As all of us get back from our summer distractions, this is the time of the year that thoughts of starting a new law practice come into bloom. Those in other firms planning such a leap are looking toward the new year. Those who have graduated are awaiting the bar exam to be scored and posted.
You can worry night and day about the legal structure of your new firm, your logo, how your office is arranged, research tools, how you might hire staff and the like, but the only thing that currently matters is how you will you find paying clients? You need to focus like a laser on this aspects, even if doing so means starting out with an office comprised entirely of a cell phone and a board over the sink in your bathroom. The major objective need only be well paying clients. Most all else can wait.
Therefore, if you wish to venture out on your own, here are three priorities:
1. Know your mission in life. In short, have you welded yourself to a practice niche? Are you enthusiastic about it? What makes your chosen niche special to the public? Can you express that excitement and benefit? First and foremost, this is how you shake up the legal marketplace and make yourself known. If you cannot become known, you will not obtain enough paying clients. Especially law graduates starting out, this allows you to sell the benefit of your niche as opposed to your lack of credentials. (Few wish to pay much of value for a new lawyer with little experience, but many will pay good value to have an identifiable problem resolved).
2. Build strong relationships. Do you have a law license, yet? It does not matter. You must start indentifying those people, groups, associations and organizations which can refer you paying clients. You need to get active with these people, groups, associations and organizations -- NOW. For example, if you wish to represent buyers and sellers in regard to their residential real estate transactions, you might need to get involved in the various Realtor associations. Likewise, if you wish to do some type of consumer litigation, you might need to make introduction with the bankruptcy bar. You must start to make yourself known. Meet and greet. Burn the shoe leather. Kick ass and take names. No matter how crude you can make it sound, there is no substitute for it.
3. Keep your startup overhead outrageously low. What mainly kills a burgeoning law practice is the amount of business you must bring in before you take money home. I constantly hear new lawyers state their main concern about going out on their own is making enough money to provide for their families. That is exactly right. But, for every expense added on the office or law firm side, that is just one more dollar that must be earned before providing for family needs. You might like to fight the thought, but you can practice, at least for while, at little or no cost than what you are already spending. Take home earnings is a luxury you cannot do without.
The sad truth is that most lawyers fail because they concentrate their limited time, attention and resources on process over obtaining clients. Do not make this mistake.