How to Launch a New Law Firm

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Are you thinking about starting your own law firm? If so, you may be concerned with the time and money it will take to launch a new business no matter if you are starting a small law firm or a larger firm. There are countless things that need to be considered such as cash flow, office space, business cards, building credibility in order to attract high-quality clients, updating the state bar, malpractice insurance, legal technology needs, developing marketing materials, and so much more. The good news is there are countless resources out there that can help guide you through this process so you can start practicing law sooner!

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll share some helpful tips on what steps you should take before launching your own law practice like: 

  • How to define your goals & niche, 
  • How to build a law firm website, 
  • How to create a social media plan, 
  • How to create a marketing plan, 
  • Why you should make a list of potential clients,
  • How to network with other professionals, and
  • How to announce the launch of your new firm. 

Read on for more information about how to make sure your business succeeds from day one!

Define Your Goals & Niche

Before starting any endeavor, especially one as important as the launching of a new business, you should ask yourself why you’re undertaking this venture. You’ll be working for your own law firm, but your firm should also work for you – and help you achieve your personal vision of success. But before you can succeed, you have to define what success will look like for you.

Is success purely about making the most amount of money in the shortest period of time?  Or, are you also looking for a flexible schedule that permits you to spend time with your family? Would you rather operate a general practice firm that enables you to work within multiple practice areas or do you want to focus on one narrow niche such as real estate or personal injury? The answers to these questions should be reflected in your business plan- so that your firm reflects your unique vision of success.

How to Define Your Goals and Niche

Defining your goals for starting a firm can help you establish a solid baseline for your firm’s performance. Your vision and mission will translate into the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will inform you whether your firm is headed toward success (as you see it).

The best way to define your firm’s goals and niche is: 

  1. Set a clear mission and vision, 
  2. Conduct a SWOT or competitive analysis, 
  3. Identify short and long-term goals,
  4. Determine how you’ll monitor and measure success, and
  5. Work with a mentor. 

Not only will your vision and mission help you attract the right kinds of clients, but it can also provide your future staff with a shared goal to strive for. Either way, your dream for your firm’s future shouldn’t be glossed over or skipped if you want a successful practice that works for you.

Set a Clear Mission & Vision

Before starting your firm, you should have a clear idea of what you will do and who you will serve. The answers to these questions will set the groundwork for your mission and vision. Better yet, firms with a solid vision and mission tend to have happier employees and satisfied clients (a win-win in any business).

Your mission statement would identify who you serve and how you plan to serve them, while your vision statement is a broad look at your firm’s purpose. You might say your vision is more “big picture,” while your mission statement addresses the nitty-gritty or what you’ll be doing on a daily basis.

To put together a rock-solid mission statement consider the following:

  • What legal services will you offer?
  • What will be your general price range and how will you determine pricing?
  • What are your business development goals for growth?
  • How will you relate to your clients and offer them the best quality services?
  • What adjectives might be used to describe your firm’s culture?

For an estate planning firm, your mission might look like this: “We offer comprehensive estate planning services for families with small children at a price they can afford. Every day we empower our clients to protect their loved ones and preserve their legacies.” 

Your vision statement might appear slightly more elusive – like a huge goal to strive toward. For example, “We strive to be the premier estate planning firm for families with young children and develop lasting relationships with each of our clients and their family.” 

Conduct a SWOT or Competitive Analysis

SWOT analysis is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Conducting a thorough SWOT analysis before opening your firm is always a good way to test your competitiveness and address potential threats from the outset. Once you identify your strengths, they may make great vision and mission statements and help you set your firm apart from the rest. Your opportunities and threats can help inform your short and long-term goals for your firm. And finally, a consideration of your potential weaknesses can help you troubleshoot and steer clear of problems from the very start of your firm.

Identify Short and Long-Term Goals

Every business needs to have measurable goals so you can tell if you are headed in the right direction. Naturally, long-term goals will be broad and take longer to attain (e.g. “become the go-to firm for no-fault divorces in Smith County”). Then, your short-term goals will help you work toward your vision of success. For instance, a short-term goal might be finding your first five clients and generating at least one client referral.

Determine How You’ll Monitor and Measure Success

Goals are virtually useless unless they are measurable and attainable. This means you’ll need to make sure you have a clear idea of what success will look like for each goal. How will you know if you have reached a particular goal? What is the timeframe in which the goal should be reached? Your answers will help you determine success and whether you need to re-evaluate.

Consider Working With a Mentor

Finally, consider working with a mentor or coach to keep you accountable on your way toward achieving your firm’s vision. Nearly all successful lawyers will give the same advice: “You are not an island.” While there are plenty of paid coaching opportunities available, you do not necessarily need to pay for a mentor. There may be retired lawyers or owners of non-competing firms who are happy to offer advice and a listening ear as you grow your practice.

Build a Website

Whether you’re looking for a medical specialist or Friday night’s restaurant choice, chances are, you’re turning to the internet for your search. Your clients will do the same – so you’ll need a professional online presence. According to the 2019 Clio Legal Trends Report, at least 34% of prospective clients searched online or visited their lawyer’s website before hiring a lawyer and paying a retainer. In a nutshell, a law firm website is essential to getting your name out there and attracting the right clients. 

Even clients who have been referred to your firm will typically look at your website before reaching out. At the end of the day, clients tend to make hiring decisions based on your online presence. A professionally-designed, helpful website is the key to getting clients to retain your law office over others.

How to Build a Law Firm Website

Let’s face it, most lawyers are not IT specialists. And “How to Build Law Firm Website” isn’t exactly a standard course in law school.  Since your website is likely the first impression most outsiders will get of your firm, it may pay to hire a web design professional. If you’re on a tight budget and anxious to launch your firm quickly, you can turn to DIY website design tools like WordPress and LawLytics – but you may be limited in your technical abilities.

Today’s internet user expects a fast-loading, visually appealing, and helpful business website. And an increasing number of potential clients are using mobile-search, so a desktop-only website might look outdated or unprofessional. If you have the expertise to build your own website, go ahead. But definitely consider going with a professional – because the difference in results can be staggering.

In addition to being tech-savvy, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of copywriting and SEO to ensure your website is easy to find. SEO, or search engine optimization, impacts how your firm’s site ranks in search results, which can lead to more (or less) potential clients finding you. Likewise, the copy on your website should appeal to your target audience. Unless your target clientele is other attorneys, you should steer clear of legalese and use easily-understandable language.

One way to boost SEO and have the right clients find you is by incorporating a legal blog into your website. While time-consuming, a content marketing strategy goes a long way toward driving traffic to your website and potential clients to your firm. When it comes to your website, your primary concern should be creating a website that is as helpful as possible to your ideal clients. The more “free” help you’re able to provide with your website, the more likely clients are to retain your law firm when the time comes.

Create a Social Media Presence

Your online presence should be more than just your website. You also need to be on social media, taking advantage of networking opportunities. Social media can help drive traffic to your website, give you the appearance of a thought leader in your field, and also attract the right kinds of clients (when used appropriately).

Before creating an account on every social media platform, you need to consider your marketing goals. Your ideal clients may not be on every platform (and not all platforms are created equal when it comes to legal marketing). Are you more likely to find your ideal clients on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter? Your answer should determine which profiles you set up first because it’s easy to get overwhelmed managing multiple social profiles in addition to your practice.

It’s wise to create a content calendar so you can better budget your time spent on social media work. Some programs like Hootsuite even allow you to schedule posts in advance, so you can pre-schedule your social media content in batches – freeing up time to spend speaking with potential clients.  Another great way to free up your time is to outsource all or part of your legal marketing work.

Create a Marketing Plan & Budget

Your website and social media plan should form a sizable chunk (but not all) of a more comprehensive marketing plan. Marketing plans are essential for all businesses, and law firms are no exception. You could be the best lawyer in the world, but if no one knows about your firm you will not succeed. It’s a simple, albeit harsh, reality.

Even though you are probably a master communicator, it’s worth brushing up on some marketing lingo before developing your strategy. At the very least, you’ll want to learn about branding, marketing funnels, and ways to make your services more client-centered. Let’s take a closer look at how each of these concepts fits into a cohesive law firm marketing plan.

Law Firm Branding

The term, “branding” is just marketing-speak for your firm’s identity. Do you want to come across as a small, boutique firm or are you looking to open multiple locations? Do you offer flat fees or innovative billing methods? Does your firm embrace and use legal technology? These are all parts of your firm identity that compose your brand.

Brainstorm terms that you would like to be associated with your firm, and don’t be afraid to incorporate them in your marketing. Likewise, consider what makes your firm unique in the legal industry and why clients should be drawn to work with you – because this can help define your brand (and set you apart from other firms).

Consider Marketing Funnels

Marketing funnels describe the path a client takes before deciding to work with you. For instance, let’s say most clients reach you in the following way:

  1. They see a blog post you shared on Facebook,
  2. They click the post and are sent to your website,
  3. Your post makes them realize they could use your services,
  4. They click on your online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Of course, this is not the only way clients might find you. Ideally, you’ll have multiple marketing funnels designed to appeal to different clients with different legal concerns. Either way, the most effective marketing funnels revolve around specific client personas and demographics. If your ideal estate planning client, for example, is a mother, aged 30-45 with minor children in the home you might utilize a different funnel than if your ideal client is a male business owner in his 50s. Chances are each type of client uses different forms of social media and has different interests – these will factor into how and where you reach each type of client.

This brings up another important part of your marketing plan: client-centered services. The more you get to know your clients’ needs, the better you can appeal to them in your marketing.

Client-Centered Services

As you start working with individual clients you should keep track of what works and what does not. Eventually, you will start to see patterns in the types of services each client needs and you can use that to make your offerings more client-friendly. Once you identify these patterns, you can design service offerings, packages, and fees based on the needs of your clients. Then, you can create an onboarding and service process that delivers clients exactly the experience they need. Your clients will be happy (ideally leading to referrals) and you’ll have a streamlined plan in place to care for each new client. Of course, all of this can be communicated as part of your marketing efforts – and you can design your marketing funnels around the needs of each client persona to further enhance the service experience.

Develop a List of Potential Clients to Contact

When starting a new firm, getting clients is probably at the top of your to-do list (or at least it should be). Before you formally announce your firm, start gathering a list of potential clients or “leads” who you can reach out to regarding your services. Of course, you’ll want to ensure you’re following ethical rules (and any non-competition agreements you may have signed with former employers). Nevertheless, start jotting down the names of family, friends, and others who might benefit from working with your new firm. Then consider how your marketing might be used to reach those potential clients. Are they on Facebook? Do they attend certain community events? You’ll want to make sure your firm has a presence in the places where these clients can be found.

How to Develop a List of Prospective Clients

If you are struggling to come up with a list of prospective clients, it may help to determine your target market and work backward from there. Will most of your clients be married with young children in school? Consider joining your local PTA (particularly if you have school-aged children as well) to meet more of your target clientele. At the same time, think about your clients’ demographics, interests, and hobbies – this information will help you find ways to reach your clients.

Connect with Other Local Businesses

In addition to developing a list of prospective clients, you should get out there and network with other local businesses and professionals. There is a good chance your firm cannot serve every client’s needs, so you may need to enlist the help of complementary professionals. If you plan to open an estate planning firm, you might want to network with financial advisors. If you’re opening a family law practice, it pays to get to know your local private investigators. Not only can complementary professionals help you better serve your clients, but they can also serve as a great referral source.

Better yet, data shows that lawyers who collaborate with other professionals earn higher margins, have more loyal clients, and are able to charge more for what they do.

Announcing Your Firm

Last, but certainly not least, you’ll want to announce the launch of your new firm as soon as you’re ready to open your doors. Announcing your opening, in both formal and informal ways, will help build buzz around your new practice and attract potential clients.

One of the primary – and more formal ways – of announcing your new firm is with a press release. Draft a few basic details about your firm (including how to contact you) and submit them to your local news, bar association, and publish them to your website. Then, share your announcement all over social media!

Next, make sure you list your firm on legal directories and other business directories like Google My Business. This will help get your firm’s name out there and draw traffic to your website. If you want to take things to the next level, you might consider pay-per-click (PPC) ads to steer prospective clients to your website when they search for related keywords. While PPC ads only cost you if someone clicks on the link, costs can add up quickly – so this might be something you want to save for when you’re generating revenue.

LAWCLERK is Here to Help You Grow & Scale Your Law Firm

At LAWCLERK, we’ve built the nation’s largest legal marketplace, where new law firms and solo practitioners can connect with freelance lawyers – so you can grow your practice flexibly. You control the projects, pricing, and deadlines, and we’ll handle the tax reporting and administrative work. When you’re ready to take your firm to the next level, we can help match you with a remote associate.  Whether you’re just starting the process of building your firm or are shifting to a new digital model, we can help. Find out how we can help your firm grow.

Kristin Tyler, Co-Founder Lawclerk

Kristin Tyler, Co-Founder Lawclerk

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