Start a Law Firm: Tidbits from Twitter

Last week I joined Sam Glover of Lawyerist and Blois Olson of Tunheim Partners to teach a seminar on websites, online marketing and social media to 100+ lawyers in the process of hanging out their own shingles as part of a day-long “How to How to Start & Build a Successful Law Firm” CLE.

In preparation for the course (and because it’s fun) I reached out to my followers on Twitter to get some advice for these daring lawyers about to start their own firm.

My question: What’s your 140 characters of advice for a lawyer starting their own practice?

The advice came in from attorneys and other professionals in Texas, Hawaii, Florida, Virginia, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and Ontario. Here are my top ten.

1. Michael P. Maslanka (@worklawyer): You are all solo practioners even if you are in a huge firm.

2. Professor Binkovitz (@ProfBinkovitz):  Advice:Listening to client’s story may be as important as legal outcome.

3. Andy Winchell (@AndyWinchell): Read Solo By Choice by @carolynelefant, her blog myshingle.com, Foonberg (but ignore the costly stuff) and do some #SPU.

4. Todd M. Murray (@toddmmurray):  Choosing a practice area: what do you love to do; what do you know how to do; and what clients can you realistically get.

5. Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield): Balance work/life.

6. Darl Gleed (@182Seconds): Advice for lawyer starting practice? Specialize if possible. Tell other attys you’re accepting referrals.

7. Mitchell Goldstein (@mpgoldstein): Know who you want to serve, why, & how; be prepared to tell them. Stick to your mission & re-evaluate often.

7. Patrick Nicol (@patricknicol): its still about relationships!

8. Jared Correia (@jaredcorreia):  (1) Get your financial house in order; (2) Focus on developing efficient processes; (3) Market online using SM.

9. Jennifer Frantz (@jenniferfrantz): Find a mentor in each area you want to cover. To answer questions and lend you a template or two. Then pay it forward.

10. Eric Morrell (@lawebmorrell): Make sure you get involved in activities you like that are not filled with attorneys ex. sport, hobby, club, volunteer.

Any advice you would add? Join the conversation in the comments to this post.

(Photo: cwalker71)

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  • It’s more than 140 characters but here it goes: Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can learn enough about how to start, market & manage a successful law firm just by picking up a few tidbits on twitter, blogs or even just in a few casual conversations with other lawyers who themselves may or may not have ever actually given these critical subjects the time & attention they deserve.

  • Enlightening advice. Thank you.

  • Getting work in the door is the key. If clients can’t afford to pay for 100% of the work they need in order to accomplish their goals, help them to get closer to their goals by doing a portion or the work and charge them only for the work performed. This is a win for you and for the client.

  • I’ve been watching this blog post & tweets about it. And I am struck by how IRONIC it all is.

    Not a single one of us would ever counsel a client that it’s a good idea to invest a bunch of their time, money and put their professional reputation on the line for a business begun with the kind of haphazard business planning that serves as the foundation for so many small law firms I see out there.

    Seriously, think about it, if a client ever came to YOU and said in essence “I want to start a business because I’m good at what I do, but I have zero business management experience, zero marketing experience and zero hands-on start-up experience” what would YOU say to them?

    “Oh, don’t worry about it, just spend a few hours a day on Twitter or reading some blogs & I’m sure everything will work out for you!” ??? Of course not! Because that would be STUPID advice to give to a client wouldn’t it?

    OK, sorry to be so blunt about it but now there’s another uncomfortable question I have to ask. And the GOOD NEWS is that if you have the internal fortitude to answer it honestly to yourself you can very easily DOUBLE the revenues in your small law firm. . . “What exactly did YOU do to plan your business before you started your own law firm? “

  • Leora posted to Twitter asking for quick tips, not comprehensive law firm business plans.

    There is no harm in getting quick tips, but I don’t think anyone is suggesting Twitter is all you need to start a firm.

  • But that’s the problem. You & I both know that’s exactly what many lawyers do. We don’t hear anything about the business side of how to start a law practice in law school. We don’t hear anything about how to start a law practice in hardly any CLE programs. In fact we hear exactly the wrong message about how to start a law practice. We hear that it’s not a business it’s a profession (it’s BOTH). And so way too many lawyers run out and start a law practice based only on a few random tips they pick up. The question itself is endemic of the problem.

    I know it makes me controversial and there are many in the blogosphere who would prefer I just play along with the feel-good game and offer-up a few “tips”. But I cannot in good conscience sit just idly by and watch great lawyers and good people set themselves up for failure and frustration by indulging with a few feel good quick tips. Because you see, I’m the one who the Disciplinary Committee used to send-in to mop up the mess and fix all the law firm management and law practice marketing problems when inadequate planning leads to the inevitable problems. And it’s ugly and entirely avoidable.

    That’s why instead, I offer some practical, substantive, real-world advice and resources on my website for free to help my fellow attorneys discover how much FUN it really can and should be to be the owner of our own law firms.

    ~ RJON

    p.s. I very much like the design of your blog.

    • RJon,

      Our whole site is built around the idea of helping lawyers become better business owners.

      If you are seriously trying to claim that one post—with the title “tidbits”—is being held out as the primary place prospective solos should look before starting their own firms, you definitely don’t understand our site or our readers.