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Chapter 1/6

Should You Start a Law Firm?

How to Start a Law Firm

3 min read

Law practice is a business and a profession. Successfully starting your own law firm requires you to see it as both.

The skills to run a business and practice law aren’t the same. Many of the skills needed to practice law will help you in your business.  Running your business, though, will introduce problems and require solutions not commonly taught in law school. These challenges don’t go away as your business matures and grows. They change and challenge you in new ways.

Starting Your Own Law Firm: Is It Time?

Let us guess. You’re here because you’re in one of these situations:

  • You’re drowning in your current firm. You’re exhausted, overworked, and know there has to be a better way.
  • You’re just out of school. You know you don’t want to go into big law. 
  • You used to have your own firm but abandoned it. Now you’re questioning if that was a mistake.

You’ve found yourself wondering: should I start my own law firm? And if so, how do I start my own law firm?

We’ll hit the how in a bit. Let’s start with the should.

We’ll tell you the big secret: you shouldn’t start your own firm if you love being a lawyer. 

Of course, enjoying the law helps. But, you should only start a law firm if you’re interested in running a business and all it entails.

Yes, we know law school didn’t teach you business skills. Although, we think this should change. It’s likely that you might not have those skills right now. But, if you want to start your own firm, you must begin with the desire to learn and embrace the business finesse it will take to succeed.

Practicing Law and Owning a Business Are Different 

One December 23, Lab Coach Stephanie got a call from an exasperated attorney. He was frustrated that the associate he had spent so much time training had just given notice. “Listen. I just want to practice law and maybe do some business development work. I don’t want to deal with all this other stuff!”

This attitude is just fine—if you’re working within a firm you don’t own. But, owning a business will require you to deal with “all this other stuff.” 

Are you ready to take on those challenges?

Go Deeper: Podcast Episode #284

How to Start Your Own Law Firm, with Stephanie Everett

Listen to Episode

Listen, of course, it’s OK to decide that you don’t want or like doing the work of running a business and choose not to start a firm.

But, if your still think starting your own law firm is the right for you, think about these questions:

  • Do I actually want to be involved in the entire running of the business?
  • Am I committed to being a business owner and leader—not just an attorney?
  • Do I like creating something from scratch?
  • Am I ok with being uncomfortable? Do I have a high tolerance for risk?

Did you say “yes” to all four? OK! Let’s continue.

Benefits of Starting Your Own Law Firm

Are you a lawyer with an entrepreneurial spirit, a tolerance for risk, and goals around what you want to build? You can and should start your own law firm.

There are many benefits to being the owner of your own firm, including:

  • The ability to do more than practice law. Sure, your legal services will be your bread and butter, but you’ll also be able to build a business on your terms.

  • Control when choosing your clients. Most attorneys have a specific type of law they wish to practice. With your own firm, you choose your clients and cases.

  • The chance to develop a business model that works for you (and your clients and team). As someone else’s employee, you may have little control over the firm’s business model. As the owner of your own firm, you make the decisions, including those tied to your business model.

Do Your Career Goals Include Law Firm Ownership?

If you never set goals, how do you find out what you truly want? “Success” and “accomplishments” can be vague notions. Remember that what others define as happiness, security, and fulfillment may not  align with what you believe those things to be. 

If you’re unsure of how you’d like to move forward, first define and understand your “why.” Start by asking yourself questions such as:

  • Why did you go to law school?
  • What kind of impact do you want your work to have on the world?
  • How do you want to be known professionally?   
  • What must happen for you to feel like your career was a success?

Start by understanding what’s most important to you and your career. Then evaluate if firm ownership is the best path to finding professional success.  

Get Ready to Go All-In

While there are a ton of benefits to starting your own law firm, there are challenges, too. Even if you do everything right, it can still feel overwhelming at times. 

As a new business owner and entrepreneur, you have to go all in. Be ready to put in the time and energy it will take to get your business off the ground. Know that everything you accomplish each day is investing in your firm’s future health and well-being. 

Bottom line: if you’ve read this far and still feel the pull of your own legal practice, then you’re in the right place. Let’s move on to the “how.”

We’ll cover financing next.