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Solo Attorneys Offer 3 Do’s and Don’ts for Opening a Law Firm

Solo Attorneys Offer 3 Do’s and Don’ts for Opening a Law Firm

Note: The following is a post from contributor Carla Del Bove, who provides support to the business of law software product line within the LexisNexis software division.

Tenacity, confidence and planning were named among key factors in helping three attorneys launch their own law firms. These lawyers spoke from personal experiences in front of a packed room of fellow lawyers, during the 2015 Annual Super Marketing Conference co-sponsored by Mass LOMAP and the ABA Law Practice Division.

3 Do’s As Told by Solo Attorneys

Here are a few pieces of advice they offered their colleagues about what works and what doesn’t work when you’re trying to branch out on your own in an increasingly competitive legal marketplace.

1. Do have a Marketing and Business Plan. One attorney, who now owns and runs two successful law firms in Massachusetts and teaches her learnings to other young attorneys in her local community, recommends having a business plan with key targets at the outset of starting a law firm. Here’s what she had to say about it,

“Have a marketing and business plan in place when you are starting your own firm. This includes any long-term business goals and a well thought out strategy for how the firm is going to retain and will new clients.”

She also reminded the audience to, “always revisit the plan and use it as a tool not only to grow the firm, but learn from trial and error.”

2.  Do Focus on Quality. Another attorney and solo firm owner, recommended tracking and growing clients based on the quality of the relationship:

“It’s less about the numbers and more about the quality of the source or client.”

In other words, it’s better to have five good clients, who pay bills in a timely fashion and communicate effectively, than 15 who do not. Another attorney recommended investing in law firm practice management tools to help inform and catalogue good, quality leads and existing clients.

3.  Do Find Good Mentors. All three attorneys unanimously agreed that while law school prepared them to practice and interpret the law, what it didn’t do was prepare them for how to run a real business. The attorneys talked about the importance of finding mentors to help learn about the practical aspects involved in running a business. They also recommended looking into free resources such as local bar associations and doing online research to help inform the process:

 “There is value in learning to how to run a business from anybody, starting is law firm is not very different to getting people to come to a new restaurant, it’s about getting clients to invest in your firm.”

3 Don’ts As Told by Solo Attorneys

There are also a few pitfalls to avoid in starting a law practice.  Here’s what the speakers said:

1.  Don’t Listen to Naysayers. Another attorney, who now runs a thriving law practice in downtown Boston, there were plenty of people who told her to give up on her dream of opening her own firm and instead, recommended she look for a job at an “established firm.” Here’s what she had to say about dealing with negative forces,

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, there were plenty of people who told me I couldn’t do it.” The she added, instead of focusing on a few negative comments, keep the end goal in sight and stay positive.

2.  Don’t Put All Your Eggs in The Same Basket. The attorneys unequivocally agreed it is important to diversify the firm’s marketing efforts as much as possible. While the bulk of the attorneys admitted a large majority of their clients are referrals based, that can’t be relied on as the firm’s sole strategy to win and retain new clients.

Instead, they offered other creative ways to market their firms. Whether it is through blogging on timely legal issues or attending industry events, all avenues should be considered and explored. One attorney said blogging monthly helped her broaden her presence to a national audience. Another attorney, who runs two law firms, now pays an outside vendor to help her write blog posts and manage SEO for her firms. She also recommended honing in on groups and/or organizations that are most important to firm.  In other words, fish where the fish are:

“I try to dedicate 10 hours a week on networking, but now I only attend events that more focused such as the Women’s Bar Association, since I am targeting young families with children.”

3.  Don’t Underestimate the Power of Online Reviews. The attorneys all agreed it is important to take the time to fill out profiles on relevant attorney rating sites like AVVO and Yelp, etc. According to the attorney who runs two successful law practices, having a strong profile on AVVO has a great impact on her firms’ SEO. She also encouraged the attorneys in the audience not to shy away from asking happy clients to write a positive review about their experience. In fact, she added, this is precisely how she landed one of her firm’s largest divorce clients.

Final Words of Wisdom

At the end of their discussion, the attorneys were asked to share a few words of wisdom to any of their colleagues who might be considering starting their own law firms. Here are a few final thoughts that stuck with us:

  • “Treat your firm like a business and remember it’s a long-term commitment.”
  • “Find good mentors you can learn from.”
  • “Don’t underestimate the power of networking or a good blog.”

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
4 Expert Social Media Tips to Help Attorneys “Survive and Thrive”

Photo credit: Flickr, Rob Bixby (CC BY 2.0)

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About Contributing Writer

Contributing Writer
This bio page is used to publish submissions by contributing writers. We welcome contributions from the legal community and are especially keen for contributions from our customers. Please review previous submissions published here and the “About Us” section to get a sense for what topics work for this blog. All posts must be original content not published elsewhere for at least 30 days. To submit an idea for consideration, please email blsssocial@lexisnexis.com.

I really like how you said to not to listen to naysayers. Law firms are a very competitive market and can be saturated in some states. I'm almost done with law school and would like to start my own practice. How many years of experience should I get before I start my own practice?