Going Off on Your Own: Checklist for Launching A Successful Law Firm

By LawPay

September 6, 2022

Going Off on Your Own: Checklist for Launching A Successful Law Firm


By LawPay

Starting your own business can be simultaneously exciting and nerve-racking. It requires careful planning and commitment to get off to a good start. We’ll walk you step by step through all the essential steps to launch a successful law firm in the Digital Age.  

Choose your practice area 

When choosing an area of law to practice, consider both your ideal work environment and what will provide you with a rewarding and long-lasting career. Whenever possible, explore a field of law which is underrepresented. 

Name your firm 

Whether you are starting off on your own or with a partner, there are a variety of possible naming scenarios for your business. Generally, the name of an owner or partner must be included in the title of the firm.  

Obtain the necessary licenses and permits 

Determine if your state requires you to establish your firm as a business entity and which type of entity you qualify for:  

  1. Sole Proprietorship
  2. General Partnership
  3. Limited Liability Partnership
  4. Professional Service Corporation/Professional Association
  5. Professional Limited Liability Company

Open bank & trust accounts  

Make sure that your business’s accounts have been correctly set up to start accepting payments. This includes ensuring you’ve lined up an attorney trust account and operating account and securing malpractice insurance, if that is required.  

  • Operating Account 
  • IOLTA 
  • Non-IOLTA Trust Account

Sign up for business insurance 

Protect your firm’s success by verifying that you’re properly insured. Check your own state’s rules on professional liability coverage. Depending on your area of practice, you should make a reasonable decision as to whether you will be better protected by having professional liability insurance in the event of a claim.   

Calculate costs + business expenses 

Every lawyer needs to know how much income will be required over a given period of time to successfully cover both their personal budgetary needs and the costs of running a practice. It’s most helpful to consider these variables:   

  • Hourly rate/daily income 
  • Anticipated overhead 
  • Personal budget/living costs
  • Work schedule/bandwidth

Establish your hourly rate  

There are a few different ways to determine your hourly rate as a new lawyer. Many attorneys will put together a budget based on monthly expenses. Divide your total expenses by the amount of billable hours you can reasonably work each week to get a baseline of the effective rate you’ll charge for your services.  

Find an office/workspace 

Decide on whether you’d like to set up a traditional brick-and-mortar office, or run your practice entirely online through legal software and teleconferencing from your home office—whichever best suits your practice needs and your clients’ needs.   

Adopt secure legal software 

Today’s law firms can be far more productive (and profitable) with modern technology, such as timekeeping, payment processing, and practice management software solutions.   

Choose the right payment processor 

Of course, your law practice can’t be successful if you’re not getting paid regularly and on time. That’s why it’s important to choose a payment processor that prioritizes your needs and ensures your payments are reliable and secure. It’s also best to use an online payment processor designed specifically for the legal industry, like LawPay.  

Build a website 

Your first step in creating a website should be to sit down and outline what you want your content to entail. It’s important to think about who your target audience is and what prospective clients are looking for. Once you’re ready to build your site, there are many do-it-yourself options, or you can always hire a marketing agency to build it for you.   

Invest in digital marketing 

The evolution of the internet has drastically changed the way lawyers can market their services. That’s why it’s so important to have a professional website. You’ll also want to maintain a social media presence to stay on the radar with potential clients.  

Get involved with your State, Local, and Specialty Bars 

Networking is one of the best ways to garner name recognition for your practice. Consider getting involved with your state bar associations as well as your local and specialty bar groups. Aligning yourself with reputable associations can only further instill a prospective client’s confidence in your practice.  

Download your copy of our Going Off on Your Own checklist here. 

To learn more about LawPay and our commitment to supporting your firm’s success, visit lawpay.com/nysba.

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