If you are a lawyer, then one of your life goals may be to set up your own law firm. In order to succeed at this, you need to not only have skills as a lawyer, but also as an entrepreneur. As with any business proposal, you need to think about it in a logical way and follow some steps to ensure you cover all bases and don’t hang yourself out to dry. Here is some basic information to get your wheels moving in the right direction.
The first step, of course is to have a plan of what you want to achieve. In all forms of business, it is important that you have a sound business plan in order to convince potential investors that they will not lose if they decide to put money into your new company. This master plan also allows you to understand your own ideas down to the smallest detail and helps you clarify what you are really trying to achieve and what the potential outlay will be if you do not succeed in your new venture.
One huge thing to think about is your business premises. Whilst you may logically think it would be easier and cheaper to work from home, you have to think about your clients expectations and how they view your credibility. Would it not seem strange for someone to be paying a lot of money for a solicitor yet that professional does not have their own premises? Would this seem that you are unprofessional? In my mind, it would, so I would definitely be looking at office premises as a must have in my new business.
It is important to remember however, the added cost and stress that having an office brings. If you have ever moved house, you will be well aware of what a stressful experience that can be. Obviously, there is a huge financial burden to think about when signing a long term lease, but fit out costs can also be very expensive and management of this whole part of getting your business off the ground can need an entirely different skill set to what you are used to as a lawyer or solicitor. At this stage, it is important to link up with someone who knows exactly what they are doing so you don’t make any silly mistakes that could potentially cost you a lot of money.
Owning a business also means that you must have professional indemnity insurance which can be a significant cost if you do not hunt around for a good deal. Starting a new company as a solicitor in the UK also means you must register with the SRA – The Solicitors Regulation Authority. These are not the only two things you need to worry about. It is really important that you seek advice from someone who can explain all the ins and outs or starting up your new firm as very recently, some solicitors were getting fined as they had breached the Data Protection Act because they had not notified the Information Commissioners Office. Unfortunately, there are many similar pitfalls that can swallow you up when starting a new business and they change on a regular basis. Something like this really does require expert advice from someone who has a constant finger on the pulse, otherwise you are bound to miss something and big fines will be imposed.
Many people also worry about how they are going to go about getting clients. The obvious answer is referral work but that can often not be enough. You should have a strategy in place to gain clients on a month to month basis. One hugely untapped area is the online world. With more and more people gaining access to the internet every year, other forms of advertising are starting to have less and less impact. General publications get your name out but your audience is not particularly targeted. However, with internet search engines, you can receive properly targeted prospective clients.
There is generally two ways to get new business off the internet via search engines. You can, and should pay for adverts that show up next to the search engine results when a person types in a search term. You can laser target what terms you want to show up for and get some great leads from this method. Alternatively, you may wish to set up your own website so that your prospective clients can find you but that means you will have to get involved, or pay for, search engine optimisation and try to get listings in a local business directory. That is way beyond the scope of this article but is definitely a great way to find new customers for your fledgling business.
As you can see, starting your own law firm will require many skills, as well as your knowledge of the law, in order for it to be successful. Calling on other professions is all part of this process and trying to take on the micro management of all these elements is likely to lead to an extremely stressful start or maybe failure. Good luck!