Careers & Education

Starting a law firm

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Some things you should know before opening a law office

Starting a law firm can be as frightening a concept as any horror flick you will ever dare to watch in its own particular way. Beginning any business venture that is backed by dreams, good intentions but no cash, clients or real experience to speak of is as scary (if not more so) as any celluloid creature lurking in that creepy black lagoon. The uncertainty is like an elephant in the room; not knowing if you will make any money, not understanding which area is best for specialization and not having the necessary equipment and supplies to work with.

Despite the pitfalls, starting a law firm can be a thrilling adventure as you build upon something that only thrives in your mindís eye and your deepest heart. In the beginning, you may have to do your own legal research until you can afford to hire a staff. Devise a checklist of all the things that are necessary for success in your field, understanding that the list will vary depending on your individual needs, the type of law you will practice, staffing needs, and various other factors.

What are some things to keep in mind when starting a law firm?

1- Name your law firm

Whatís in a name? Shakespeare and roses by other names just being roses aside, the answer is: plenty. Naming your new law firm in some ways is one of the most important decisions you will make as your firm will be forever connected to the name you select. Traditionally, the names of the attorneys comprised the name of the firm, but today the trend is to pick a name that relates more to the firmís area of practice. Select carefully; once done, there is no turning back.

2- Location of the law firm andÖlocation

A key consideration in starting a law firm is the choice of its location. For many beginners, home is the law office as it is a big help in cutting financial corners. Eventually, however, a home office will not meet the needs of a burgeoning law firm, as it is not practical when it comes to meeting new clients. For this reason, picking a location from the onset is a much more viable option. One way to decrease costs is to share office space with other professionals.

3- Office equipment and supplies

If you are going to run a law office effectively, there is no getting around the need for office furniture, office supplies and equipment. This includes: desks, chairs, cabinets, book-shelves, stationery, pens, pencils, date stamps, staplers, file folders etc etc. When starting a law firm, you will also need to invest in some electronic equipment. This might include: a telephone system, computers, printers, copiers, fax machine, and calculator.

4- Permits, licenses and registration numbers

When starting a law firm, you must keep things legal and set a good example! Your law practice will most surely require a federal Employer ID Number (EIN) and check with your state and local government offices to determine if there are additional licensing requirements varying by locale.

5- Staff

Just like that old song about no man being an island, no law office stands alone. Thereís no question that it is a lot cheaper for one attorney to perform the every day tasks of running a law practice, but is it the best way for a lawyer to spend his or her time in the long run? Filing and staffing phones are tasks that should be handled by a worker who does only those things, freeing the attorney for that which he or she was trained to do.

6- Library

When starting a law firm, one way to save money is to pick a location that is near an accessible law library. Eventually, any law firm will want to invest in a decent library, but for someone starting out, it is an expensive proposition. There are also online sources available.

7- Malpractice insurance

No law firm can survive without malpractice insurance. Obtaining and maintaining professional liability and additional applicable insurance is crucial. Shop around for the best prices.

8- Marketing and advertising

When starting a law firm, you must determine what type of marketing and advertising you will use. Some options to consider might include: Yellow pages, online advertising, newsletters, brochures, signage, and business cards. When starting a law firm, be prepared to learn as you go. Do as much research as you can and study what has made other law firms successful.

Hang in there!

None of us can live without the practiced guidance of the law.

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