Starting your own online law firm straight out of law school is not a walk in the park. If it was, then every lawyer would be doing it. Looking beyond the horizon that the crowd follows needs a strong gut to even imagine it in the first place. Your intentions are wise, but your intentions need to be coupled with action. If you are in law school, here is what you should be doing while you’re in school if you are thinking of starting your own law firm.
Here is my story about how I started my own law firm out of law school and a list of things you must do while in law school to start your own law firm whether online or through a traditional brick and mortar office.
I graduated from Southwestern Law School in 2014. The only legal experience I had under my belt was working for a small law firm specializing in personal injury and employment law.
While you’re working as an intern, you don’t get any practical advice on how to run a business – let alone, run a law firm. If you’re going to figure out how to go on your own, you really have to figure it out for yourself.
Shortly after I passed the Bar exam, I knew I couldn’t let anyone be my boss. I need my own control and I need to control my own hours. After meeting with a friend who was one year ahead of me, my friend told me that it was entirely possibly to go on your own and start your own law firm.
After receiving this advice, I decided to go on my own and build my own virtual law firm. Why virtual? Because I didn’t want to be constrained to a physical office so that I could work from anywhere. A question I frequently get asked is how I was able to get funding to start my own law firm – the good news is that there’s no funding needed to start your own virtual law firm. All you need is a website, time and dedication to put out great content and market your services.
Three years later and 500 blog articles produced on my blog later, I now operate a law firm specializing in Business Law with more than 400 clients under my belt. The kinds of services I offer are transnational services – and I focus on services that my direct competitors, such as LegalZoom, are not targeting.
My secret sauce is this – targeting very niche services and producing lots of content on that topic to market my services. Targeting a small, specific niche is crucial. While starting a law firm out of law school isn’t easy, I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely doable.
Here are some other practical tips I can suggest for going on your own…
People will throw their baseless opinions at you just because they think they can. But you are not them. They have never tried it, so they don’t know. Believe in yourself. Once you are confident in your goals, you have won half of the battle.
Plan Your Steps
Spend your time in preparing a detailed business and marketing plan. Review them with the lawyers who have started their own law firm for the critique. It will be infuriating as hell, but this will be the most important stepping stones. Whether you need funding or not (you probably won’t), estimate the costs that you have to make while schooling. You need to consider all the expenses from website hosting, bank charges, legal insurance, offline and online supplies, staffing, postage and even parking! Even the most minuscule of the category have to be taken into account.
Pick Only One Area of Law to Focus On
If you’re going to be successful running a virtual law firm online, you’re going to have to choose one area of law to focus on. The more general you are, the harder it will be for you to compete. Be the big fish in a small pond. Repeat this to yourself every day.
Market Yourself Online
Every piece of information required lies digitally and not in the phone book. As the digital era expands every second, today, it will hardly cost you the price of one dinner to host a website for a year.
If you don’t have the time to learn how to build your own website, then hire a good web-designer from the bulk found on the web. Clients will judge you by your website just as much or even more than your experience and credentials. You need to showcase yourself through your website. This shall be helpful in your promotions, visiting cards and direct contact referrals.
Build Your Network
Tell everyone you meet about your vision of starting your own law firm and highlighting your area of practice. Meet with the lawyers of that area, spend time with them, know their function and develop a relationship with them to start your network. Later, ask them to send you work when you get started. Be willing to work under them for some duration for free if needed. After all, the knowledge and experience you gain will be paid back in spades.
Build a network with people who don’t practice the same area. This shall be helpful as if they receive a case of your area, they would like to refer it to someone whom they know and trust.
The bottom line is this: You can do it. Irrespective of the problems of finance or family or debt or low GPA, if you are planning, willing and focused then you can – And You Will.