Just about every lawyer dreams of having their name on the door. For some, this happens when they become a senior partner at the prestigious firm where they have toiled for 20 or 30 years, for others it happens when they set up their own legal practice.
For those who choose the latter, the question isn’t so much how to open a legal practice – that is relatively straightforward – rather it is how to ensure their practice is successful. Let’s be honest, determining success depends on how you define it. Assuming you don’t want to fall into these common reasons why law firms fail and you don’t define success as just keeping the lights on, then let’s take a deeper look at how to launch a successful legal practice.
Step 1: Know Your Strengths
The key to running a successful legal practice is to know what you do better than anyone else. For some, this might be litigation, while others might focus on family law or estate planning. Either way, you need to realize early on that your practice can’t be all things to all people. As such, pick a niche and then do it better than any of your competitors.
Once you know your strengths, then you can spend your time building out the support materials to solidify your position in the market. This could include publishing articles, speaking at conferences and seminars, getting interviewed by your local TV or radio stations, as well as making sure your website is up to date.
The goal is to make sure that you are seen as a ‘thought leader’ in the areas you believe are your strengths. If not, then you might need to rethink what your strengths truly are.
Step 2: Bill as if Your Life Depends on it
Because it does, especially in the beginning.
A law firm is only as good as what they can bill and for that reason, you want to make sure that you develop solid systems to track your time and bill your clients from day one. This includes utilizing an attorney timekeeping software solution to make sure you know exactly how much time you are spending helping your clients.
From there you want to make sure you have a solid system to invoice and get paid from your clients. Not only will this ensure that you get paid on time, it will also help you to determine which services are most profitable for you and your firm – something which can then be used to further develop your strengths.
Beyond this, you want to make sure that you are always billing, this means being open to taking on assignments as needed. Remember you only get one chance to onboard a client, so you need to grab it when it happens.
Step 3: Get Out of the Office
If you are running a new legal practice it is probably a safe bet that clients are not beating down your door – after all you are running a legal practice and not a Starbucks. As such, you want to get out of the office and meet the people in your community.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that you are always selling. Instead, you want to develop key relationships as these will lead to future business. Doing so might mean getting involved in community organizations, or just attending local networking events – this is also a great opportunity hone your presentation skilling by offering to give presentations to local groups.
Besides meeting people, another plus of getting out of the office is that it will allow you to keep a finger on the pulse of the community. This could be as simple as knowing when a local business is planning to expand or finding an opportunity to advise on a legal issue which is impacting the community.
Either way, this can’t happen if you lock yourself in the office – so make sure you get out every once and a while.
Step 4: Add Value for Your Clients
These days it is not enough to do good work; instead, you need to go above and beyond with every single assignment. While this might make it harder to have a life outside of your legal practice, the goal is to build a successful business.
As such, you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes (within the limits of the law and professional ethics) to do right by your clients. Doing so will help to burnish your reputation.
Step 5: There is no ‘I’ in Team
It might be your name on the door, you need to realize that building a successful legal practice is not something you can do on your own. As such, work on building a team who can support you every step of the way.
If you are worried about overheads, then bring on board virtual assistants and paralegals for starters – once your practice grows you can bring on full-time team members.
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Tags: Legal Practice , local business , Successful Business