Starting your own law firm is an exciting time, but the list of essential steps can be daunting. We take a look at the most important points to cover to make sure your new business has a solid foundation.
Unless you will be operating as a sole trader, you will need to decide whether to form an LLP or a company and then make sure that you put a comprehensive partnership or shareholders’ agreement in place. This step is vital in making sure you and anyone else involved understands what is expected of them and how the financial aspects of the business will be dealt with. It will go a long way to avoiding difficulties and disputes in the future.
A detailed business plan will act as a roadmap as well as providing reassurance to outside bodies, such as the Law Society and the bank. It will also help you clarify what you want your law firm to look like.
As well as including the usual executive summary, an overview of what you want to achieve, market analysis and financial plans, you should ensure that you include marketing plans.
Professional indemnity insurance
This is a legal requirement, and the SRA will need to see details of your cover.
You will need to fill in the SRA authorisation form and appoint two compliance officers, one for the legal practice and one in respect of finance and administration.
Compliance is a large and onerous area for law firms, with a wide range of financial, management and regulatory issues to deal with, including anti-money laundering procedures, data protection compliance and financial reporting.
To avoid difficult investigations down the line, you should put the right processes in place before you start trading. This could involve bringing outside help to ensure you have the right IT and financial advice.
Creating a brand
Right from the start, your law firm should have a clear brand that clients can recognise. This will be apparent in all of your communications with them, by way of your tone of voice, the messages you are conveying and the appearance and content of your website.
Your brand should appeal to your ideal client, which could be a corporation or a family-oriented individual, depending on your areas of expertise. Your brand can be used to put across your strengths and to show your client how you can help them solve their legal problems.
Your law firm website
The vast majority of searches for services begin online. Your website will be potential clients’ first impression of you and your law firm and it is vital that it plainly conveys who you are and what you can do for them.
A website does not need to be complicated and expensive, but it should be fast and clear.
You will not have very long to make an impact, so the home page should be attractive and user-friendly. For details of how to create the perfect home page, see Critical elements every legal website home page must have.
Ideally, you will also include the following pages:
This can include a more in-depth look at your law firm than the summary on the home page. This is your opportunity to connect with potential clients and give them some memorable information that will make your law firm stand out from the rest.
You will need a page for each service you offer, explaining to the client what you can do for them. This will help them see how you can solve their problem and also gives you the chance to tell them why they should use your firm.
Search engines rank websites that have fresh content added regularly more highly than those without. By adding articles, news and insights that will be useful, relevant and engaging to your ideal client, you can establish yourself as an expert and also improve your online ranking.
This should include all of your contact details, be easily available and also have an enquiry form that clients can fill out to ask for a phone call or email in return.
Meet the team
If you have several members of staff, you can include bios for each of them. Lawyer biographies are the second-most visited page of law firm websites after the home page and a well-written bio will help convince the reader that your lawyers are the right people to help them.
You should also include links to your social media profiles on your website.
Marketing your business
A solid marketing plan is essential, with sustained, long-term input. This could include building a database of clients to send a newsletter to, advertising, regular posts on your website and social media marketing.
For more information about marketing, see 5 key steps to marketing your law firm.
Putting the right help in place can be the difference between success and failure for a new business. Look at the areas where you need assistance and invest in professional assistance. IT is an area where many need guidance in putting the most efficient systems in place. Tax and financial advice from an accountant and advice on legal structure and partnership or shareholders’ agreements from an expert lawyer are also often money well spent.
If there are areas that you know you will not have the time to commit to, you should consider outsourcing. For example, investing in regular marketing could pay for itself many times over in new clients attracted to your business, which you might not have had the time to find yourself.
Setting up a new law firm is a complex undertaking and once your business is up and running you are likely to be busy dealing with clients and ensuring that everything is going smoothly. Seeking help with marketing is often one of the most effective forms of outsourcing a legal business can use.
At Orion Legal Marketing we offer expert legal copywriting services, advice on branding and design, social media packages and help with your website. Our copywriters are former lawyers who understand complex legal subjects as well as how to put these across in an engaging and informative way. We are also marketing experts who can work with you to raise your profile, define your brand and build a stable client base.
If you would like to discuss how we can help you launch your new law firm, ring us on 0118 380 5980, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our CONTACT FORM. We’ll be happy to offer you an initial free consultation to discuss your needs and the strategy that would best suit your business.