties. We don’t agree. Yes, your vision should be clear, measurable, and easy to talk about, but condensing your dreams and plans into one sentence can be confining. Use this time to write as much as you need. This is the first step to putting the foundation down for your law firm key performance indicators.”
Here are some of the steps Lawyerist suggests for making your vision a reality:
- Develop a mission and values statement
- Have a written business plan
- Have a budget
- Consider pricing, fees, billing and other financial issues
- Set short-term and long-term goals
- Think of specific ways to deliver stellar client service
- Use key performance indicators to measure progress
- Do a market analysis of competing firms in your practice areas and geographic proximity
- Build strong peer relationships
- Take care of yourself
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