I opened my law practice in 2015. Looking back, there are a few things I am glad I did, and a few I wish I had done. Here, I have attempted to share my best tips and advice for setting up a modern law practice
Write down your plan. In law school, we do not learn how to write a business plan and what a business plan should include. Luckily, there is a lot of information online about the essential parts of a business plan, including a marketing plan, your budget, your goals, and your firm’s growth. The one thing I wish I had done better when I wrote my business plan was to take the time to understand numbers, and particularly the vital role that analytics play in the success of a modern law firm—from key performance indicators, to A/B testing, to growth goals for each year or even each month or day. If you are not tracking your success, how will you know when you have achieved your goals? This plan should be a living document, and you should update it constantly as you find the differences between your goals and your results.
Evolve constantly. Legal technology is a world unto itself. It is constantly evolving, mostly for the better, and this means that each day you have new resources to run your firm more efficiently. Without becoming too bogged down in the minutia of technological resources, constantly ask yourself how you can improve your firm’s efficiency and what tasks don’t need an attorney’s time or attention. Leverage technology to make your life and practice easier.
Be mindful and be kind to yourself. There is a mental health epidemic in the legal world, and we don’t often take care of ourselves because there is always someone else we need to take care of—an employee, a client (or many), a client’s mother or children, vendors we need to pay, our families, our mentees, our neighbor. This is most true for solo and small firm attorneys because we wear many hats and have less administrative support. Recognize that you are one person, and be kind to yourself on your journey to opening a law firm. Set realistic expectations and goals, and if you start to fall short, change the goals instead of being hard on yourself.
A word about confidence. We recognize the need to portray confidence to clients, but often we feel as if we don’t deserve the positive accolades from clients, from bar associations, from our families, or from our peers. The place where I fell short in the beginning was that I did not price my services properly and undervalued myself often. I gave away a lot of my time for free—and sometimes still do—even though I constantly receive positive feedback from referral sources, peers, and clients. A lack of confidence because of your background, because of a lack of mentorship, or because of the initial desire to capture many clients can set you up for failure in your own mind. This is particularly true of minorities and lawyers from financially disadvantaged backgrounds, who feel out of place in the legal profession. A conversation about “imposter syndrome” among attorneys is long overdue, and so are the solutions. A lack of confidence can make attorneys work twice as hard for half as much revenue and reward. If this is something you face, surround yourself with positive people in a safe space and ask them (and yourself) what you can do to change.
In my experience, it was not the business of law or learning about marketing that were my biggest challenges; it was my mind-set. Being a solo attorney can be equally isolating and rewarding, and my best advice is to remember that you have made it this far, and you have come to a point for which other attorneys wait decades. You have a plan, your legal education, and if you are reading this article, you have the resources of the American Bar Association supporting you. You’ve got this! n