We live in a world growing full of limitless opportunities to start your own service or business. If you are looking to start your own law firm in the next few years, you’ll need to know what exactly you need to get started. Go talk to an established lawyer who owns a small practice or read on and get a basic understanding of what you will need.
Professional expenses are necessities you have to have in order to run a legal practice. These include:
- legal licensing
- continuing legal education (CLEs)
- malpractice insurance
- fees for association memberships
You’ve got to have licensing and go to yearly CLEs to legally practice law. Insurance and memberships at associations for your area of practice aren’t required but help you sustain and grow your business (especially if you get sued). Insurance provides security and memberships provide you with a community and encouragement.
Virtual or Brick and Mortar?
Some people advocate that it is possible to run a law practice without an actual office. By utilizing coffee shops or meeting clients at their home, you can avoid the costs of rent and property maintenance. However, the time you lose from not having an office might not be worth it in the long run. Public meeting places are full of distractions and you might not want your clients to know where you live. You can either try this by having your home base literally at home and meetings in public places or explore some other options:
- shared office space—
Have you ever looked into shared office spaces? Usually these involve cheap overhead and an environment of like-minded hard working people. Here’s an example.
- virtual law firms—
The need for secretaries and a vast array of office software is slowly coming to an end because more and more businesses are switching to a virtual practice. This includes software that tracks your time and billing expenses, organizes all your documents however you house your digital data (making them more accessible than a wall of filing cabinets), and even monitoring your schedule and calendar.
- cloud based data storage—
This is an invention that has revolutionized the way offices operate. You can store all your documents in a cloud based data storage system. This allows them to get rid of filing cabinets, easily share data with clients and peers, access data from any mobile device and, therefore, work from anywhere.
- smaller offices thanks to virtual practice—
Through the use of virtual based practices you can drastically limit the amount of space you need for an office. Basically, since you don’t need any room for storage or other employees, you could have a one room office for meetings with your clients and get research done from the law library or in your office. Whatever is more comfortable.
After you’ve decided where you will run your office, now it’s time to get supples. First you will need office supplies:
- office (duh)
- office supplies
This is a relatively small investment other than signing a lease on an office (again, look for shared office space if you want cheaper overhead), but it is a necessary one because you need to be presentable and appear dependable to clients and possible clients. You will be going up against lawyers who have years of experience and who have more money for advertising and marketing campaigns than you do, so you’ll need to appear as established as you can.
Depending on how virtual you decide to go, you’ll have to determine what hardware and software you’ll need to purchase. First get your hardware:
Decide whether you want a laptop or desktop. If you are using cloud data storage then you won’t need a huge internal drive to store documents. Make sure to get a computer from the business line and not the consumer line if you go with Dell or Lenovo . Mackbooks are recommended by this lawyer who offers some sound advice about other products you need to purchase.
- Document Scanner—
It’s better than purchasing a copier like in the good ‘ol days. Get a scanner so you can quickly get documents onto your computer and send them to who you need via email or your cloud service.
A good printer isn’t too hard to find. HP Laserjets generally last and function well.
Get a separate line for your work life. You need to have boundaries once you get started working. Using your personal cell instead of a work phone is just asking for discrepancies and stressful situations.
Then, get your software:
- Practice Management Software—
When you start looking for cloud based data storage, you need to also start working on finding some good project management software. Generally you can use QuickBooks from Microsoft for accounting services and you can choose from an array of Practice Management Software . This software needs to be able to perform these tasks:
- case management
- time tracking and billing
- contact management
- calendars and docketing
Go to this link to find out more on Project mangement softeware.
As you can see, it’s going to be somewhat expensive getting your firm started. After you’ve gotten all the practice essentials together, you’ll need to start thinking about marketing and advertising to boost your clientele. Talk to other lawyers who started out on their own and get and find out how your local market functions. Internet marketing firms like this one spend hours each week ensureing that their clients have a solid web presence because so many people use the internet to find the services and products they need.
Jeremy Smith is a blogger at the McMinn Law Firm in Austin, Texas where small business is encouraged and grassroot campaigns flourish.