Starting a law firm takes a lot of hard work and effort, but it’s one of the most rewarding journeys. The State Bar of Georgia’s Young Lawyer’s Division recently gave me the opportunity to offer advice to younger lawyers for starting and growing a personal injury law practice. To this end, I would respectfully offer other lawyers with similar aspirations five tips for this journey:
Tip One – Plan Ahead
Starting a law practice may initially seem like an insurmountable challenge for a younger lawyer, but through preparation the dream of starting a practice will come to fruition for you. I found it useful to sit down and make a flowchart of the various aspects of my nascent practice. There are the obvious questions, like what type of law, where to practice; and even, what will be my firm’s name? Not only do you need to have a clear grasp of these issues, but also pragmatic considerations should drive your focus. For example, you need to look into enrollment periods for your spouse’s or partner’s health insurance plan, as well as when your 401(k) plan will vest at your soon to be previous employer. In sum, you should take the time to develop a clear plan and work hard to stick with it.
Tip Two – Get involved
Even with a plan in place, the inevitable question remains: “How will I get cases?” The key to developing a case pipeline is becoming actively involved in the profession and the community. Other attorneys are one of the best sources of referrals. Instead of simply asking them for cases, a valuable way to capitalize on your connections is to hold yourself out as an asset to them by offering specialized knowledge about an area of the law, like daycare negligence. The general public, as a practical matter, infrequently encounters attorneys so community events, such as booths at outreach events, are a great way to meet new people. I recommend placing a sign-in sheet or perhaps having a bowl for a raffle because they are an unassuming way for you to gather contact information.
Tip Three – Leave on Good Terms
While you may feel a bit awkward over leaving your previous position, you will most likely not be the first or the last to leave it. You, however, will be remembered by the way you choose to depart from it. During the weeks and even months leading up to your departure, you should continue doing your job because you still have a duty to them and, most importantly, your clients. It’s only fair. An effective way to juggle your seemingly dual roles is setting a separate work schedule when you are technically off-the-clock. Once you decide to inform them about your decision, you should not be afraid to ask everyone for advice and assistance. For example, your secretary may already have a list compiled of your various e-file login names and passwords.
Tip Four – Hold Yourself Accountable
You are now your own boss and likely wearing a number of other hats, like the administrative assistant and office manager. To balance all of these new responsibilities, I found it useful to compartmentalize my tasks for the day and week ahead of me. Early on Monday, I like to update my calendar with marketing events; whereas, Friday afternoons are a good time to create journal entries for the week’s expenses. Another way to ensure personal accountability rests with surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals. If you know that they will arrive early and stay late, then you naturally will follow their example. At the very core, embrace the challenges, work hard (and smart) because the benefits will flow directly to you.
Tip Five – Be Yourself and Say “Thank You”
People are going to come to your firm because they know and trust you as an attorney and person. You’ve made it this far so don’t change! When the cases do come your way, a thank you note to the referral source with a small token of appreciation, like a lottery or movie ticket, goes a long way. You instill a sense of commitment to the case and pave the way for future referrals. By far though, the most important “thank you” should go to your family and friends. They have been by your side throughout this entire process and always remember to be there to support their dreams in the future.
Please feel free to reach out to me directly at (404) 566-8964 or firstname.lastname@example.org if I can ever be of any assistance to you and your practice.