After started a law firm best five things you need to know… A few years ago, when I moved back to Florida from Denver, I decided to start my own law firm. Since then, I have found a company in which I am very happy and I gladly closed the one-man shop.
I remember the time I spent building my company and wished I had the list I’m about to write. I think it would have saved a great deal of time and a lot of worry.
So, without further ado, here are the 5 things I wish I had known when I started a law firm:
Systems are meant to evolve and you don’t need to write the company manual on day one, especially if you’re the only employee.
Being a “systems guy,” he was certain that he needed to implement all the tasks, all the rules, all the technology, and anything else a well-oiled law firm would need from the moment of its inception. The reality was that he had no client to apply those tasks to.
If you were to start a business today, you would spend less time setting up systems and more time determining where and how to get customers.
Is it important to have a checklist of tasks? Yes. Is it necessary to have a list of deadlines so as not to miss any important dates for a case? Absolutely. But do you need an automatic 30-day reminder to request updated medical records and billing if you don’t have any clients? I think you get the point.
At my company, we update our systems and our automated task lists on a regular basis. We do it because they evolve. We get more information and data on how well they work the more we make them, and if necessary, we change them. Don’t be rigid with your company. Let him learn and grow like a living organism.
You don’t need high-powered case management software on day one. . . but don’t expect TOO much for one.
I struggled with this one. I love technology and I love implementing it in my day to day life even more. But the reality for a lawyer just starting out with his or her own firm is that the best case management software is intended to provide firm-wide consistency and streamline/unify multiple employees at various phases of cases.
A new business doesn’t have a need for that yet, and a smart cost saver would be to wait to invest in one until you can afford it.
That said, don’t expect too much. There are two major reasons:
- Importing cases from pre-existing case management software (or even no case management software if you weren’t using one) is a hassle. I’ll cover this in later posts, but having a bunch of cases to pull into your new case management software poses all kinds of challenges and takes a lot of time and effort. So the sooner you are able to invest in one of these software’s, the better.
- The hope is that you will find immediate and abundant success, and if you do, the cases will flow and you will have time problems. This will save you time to spend selecting software, learning the software, customizing it, and then transferring the cases you already had. This is a slippery slope, and if you’re not careful, you’ll be too far behind with too many cases and not enough time to install the software that can help with all of that.
So while I had to wind up, I think you can avoid expensive case management software, but hopefully not for long.
Broaden your horizons to get started quickly.
I made a cardinal mistake when I started my company. I decided I was going to do personal injury and estate planning, and that was it! I had so many moving parts to worry about that I couldn’t imagine researching and learning a new area of law at the same time. Mistake.
I networked with all my heart and got a lot of interested people, but they never seemed to require a personal injury or estate planning attorney. It was all something I agreed with myself that I was not going to practice.
A law firm is a marathon and not a sprint. In order to focus on the practice areas you want to practice, you need to keep the lights on in the meantime.
By practicing “door law,” or anything that comes through the door, you can build an income stream while you figure out how to get cases inside your wheelhouse.
Unless you open the business with an existing book of business, or somehow have an existing referral source, you’re probably wondering what to do with your day. If that’s the case, you should have enough time to research the area your potential client needs your help with and become familiar enough with it to represent them.
In case you’re wondering, being the perfectionist that I am, I’ve researched the ethical considerations of taking on a case you have no experience with, and the rules of the bar DO allow you to do so, as long as you properly study the area and feel competent. at the time of performance.
The moral of no. #3 is that you can’t be too picky at first. Take what you can to keep the lights on, and also remember that helping someone with their problem now could make you a referral source in the future!
Network like there’s no tomorrow, and then when tomorrow comes, do it again.
There is a sense of isolation if you are starting a business. You probably don’t have any employees or customers, and you spend your days making sure all the borders on your website are the right width and are parallel to each other. Just me? Okay.
One way to cure isolation and also find referral sources or leads is to network. There are the obvious events and groups, like your local bar association, but there are also plenty of networking groups to consider. Also, bar associations are full of lawyers, and unless you’re looking for a mentor, chances are you won’t get referrals from established lawyers, at least not right away.
Your local chamber of commerce is a great and affordable first step. I joined the North Tampa Chamber of Commerce when I started my business and they had many events from chamber breakfasts, happy hours, ribbon cuttings and many more.
The chamber has ambassadors to help you introduce yourself to people, and the cost, at least in my experience, was extremely affordable when you’re on a tight budget. This would be my recommended for first step.
There are also networking groups with various price ranges like PINS, BNI, Toastmasters, RGA, etc. in Florida. Some, like BNI, are once a week in the same place with the same people, and some offer many places and times throughout the week with a variety of different people.
You can usually attend these meetings multiple times without committing or paying, and I’d recommend checking out a variety of them to decide what works best for you.
You can also join service organizations that aren’t necessarily networking groups, but by getting involved and getting your name out there, you may be able to get referrals.
Some examples would be a local Rotary club, Kiwanis clubs, etc. I joined a Rotary club as soon as I could when I started my business and met a lot of great people.
In fact, I quickly met the CMO of my company and she facilitated a meeting with my boss that led me to close my company and join her.
There are probably multiple events going on every day in your community, it’s just a matter of getting out there and letting people know who you are and what you do.
This is an intimidating proposition for most, but I assure you that face-to-face networking is one of the most important methods of getting your business off the ground.
Take every opportunity to have coffee or lunch with anyone you meet, BUT REMEMBER, you’re not necessarily selling your services to that person!
When you go online, you should schedule coffee and lunch with anyone you can. It doesn’t matter if they are a “logical” network connection for your practice. Knowing members of your community could give you leads or connections to people they know who need your help now, and certainly could in the future.
But if you remember anything from this post, remember this: You shouldn’t try to sell your services to the person you’re interacting with (unless she wants you to, of course). You are making a meaningful connection with that person so they feel comfortable sending you to their friends, co-workers, etc. now and in the future.
If you try to sell to them during the networking meeting too hard or too persistently, they may feel like you were just setting up a sales meeting/presentation, and not a networking opportunity.
You might think, “Hey, I’m trying to get this company off the ground and I have this person in front of me, so I’m not going to waste this opportunity.” That makes logical sense, but if you think of that meeting as establishing a strong branch on a tree that hasn’t grown yet, do you think of how many other new branches will sprout from that branch?
Don’t be too short-sighted by trying to sell during the networking meeting and missing out on a potential long-term friend/referral source.
There are so many other lessons I learned from starting my company, but I’ll save them for another post. I hope this gives you some confidence in yourself and your abilities.