The one thing they don't teach you at law school is how to run a business.
The most successful legal start-ups understand that their new boutique firm is both a profession and a business.
It doesn’t matter how well you practice law if you don’t master the basics of running your own business. With the amount of technology now available to work digitally, the time has never been better to start a virtual practice and run a lean operation with mobile working capacity.
When starting your own practice, it’s important to understand the why and how of your business, not just focus on what you do. A good way to do this is to write a business plan: What are your goals? What’s the long game – are you happy being a sole operator or would you like to grow into a small firm with staff? Do you want to specialise in a particular area of law? How do you want to run your business? How many days do you want to work? What processes and systems do I need? What legal-life balance am I looking for? It’s essential to understand where you want to go and start accordingly.
Running your own firm has the advantage of allowing you to develop your own business model, so the control is in your hands. While you can start with a just a computer and your business plan, we’ve compiled a few tips on how to set your new venture up for success:
- Understand the market – what do competitors offer? What’s your point-of-difference?
- Understand who your ideal clients are and try and see your practice from their point of view - what level of service would they like to receive? How would they like to be billed – by the hour by project or by outcome?
- Develop welcome, onboarding and service client experiences to suit their needs.
Make efficiency your number one priority
- Go paperless from the start - run operations on a low cost cloud based system.
- Maximise your productivity by using legal management software to manage cases, clients and admin to increase billable hours. mattero’s innovative platform streamlines your legal work, saving you time and effort, capturing client information, time, expenses and tasks so you can access everything all in one place.
- Use tech that suits how you want to work, don’t adapt your processes to suit technology. Unlike many management platforms, mattero is designed for lawyers by lawyers to meet the specific needs of legal practitioners and simplify matters.
- Ensure your different software platforms are compatible – mattero seamlessly links to Outlook and Xero to integrate accounting and communication with matter management.
Set up a good website
- The internet is most people’s primary go-to for information so it’s essential to have a professional and engaging online presence.
- Ensure your site reflects your brand and your services, making it easy to navigate and to get in touch.
Good cash flow management
- Aim to have a proportion of clients on retainer to create a regular base of cash flow.
- Automate overdue accounts receivable to ensure prompt payment without you having to chase debtors.
- Referrals are usually the primary source of new business, so build a legal referral network in both your area of specialty and others.
- Join professional organisations and attend events to keep up to date and build your network.
- Be involved in your community – join small business groups and get your name out there.
Upweight your business skills
- Surround yourself with advisors and mentors or get a business coach.
- Keep learning - do a small business course, read and research.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice!
Taking the plunge to set up your own practice can be risky and time consuming, but ultimately rewarding and profitable. Mapping out a plan in the early stages to consider the why and how of your business will ensure your start up starts strong.