Are You Ready to Leave Your Firm & Go Out on Your Own?
By Terrie S. Wheeler
Create a business plan. Don’t jump into your new practice with a “Ready. Fire. Aim.” approach. Rather, spend time contemplating your business goals. What are your overall growth objectives? What menu of services will you offer and to whom? What are your income projections, as well as monthly expense projections? How will you manage your cash flow? How will you bring your business plan to life with marketing strategies?
Get your office in order. After you find office space, you will want to select your choice of entity and register your new business with the secretary of state’s office. In addition, you will want to secure any necessary permits and licenses including your new Tax ID number. Look at innovative solutions for your office equipment, telephone and computer systems and other tools like copiers and scanners.
Create your systems. Depending on your practice area, you may want to invest in practice management or practice-specific software (for example, software made for immigration lawyers to track workflow). Also on your list will be accounting, time and billing, conflict checking and client communications software. Most of these tools are now available in the form of se- cure online subscriptions and will not require the large cash investments lawyers had to make in the past.
Secure your website domain. Go to www.Register.com and search for your ideal website domain. See if it’s available. If it is, purchase it for five years.
Develop your brand. Hire a skilled graphic designer to create the branding for your new firm. Ideally your brand will consist of a unique logo, a fresh color palette, new letterhead and business cards, a website, tailored social media sites, a blog, your email signature block, a PowerPoint template and service summary PDFs.
Integrate your marketing efforts. This is about bang for your buck. Make sure your website links to all of your social media sites, your social media sites link back to your website, your website address and LinkedIn profile are accessible through your email signature block, and all of your marketing communications link back to pages on your website.
Update your listings. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and includes your new contact information. Contact Martindale.com and Super Lawyers and update your listings. Notify your bar association and other trade associations of your new contact information. Do a Google search for yourself and identify every website that references you and update your contact information on each site. This is very important for SEO.
Plan your big marketing launch. Pick a date for your official new law firm announcement. Hopefully your new website will be up and running and will concisely convey the benefits of working with your firm. Hire a copywriter to develop your “launch communication.” Send a nicely branded e-communication to all of your contacts, clients and referral sources. Post the announcement on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites. Send a news release to members of the local media. Finally, after three to six months, consider hosting an open house in your new space to celebrate the opening of your new law firm.
Leaving your law firm may or may not be the best choice for you and your clients. However, if you do decide to start your own firm and implement the steps above, you will be well poised to succeed. If you have the entrepreneurial gene, take advantage of it by taking a risk, leaving the law firm politics behind, and prospering as an independent business owner.