It’s Monday morning, and you sit at your desk covered in stacks of paperwork. You look over your never ending to-do list (sigh), check your hectic calendar, and remember that you have a meeting with that client you’ve not been looking forward to talking to.
Your boss approaches your desk looking well rested after spending the weekend at their second home, and demands you revise an argument for court and have it on their desk by lunchtime. You’re worn out from working non-stop, and you wonder to yourself – “why am I doing this? I want what they have. I want to have more freedom to call the shots.”
Well, you can. Since the pandemic, thought leaders and business gurus across the globe have shouted about building something for yourself instead of someone else.
If you’re considering the incredible adventure of starting your solo law firm, we’ve compiled a list of 8 considerations that will get you on your way.
Consider the benefits
There are many benefits to becoming your own boss. Obviously, the potential for a higher income (talk about giving yourself a yearly raise, because you can!), and not answering to higher ups are top of the list, but there are other benefits too.
You can decide what clients you take on, choose to specify in a certain area of the law, set your prices how you want, and you can build something from the ground up based on your values.
All that said, there are some changes you can expect when starting your own law firm. Once you take the leap, you’re no longer just a lawyer. You’re a business owner first and foremost. Which means your job now comes with all the business operations and tasks that keep your doors open (yes, that means business plans, cash flow forecasts, accounting and more!). You won’t be able to “just practice the law” anymore, and the growth of your law firm lies at your feet.
As with most things in life, there’s give and take. You need to decide what is most important to you and what will help you lead a fulfilled life and career. With that said, here are the 8 considerations when staring your solo law firm.
Home or Away – Finding a great location
In their 2021 Legal Industry Report, MyCase noted that remote working in the legal world is here to stay. They reported that 53% of firms would allow their lawyers and staff to work remotely full time, and 70% said they would allow it part-time.
The beauty of starting your solo law firm is that you can work to fit your lifestyle. If you’re a parent, carer, or simply feel like you work more efficiently in a home office, you can do that. You would certainly save the added costs associated with working from a location, which could be used to grow your team or market your services.
On the flip side, your clients may prefer to sit down with their lawyer and speak to them in person.. But in the beginning, your choice of remote, office-based, or a hybrid option will ultimately come down to the resources you have available.
The question everyone has on their mind when planning the transition from employee to owner is – how much money do I need set aside? There are two parts to this answer. The first being how much you need personally, and the second being how much is needed to physically get the business up and running.
For your personal finances, financial advisors suggest saving 3-6 months living expenses in case you’re unable to pay yourself a salary during those initial months, where it’s not uncommon for firms to see little profit as their business begins to build.
In terms of getting the business up and running, the answer is a little more complicated, because it depends on many factors. For example, renting an office will require a larger percentage of your budget, and is an ongoing expense you need to account for. It’s location and size will also play into exactly how much this will be. Other considerations include office equipment, software, insurance, and the cost of hiring a legal assistant/secretary.
In your early days, you’re probably unable to rely on word of mouth and referrals from previous clients, so marketing your services will be essential to your firm’s survival. The important thing is to be consistent. Everyone talks about this, and you probably already know it’s important, but many businesses still struggle with it!
A downfall of many businesses is due to what many coaches call the cycle of feast and famine. They have current clients and put all their energy into completing the work, and stop actively trying to fill their future pipeline. Then, when the work is done, they need to hustle to get more clients, because they weren’t consistently promoting their services.
There are many ways to market your business, including building a brand presence on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram, blogging, digital advertising, print advertising, hosting webinars, etc. The important thing to remember when creating your marketing strategy is to make it sustainable and realistic. Quality trumps quantity, so don’t try to be a jack of all trades and master of none.
Tapping into your network
If you want to build your client base and grow your firm’s reputation and revenue, you should be looking for new opportunities everywhere you go. Capitalizing on your network, which is probably bigger than you realize, is a great way to tap into potential opportunities. The crutch is, you won’t know unless you ask. And if you don’t, you could be leaving huge amounts of money on the table.
You’ve been growing your network throughout your life, in high school, college, your career, and even with your hobbies and friendship circles. Grab every chance to talk to people about your services, because they may know someone in need. Doing this could mean the difference between tapping into your 6-month emergency fund or not.
Like lawyers, you get what you pay for when it comes to website design and copywriting. It’s important to remember that this is your biggest digital asset, and often a potential client’s first impression of you. Any hint of mediocre will send them to your competitor, and a bad user experience leaves a bad impression of what the rest of your services could look like.
According to WebFX, 75% of website credibility comes from design. From fraudsters to simply less experienced law firms, you don’t want your design to lump you in the same category, because you will lose potential clients if your website design doesn’t show you to be professional, trustworthy, and customer-centric.
For the words you use, Write My Site reports that visitors will only read 20% of your page content. It’s critical to ensure that every word is carefully chosen and connects with your audience to secure their business.
Most people automatically think of names and logos, taglines, color schemes and font styles when it comes to branding. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
Think of your business like a person. There’s a personality behind it, not just a pretty face. Branding includes your tone of voice, identity, and values. Branding even includes the impressions you leave when interacting with anyone outside your business.
All these things combined make your business recognizable, and will either attract or repel people from working with you. Because of this, 75% of companies say building brand awareness is one of their top priorities.
Legal document automation is a system or workflow that helps create electronic documents using data already collected. It is used to speed up the drafting process, so you can focus on activities that move the needle, provide better customer service, reduce margin for human error, and maintain/increase profit margins.
Using a documentation tool, like Woodepcker, reduces the pitfalls of manual drafting, including relying on your memory, missing small details, missing parts of a document, and using out-of-date or incorrect versions.
According to Workmarket’s 2020 In(Sight) Report, 54% of employees said they could save 240 hours annually using automation. If you worked a 40 hour work week, automation would give you back 6 weeks of time! As a new business owner with additional responsibilities, that is precious time you can’t afford to lose.
What does success look like?
FInally, you should consider how you’re going to measure success. Success is a relative term and while one’s definition of success is earning enough money to buy a yacht, other people define it as a healthy work balance or practising the area of law you’re passionate about.
There’s no right or wrong, only what you need to be fulfilled in your entrepreneurial venture. Defining success in the beginning helps with goal setting, keeps you motivated, and helps get you back on track when you find yourself shifting the goal posts.
Part of defining success is also deciding what values and principles you’d like to built your firm on such as health and wellbeing, family, gratitude, philanthropy, etc. These values not only help you in decision making as your business grows, it attracts like-minded clients to you that you’ll enjoy working with. The more you enjoy your work, the more enthusiasm you’ll radiate which will result in better customer service and healthy bottom line.
Let Woodpecker help you on your journey
We can’t help you a hire an office or design your logo, but we can help you claw back the precious hours you would normally spending manually drafting repetitive legal documents so you can get back to those all important business tasks and carve more time to actually practice law and invest in your clients.
Transform your document creation process by drafting contracts in minutes, populating multiple documents at once, and automatically pulling client data from your CRM to create custom legal documents.
If you use Microsoft Word, we can simplify your workflows, and help you get back precious time that is better spent elsewhere. See for yourself – Start your free trial of Woodpecker’s Word add-in today!