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Chapter 6/6

Running a Law Firm On Your Own

How to Start a Law Firm

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Running Your New Law Firm

It’s time. You’ve done the legwork. You’re feeling good about your progress. You’re ready to run your law firm.

Indeed, starting a law firm is not for hesitant hearts. The good news is,  you don’t need to do this on your own — and you probably shouldn’t.

Law firms are both complex and fast-moving, requiring firm leaders to be strategic with the creation and implementation of systems. As a lawyer, it’s easy to focus all your attention on your clients. While clients are a critical part of your practice, your firm won’t run itself.

You’ll need:

  • An organizational chart. This clarifies accountabilities.

  • Hiring and Staffing. Even solos need additional support. 

  • Outsourcing. What will you do in house and what will you outsource.

  • Coaching. Mentorship and accountability is vital to reaching your goals.

Organizational Chart

Let’s start with who’s doing what. And if it’s just you in your small firm right now, that’s OK. This task applies to you, too.

An organizational chart—or an accountability chart, as we call it at Lawyerist—isn’t just a document that tells you who reports to whom. You don’t just glance at this document once a year when you want to remember your associate’s paralegal’s name.

It’s a lot more than that. Your org/accountability chart details who is responsible for what job duties. And who is responsible for overseeing those duties.

For example, if your paralegal is in charge of getting your billing out, your office assistant shouldn’t wonder if he was supposed to be doing that duty. 

Another advantage is that you can start to see where duties are either unbalanced or misaligned. This is also where solo or very small firm lawyers begin to realize they’re playing the CEO, the marketer, the paralegal, and the office manager—and that they might need to hire.

Documenting these duties and revising the document frequently will help you stay on top of your office’s day-to-day.

Hiring and Staffing                               

Everything you’ve documented about your vision, values, finances, and team culture will help you make your first hire.

And that first hire can be scary. We know many successful lawyers who held off on hiring, even when they were drowning in work, because they couldn’t imagine someone doing the job as well as they do. And while that might be true, it’s no reason to keep drowning.

But the question we get asked is, “When should I hire?” And there’s a rule of thumb for that.

Do you have:

  • More work than you can handle?

  • Enough money coming in to finance a hire?

  • Day-to-day work you’re doing that’s keeping you from billing work?

If you can answer yes to all three, it’s time to hire. 

Dig deeper in our Guide to Hiring, Staffing, and Growing a Law Firm


A secret to staffing: You don’t have to hire full-time employees to manage your law firm tasks.

You can’t outsource your daily legal work, but you could outsource:

  • Answering the phones. There are virtual receptionist services out there who will answer calls and take messages, route, and give simple information.

  • Running social media. Digital marketing contractors are a booming business. You don’t need to have in-house work for this.

  • Office management tasks. You don’t need to run your calendar or even your email inbox. Virtual assistants exist for a reason.

These are just a few examples. Get creative: Is there a task you or a staff member are doing that doesn’t require firm time or energy? Write it down, then research an outsourcing option. 


Last, let’s get real: Managing a small law firm is hard work. Now, it doesn’t have to be stressful, and it certainly doesn’t need to be chaotic, but it’s difficult (but rewarding work). And it’s hard to see the big picture when you’re in the thick of managing.

There’s a reason people who want to get healthier work with personal trainers. You have only so much willpower in a day. And motivation to do the things you know you’re “supposed to do” often dwindles as the week goes on. Suddenly it’s Friday, and you realize you haven’t thought about marketing, team culture, or succession plans.

This is where a coach comes in. 

As a business owner, you should have a coach who can help you see the big picture, provide accountability to your goals, and ask good questions to help you progress. An outside, neutral party can know where you’re stuck and guide you through difficult decisions. 

In fact, we’re not sure how lawyers run their firms without coaches! Sure, you might run decisions by your law partner or spouse, but they have stakes in your choices. You need a trained professional.

We’re biased because we run a coaching program at Lawyerist, but we started it because we believe coaching is a necessary expense—not an optional one. 

Take the Next Step in Building a Healthy Firm

Now that you’ve got the basics of starting a firm under your belt, you’re ready to get going! The fun is just beginning! Now, it’s time to focus on how you can run and manage your firm and make all those dreams come true. Your business won’t run itself. You’ll need to be intentional about what you do every day to make the magic happen. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. 

Learn more about managing your law firm in our Complete Guide to Managing a Law Firm as part of a Healthy Firm.

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