Best Practice: First steps to start a law firm
Asked and Answered
By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
Q. I am a non-equity partner in a large law firm in LA. I have been practicing for 15 years and with the recent economic turmoil we have experienced in our firm, downsizing, and overall uncertainty I have recently been considering starting my own firm. What are initial steps in starting up a law firm?
A. While there is an entire list of start-up steps that need to be taken when launching a law firm here are a few to get you started and the order to be taken:
- Create a business plan - even if only a few pages - for the firm. Your plan will serve as a roadmap for your practice. Your mission should address what services you are selling, where you are selling them, and to whom. Your plan should address your competitive strategy - how you will be different than your competitors. It should also identify your core values. A vision for 5 years out into the future as to where you would like to see the firm and specific goals and objectives should be formulated.
- Select your firm name. Think long and hard about your firm name. What name will have staying power as you grow? Will it play well with internet search engines? Can you get your firm name as a internet domain name? Determine organizational form and incorporate into firm name and branding.
- Staffing. Determine whether you will hire staff initially and your staffing needs going forward. Incorporate into your office space, furniture and furnishings, and equipment needs.
- Office. Decide on office space, negotiate your lease, and obtain your business address. Commence on the process to make space ready and furnish and equip.
- Business Identity. Hire a graphic design firm to begin the design of your business identity and carry this design plan into all of your collateral marketing materials including web site, letterhead, office signage, business cards, etc.
- Banking and Registrations. Obtain FEIN number(s), register business with required organizations, file organizational documents, open bank accounts.
- Website. Develop a first class web site that demonstrates expertise.
- Furnishings and Equipment. Begin selecting office furniture and furniture as well as equipment, computers, software, etc.
- Insurance. Obtain all needed insurance including premises liability, malpractice insurance, medical, life, workers compensation, disability, etc. Insure that you obtain appropriate tail coverage with your malpractice insurance.
- Start-Up Project Plan. Maintain a project plan for all of the activities and tasks and monitor weekly as the plan unfolds.
Incorporate appropriate client, court and other notifications required by the rules of professional conduct in your state or jurisdiction.
Good luck on your journey!
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC,(www.olmsteadassoc.com) is a past chair and member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Law Office Management and Economics. For more information on law office management please direct questions to the ISBA listserver, which John and other committee members review, or view archived copies of The Bottom Line Newsletters. Contact John at email@example.com.