Friday, May 23, 2014

Starting Your Own Legal Practice - Top Tips – Decoded

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Despite the recession, now’s the best time ever for starting your own business according to researchers. Here are ten top tips to bear in mind if you fancy starting your own law firm.

1. Don’t over-pontificate
Obviously you need to put the preparatory work in prior to launching your new business venture, but don’t spend too long contemplating your navel before taking the plunge. Some lawyers become overly methodical in their planning and prepping stages and never actually get around to starting a practice at all.
Equip yourself with a website, computer, printer, scanner and a good suite of practice management software and make a start.
2. Get a good website
These days every business, no matter how new or small, needs a good website. Your online presence is your shop window. It’s where people can find out all about you and the services you can offer them; the more professional-looking your site the better, even if it costs you a good chunk of your marketing budget. If your site looks amateurish and cheap, it reflects very poorly on your practice. If possible, make sure your site is geared for mobiles and tablets too.
3. Keep overheads down
Never be tempted to try to compete with the big law firms; you can’t. They have access to huge budgets that a newly started solo practice does not. Keep it simple until you are more established. You can manage perfectly well with a home office and consider using a business concierge service rather than employing reception and secretarial staff. This of course means that some of the administrative duties will fall to you to look after, but the huge cost savings will make this extra work worth it.
As the business grows, you could hire a paralegal to help you with specific jobs and take on a full-time admin/receptionist and move to a modest permanent office premises. Allow your practice to grow and grow with it; rather than starting big and trying to grow into it.
4. In-house marketing
Marketing is obviously very important in the strategy of any business, but it’s also very expensive to outsource. Take the time to learn about content marketing and blogging for example and keep all your marketing activities in-house. Check out the GoodBlogs Tegomedia site for advice and tips.
5. Avoid print advertising
Print advertising like billboards, newspapers and yellow pages is mega-expensive and not tremendously effective unless you have a massive budget to throw at it. Stick to digital marketing, word of mouth and personal recommendation.
6. Be technology savvy
Instead of spending out on a photocopier, scanner, printer and fax machine; buy one that does everything. You can actually avoid copying altogether if you choose a machine that scans both sides of a page. Many of your contacts will be happy with an emailed pdf copy of a document anyway, so you won’t even need to copy much which will save you time, paper and toner.
7. eBooks versus paper manuals
Legal books are very expensive. Luckily most of them can now be bought in ebook format so get yourself a Kindle or an iPad and buy them in digital form. Not only is this considerably cheaper but you can also carry your entire legal library with you at all times! They are also easily searchable and you won’t be filling your entire storage space with dusty legal tomes.
8. Use the Cloud
Practice management software and data storage is best achieved through using the Cloud. Not only is this option much the cheapest and most convenient, it also means you have 24/7 mobile access from anywhere.
9. Innovation
The beauty of running your own firm is that you have total flexibility. You can adapt your practice to meet the demands of your clients, to incorporate new technology and to run in the way that you want it to.
If you decide to try new ideas and systems, it’s your decision alone. Research new technology and be as inventive and radical as you like; after all, there’s no senior partner in the office down the hall to tell you ‘no’. The ability to innovate is part of the fun and challenge of running your own business; don’t be afraid to embrace it.
Whilst it’s undoubtedly true to say that setting up your own legal practice comes with its own problems and stresses, it does provide you with a degree of freedom that you would never get working for someone else. Be focused, determined, work hard and reap the rewards.
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