How to Start a Law Firm in 2023

how to start a law firmAre you thinking about venturing out and starting your own law firm? It could be the best decision you ever make.

Did you know that:

With the difficulties in finding the role you want as a lawyer, it’s understandable to think about starting a law firm.

Or perhaps you’re tired of working for an overly demanding boss, not getting the casework you prefer or you want more control over your working hours and lifestyle.

Either way, starting a law firm is an exciting time.  But it’s tough to know how to get started — most law schools teach you how to be a lawyer, not how to run a business.

In this guide, we’ll go over every aspect of starting your own law firm, including creating a law firm business plan, creating a budget, choosing your marketing tactics, and even how to hire.



Should you start a law firm?

You might love practicing law, but are you ready for the responsibility that comes with running a business?

The two involve completely different skill sets — a good lawyer doesn’t always make the best business owner. And before you get the wrong idea, the business responsibilities of running a law firm don’t fade away when you’re up and running — they just evolve.

To successfully run a law firm, you need to accept that you’ll also be responsible for mundane tasks like business taxes, budgeting, hiring, and marketing.

If that doesn’t sound like fun, you might want to consider working within a firm you don’t own. Running a business isn’t for everyone.

Do you want to:

  • Be involved in every aspect of running a business?
  • Be not only a lawyer but a business owner and leader?
  • Be expected to put non-billable hours into developing your firm?

If you’re up to the challenge, and the answer to the above questions is yes, then you should start a law firm.

But be aware that most lawyers only bill for around 31% of the hours they work. As a business owner, the number of billable hours you work will be even less.

lawyer billable hours

Now you’re aware of the cons of starting your own business, what about the pros? Why is running your own law firm rewarding?

The benefits include:

  • Being more than :just another lawyer.” Sure, you’ll still be a practicing lawyer. But you’ll also be a business owner who hires a team to practice under your firm.
  • The ability to choose your clients. You get complete control of what areas of law you want to practice and what clients you take on.
  • Build the team and culture that you want. Choose your business model, including your working hours and who’s on your team. You get to decide how your days look, what your business goals are, and how you’re going to meet them.

Starting your own law firm isn’t easy. It’ll be a challenge, even on the easiest days. You’ve got to be prepared to put the hours in for your firm to succeed, and that will involve longer hours (at first).

But everything you put into it will come back tenfold. Know that your efforts are going into the long-term health of your firm and your future.

Decided you want to take that leap? This guide will help.


How to create a law firm business plan

Before you open up shop, you’re going to want to create a business plan.


What is a business plan, and why do you need one?

Every law firm needs a written document that describes what you want to achieve and how you’ll meet those goals: this is your business plan.

A business plan lays out the roadmap for all financial, marketing, and operational duties and should be able to shift as your firm grows and your goals change. It should include your purpose for starting your firm, your short- and long-term business goals, your budget, what services you’ll offer, and your law firm marketing strategies.

law firm business plan

Your business plan will also contain all of the projected costs and pitfalls of any initiative the firm undertakes, keeping everyone within the company on the same page. You’ll know where your money is going and understand the worst-case scenarios at all times.

Before you write your business plan, take a step back and think about the big picture.


What are your goals?

Why do you want to own a law firm? Who are your ideal clients? How do you define success?

Starting a law firm is about gaining control over your life and career. Only you know exactly what you want to get out of owning your own business, so take note of that and make sure it’s what you’re working toward.

Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • What am I hoping to get out of this?
  • Who do I want to help?
  • What am I good at?
  • How much time do I want to put into this?
  • What problems can I help solve?
  • What will I consider a success?

The answers to these questions will guide you every step of the way.


How much revenue do you need?

What is the minimum amount of money you need to start your law firm? That’s a number you want to calculate, and, odds are, the number will be higher than you think.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), lawyers made a median annual wage of $127,990 in 2021. While that’s well above average (and more than enough to live off of), it’s not enough to run a law firm.

How to Start a Law Firm - Lawyer Salaries 2021
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And if you’re directing all of your revenue into paying yourself, you’re not going to have any money left to invest in your business. You need to put money into hiring qualified team members, marketing, and even technology to grow.

And don’t skimp on the tech. Firms using multiple technologies collect 40% more revenue per lawyer than those that don’t.


What will you charge?

When you have an idea of how much revenue you’ll need to run your business, it’s time to determine what you’re going to charge.

Several things go into deciding your rates, including:

  • Your practice area
  • Where you’re located
  • What your local competitors are charging
  • Your business expenses
  • Your experience

Many lawyers think it’s good to have low rates to get more clients. That might work for a while, but it’s not sustainable. One of the reasons behind starting your own firm is to set your hours and ultimately work less.

Set reasonable rates that align with your personal and business goals. Thankfully, there are a lot of resources out there to help.

Currently, the average billable rate for lawyers is approximately $300 per hour, ranging from $362 per hour for bankruptcy/intellectual property lawyers to $91 per hour for juvenile law. This varies substantially by location, with D.C. charging the highest rates and West Virginia the lowest.


How many cases do you need to meet your goal?

Let’s use the median annual wage of $127,990 as an example.

If you charge a $4,000 flat fee per client, you’d need around 31 clients per year to hit your goal. That’s only two-to-three cases a month.

Or you can charge hourly. We’ve established that a lawyer will charge $100–$300 an hour on average but depending on practice area, location, and experience, you can charge much more than that.

Some practice areas are simply more lucrative than others too.

lucrative law practice areas

While these numbers will vary based on your situation, you don’t need to work on a staggering number of cases to meet your goal.

Remember that you’ll gradually ramp up to this number (and beyond). Things may start a bit slower, but that’s normal for any new business.

You keep going, and eventually, you’ll earn well beyond your first goal and have to raise the bar.

We recommend you set lofty but attainable goals.


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A minimum budget to start your firm

Ever wonder how much it costs to start a law firm? Let’s figure out your minimum budget.


Savings

Before you start your business, you’re going to want to save a considerable amount of money to support yourself. Having enough savings to survive for a solid six months is an excellent place to start.

Why? Odds are, your business won’t be able to pay you for the first couple of months as you ramp up your customer base and invest in marketing.


Start-up costs

You’ll invest the most money upfront when you start your law firm. There are a lot of things you have to get up and running, including a website.

We recommend at least $3,000 to get the ball rolling. However, it varies heavily depending on your practice area, where you’re located, who your competitors are, and more.

A more realistic number to aim for is somewhere around $10,000. The more you can invest upfront, the better.


Office and supplies

It’s perfectly fine to begin your law firm from home. Many successful lawyers start their practices from the comfort of their bedrooms.

Don’t fall victim to analysis paralysis. It’s easy to get stuck looking for the perfect office, the perfect furniture, designing the ideal law firm logo (you get the gist). Do whatever you have to do to start — what matters is that you do it.

Today, many attorneys are operating completely virtually. The pandemic amplified the already growing trend of remote work. And depending on your practice area, it could be the right choice for you.

why people work remotely
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If you do decide to rent a space, give yourself at least six months to find it, close on it, and get it ready for working out of. That may seem like a lot of time, but you’ll be happy you did it.

A final warning: don’t succumb to the excitement of it all and splurge on the most expensive office furniture. Stay within your budget.


Hardware

You’ll need a lot of hardware to get started.

At a minimum, your workspace will require a:

  • Computer
  • External hard drive
  • Document scanner and printer
  • Phone

Legal software

The software and services you use will either help or hinder your productivity. You’ll use many different tools to optimize productivity.

The best legal software automates many of the most time-consuming processes, reducing the need for hiring team members — a valuable cost-saving when you start,

Here are some to consider:


Marketing

You’ll inevitably have to invest money into marketing your law firm. You can either do it in-house or outsource to a digital marketing agency like JurisPage.

Either way, you’ll need to put money aside for your marketing.

At the very least, you’ll need to invest in business cards, a law firm website, and some form of lead generation. That could involve SEO, social media marketing, or even paid ads.

Here’s how you could show up on Google if you invest in Google Ads.

google ads lawyers

And here’s an example of a local service ad, which can be even more effective.

local service ads law firms


Professional expenses

You’ll want to allocate a small bit of your budget to professional expenses.

That includes:

  • Licencing
  • Continuing legal education
  • Awards
  • Insurance
  • Conferences and events
  • Memberships

In summary, here’s a useful checklist of most of the things you want to budget for.

how to start a law firm budget


Making your law office official

Now we get to some fun bits, like naming your law firm and working on your brand.


Choosing your law firm’s name

While you can name your law firm just about anything you want, there are some conventions you should be aware of.

There used to be a set of rules you needed to follow — the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rule of Professional Conduct Rule 7.5. The rule was removed in 2018, but many law firms still follow these guidelines.

law firm naming rule
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You don’t need to follow these rules any longer but they’re not very restrictive anyway. At its core, it requires you not to be misleading with your name, which is common sense and remains best practice for law firms.

If you’re wondering how to name a law firm, here are some useful guidelines to follow:

  • Don’t state that you practice in a partnership or organization if you don’t.
  • Don’t use the name of a lawyer in a public office or a celebrity’s name in the law firm’s name unless they are actively practicing.
  • Don’t use state or jurisdiction names if you’re not a public legal aid agency. For example, don’t name your firm “Texas Law.”
  • Don’t include language that implies that the firm is the only law firm (e.g., “The” Law Firm).
  • Don’t include language that implies a comparison between the services performed by your firm and other firms (e.g., Best Law Firm, Greatest Law Firm, etc.).
  • Don’t include demeaning, degrading or derogatory language.

Check your jurisdiction’s law firm naming rules, as they vary from state to state. Most guidelines are easy to follow and will keep you from any troubles in the long run.

Besides that, remember that your name is how you make a first impression. Your potential clients, partners, and colleagues will form an opinion of you and your firm based partly on the name you choose.

For example, Trey Porter Law is named after the lead attorney, Trey Porter. Many firms follow this convention.

trey porter law firm name
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Another example is Spectrum Family Law. The name showcases their practice area, and “Spectrum” embodies the firm’s core values and principles. That is, they exist to help the full spectrum of people.

spectrum law law firm name
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Designing your law firm’s brand identity

Your law firm’s name can inform your brand identity and vice versa.

Regardless of the order of things, you need to ensure your law firm stands out.

Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) should guide all of your law firm’s brand and marketing decisions.

It should be a specific, defensible trait that differentiates your law firm from competitors. And most importantly, it should be something your clients actually care about.


What’s your law firm’s USP?

Lisa Feldstein Family Law positions herself uniquely.

lisa feldstein law firm

Her law firm helps people build families through third-party reproduction, and they help family caregivers navigate the system.

It’s a unique practice area and tagline that makes her stand out among other family law firms.


Your law firm’s logo

Your logo will be front-and-center on every piece of marketing material you create, including your website, emails, and business cards. It’s arguably the most important visual element representing your brand.

We recommend you spend ample time (and money, if you can) to get a professionally designed, stand-out logo.

While there are many free tools you can use to make a DIY logo, you’ll likely want to hire a professional if you want to make an impression.

The right designer will help select a font, color scheme, and overall design that accurately reflect your brand, your core values, and how you want to be perceived.

Here are a few examples of law firm logos that are sure to please the court:

law firm logos
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Trust us when we say a good logo is worth the investment.

When you get around to creating your logo, consider:

  • What colors you want to use to reflect your law firm? Keep in mind these colors will carry across your website and other marketing materials.
  • If the font you’ve chosen is web-safe? Does it appear the way you want it to for everyone, regardless of their browser?
  • Do you want to trademark your logo?
  • Who is going to design your logo?

Forming a legal entity

When forming your law firm as a legal entity, you have four primary options to consider. They determine your share of liability and the tax structure you’ll follow.

  • Sole proprietorship: A sole proprietorship makes sense if you’re a solopreneur and aren’t planning on expanding anytime soon. You’ll be expected to pay personal income tax on all profits earned from your business.
  • Partnership: If there are two or more lawyers in the mix, consider a partnership. Everyone involved agrees to operate the business, meaning they share profits and are liable for each other’s actions.
  • Corporation: Solopreneurs or groups of lawyers looking to create a law firm can start a corporation. It operates as a unique legal entity separate from the owners. Corporations have many of the same rights as individuals — they can enter contracts, borrow money, etc. Shareholders are not personally responsible for company debts.
  • Limited Liability Company: These formations combine the traits of a sole proprietorship or partnership with those of a corporation. That is, owners are not responsible for the company’s debts or liabilities. However, members of the LLC are responsible for taxes.

While you can operate a law firm under any of these business structures, your jurisdiction may have its own set of rules you must follow. Make sure you look into local rules and regulations.

For example, LLCs are limited in many states. If a member joins or leaves, you’re required to dissolve and reform the business entity.


Opening your businesses bank accounts

Like any business, your law firm will need a business bank account. But as a lawyer, you’re prohibited from commingling client funds with your firm’s money.

So, you’ll need at least a checking account for monthly overheads, a savings account and an Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA).

what is an IOLTA

Ultimately, these accounts are designed to keep client funds away from business funds.

Lawyers cannot deposit their own money into IOLTA accounts except to pay service charges.

Check your jurisdiction’s rules regarding IOLTA accounts. In most cases, you can open an IOLTA with any major banking institution.

You might also want to consider a credit card account (in case you run into cash flow problems early on) and a client trust account for accepting client retainers.


Business insurance

Every business needs insurance. But your law firm’s insurance requirements will depend on your practice area, your employees, the needs of your clients, and so on.

Here’s a list of different kinds of insurance that will get you started.

  • General Liability Insurance: The most basic type of insurance, it covers most claims that come up during normal business operations.
  • Property Insurance: This will cover the building where your law firm is located, as well as assets like computers and furniture.
  • Legal Malpractice Insurance: Also known as professional liability insurance, it’s arguably the most important form of insurance for you to purchase. This insurance is designed to cover claims of negligence or malpractice made against an individual in your firm.
  • Cyber Liability Insurance: Unfortunately, many businesses fall victim to security breaches carried out by hackers. And as a law firm, you carry a lot of confidential client information. This insurance offers comprehensive cyber liability coverage, including covering social engineering schemes.

As a solopreneur, these four types of insurance will be enough to get the ball rolling. However, if you plan on doing any hiring, there are additional forms of insurance for you to consider.

  • Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI): If you have employees, you could become the target of a number of employee-related claims, like wrongful termination or discrimination. This insurance provides coverage for said claims.
  • Workers Compensation Insurance: A mandatory form of insurance in almost every state, it protects your firm from claims made by employees who get hurt on the job (whether that be in the courthouse or the office).
  • Directors & Officers (D&O) Insurance: This type of insurance protects both you and your spouse’s personal assets should you be sued by a competitor, vendor, client, or other parties for wrongful acts in managing your company.

Not every form of insurance is required for every law firm in every jurisdiction. It’s important to do your due diligence when purchasing insurance to make sure you’re covered where you need to be.

As always, check the requirements of your jurisdiction to find out what is mandatory.


Ensuring you meet all licensing and compliance requirements

The last box to check involves fulfilling licensing and compliance requirements so you can legally start your business.

Like most other things, what you’ll need could vary depending on your jurisdiction.

how to start a law firm business licenses
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What you’ll certainly need is a business license to identify your business, for tax purposes, and to operate at all. Some jurisdictions go further and require a state tax identification number, trade name registration, and zoning approval should you open a physical location.

If you’re going to be hiring help, you must get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Lastly, if you operate in a federally regulated field like security or transportation, you’ll need a federal license.


Systems and processes

Now that you’ve started your own law firm, you get to build the systems and processes that cater to the way that you want to work.

Everything is up to you — from the way you operate your business and who you hire to the types of clients you want to work with and when.

As long as you focus on building systems that help you deliver consistent, high-quality work, you’re going in the right direction.

If you build a client-centered law firm, you’ll automatically choose the right types of systems because you’ll be focused on creating a great client experience, reducing errors, delegating work more effectively, building better teams, and keeping your law firm running successfully.

Let’s go into more detail.


Internal operations/workflows

You’ve already created your business plan and registered your business. Now it’s time to think about where you want to work.

Lawyers starting their own firms can decide where they want to work and with whom. And today, that often means no physical office.

In a recent survey, 79 percent of clients wanted the option to work remotely with their lawyers.

Long gone are the days when all lawyers needed a brick-and-mortar office for clients to visit. You can speak with clients over the phone or on Zoom, or even in co-working spaces.

Ultimately, the choice is up to you.

lawyer remote work

And after you’ve decided where you’re working, it’s time to ask yourself a few more questions regarding your processes, such as:

  • What are my working hours?
  • Where will I hold client meetings?
  • How am I going to send and receive mail?
  • How will I keep client information secure?
  • Who will be in charge of administrative tasks?

We can’t answer these questions for you. In fact, they’re unique to every law firm.

A remote firm will have entirely different answers than a firm with a physical space. It’s about making it work for you.

As long as you document everything, you’ll be able to maintain structure and improve productivity. Setting concrete workflows is a good way to hold yourself accountable and avoid burnout.

And you’ll be way better at time management and feel more productive with workflows set in place.

Revisit your internal operations and workflows to see what’s working and what isn’t, and improve on that. All of this may sound tedious but it’s important to set a solid foundation for growth and, once it’s in place, you don’t have to think about it all that much.


Managing external clients

It’s time to think about the clients.

You might think that you’ve got a handle on client intake, but without a documented process, things can fly off the handle.

We recommend you set up a formal client intake process, including invoicing and communication methods you’ll use. You can design the experience to be client-centered, making sure their pain points are addressed along the way.

Usually, nowadays, this means automating the process and making forms available online. Plenty of great legal automation software is available to help you do this (more about that in the next section).

How to Start a Law Firm -Client Intake

Your client intake process is designed to answer questions like:

  • How often will I reach out to clients?
  • How will I send out invoices? And how will I track down late payments?
  • What forms of communication will I use to message clients? Email, phone, live chat?
  • When do I talk about fees?
  • How will I request reviews?

Having consistent and clear messaging is key to building trust and credibility with future and current clients.

Understanding how your clients are feeling every step of the way is also key. Remove potential misunderstandings and offer assurances to make uneasy clients feel more comfortable.

Make sure your communication style is:

law firm communication
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Like your internal processes, your external processes should be malleable. Every year (or more), take the time to revisit your processes, see what’s working and what isn’t, and improve on them.

Perhaps your clients aren’t readily available over the phone. You might shift your focus to contacting them through email or even over text.

Make sure you’re doing what’s best for the client. By doing that, you’re doing what’s best for the firm.


Using the available technology

It’s no exaggeration to say that if you want to be a good lawyer in the 21st century, you have to be comfortable with modern technology.

It’s not that it is “the thing to do.” Tech improves your life and the efficiency of your law firm and allows you to handle more casework.

That said, the technology you use should fit into your workflow, not force you to build a workflow around it.

You should have already set business goals. Now pick a selection of technology to support those goals.

To stay on top of tech, you should:

  • Stay competent in modern technology in general
  • Conduct regular training with your team to ensure everyone is comfortable with tech
  • Run a paperless law firm to avoid clutter and stay organized
  • Keep things mobile so that you can work efficiently even when outside the office
  • Have a written security policy, follow effective data security practices, and conduct data security threat assessments

Your legal tech stack should cover:


Case and client management

Legal case management software like LexWorkplace offers many ways to streamline processes and communication with clients.

Lawyers, paralegals, and legal aids will find tools to manage case workflows, case notes, as well as ways to improve daily operations like expense tracking, calendar management, and billing and invoicing.

Benefits of legal case management software:

  • Makes document management easier and more effective
  • Creates a paperless law firm
  • Helps you stay organized with a shared calendar in the cloud
  • Allows automated billing
  • Includes a client portal

Practice management

Law practice management software like Uptime Practice can help you streamline your technology and let you work anywhere.

Legal professionals can manage cases, office workflows, client intake, and securely store all their information in the cloud.

Uptime Practice provides a suite of law practice management applications, letting you do everything from task management and expense tracking to accounting and document management.

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Benefits of practice management software:

  • Keep all practice-related information in one place
  • Coordinate between all legal professionals in the firm
  • Legal matter management
  • Automated billing and invoicing
  • Case management

These are just the basics of the technology out there for you to use. If you have a specific problem you want to solve or a workflow you want to improve, odds are there’s something out there to help.

For more information, check out our Legal Software Report.


Getting your law firm online

When someone is looking for a lawyer, you can bet they’re going to look online.

That’s why 94 percent of law firms have websites in 2023. However, simply having a website is not enough. Your law firm’s website is one of the first (and most influential) chances you get to make a positive impact and convert a lead.

Yet only 69 percent of law firms say their website is mobile-friendly, and 70 percent say their website’s content is written primarily by one of the firm’s lawyers. So, this may need more thought before you perfect your firm’s website strategy.

Then there’s social media, which you can use to demonstrate your expertise in your field, show off your company culture, and more.

There are a lot of opportunities online. It’s important to take advantage of them.


Setting up your website

Because so many people use Google to look for legal advice, it’s crucial that your website is done professionally.

The best law firm websites balance branding, client experience, and technical factors to ensure the site not only looks good but has a cohesive brand experience and a well-thought-out sales funnel.

Bryan R. Kazarian has a well-designed lawyer website that is chock-full of high-quality content.

bryan r kazarian

It’s easy to find what you’re looking for, with clear CTAs and contact information. And there are glowing reviews to build credibility.

A couple of other websites worth mentioning include:

You can find a host for your website and purchase a domain name for under $100. Squarespace, BlueHost, and GoDaddy are just a few businesses that can host your website.

When it comes to actually building your website, you have two options. The DIY route, or you could hire a professional.

What you choose is up to you, but like anything else, you’ll get the best designed, future-proof website if you work with a professional web designer with a web design portfolio you like.

law firm web design portfolio
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The cost of designing your law firm website will be paid back many times over if you get it right.

When hiring, just make sure to ask the right questions. It’s best to work with specialist law firm website designers, as they know the ins and outs of what works in the industry as well as the lawyer marketing rules and regulations that must be followed.

But there are some great DIY options as well. Squarespace can not only host your website but it’s known for being an intuitive, easy-to-operate website builder.

If you’d like to see what you can put together yourself, it’s the best place to start.

But it takes time to attract clients to your website through law firm SEO. In the meantime, you want to work on other ways of getting new clients for your law firm.


Starting your social media accounts

According to the ABA, most law firms have some presence on social media, with 86% saying they’re on at least one platform.

social media law firm stats

So, if you’re serious about marketing, you’ll join social media. It’s a valuable way of attracting new leads by sharing content, company news, thought leadership, and more.

Wonder what the marketing funnel looks like with social media in the mix?

  1. Someone sees your post on LinkedIn, where you share a new piece of content you just wrote
  2. They click through to your website and read your blog
  3. From there, they sign up to download your free eBook, and you get their email

Aside from attracting new clients, it’s also a way to show off your credentials and expertise to fellow lawyers, build your network, and expand. It’s how you establish authority in your practice area and become known by name.

But you can’t just pick any old platform and start publishing.

You want to pick a few social media platforms, the ones your clients are using most, and really get good at using those.

For example, most lawyers are not on Instagram or TikTok despite those being today’s dominant platforms. Why? Because their customer persona doesn’t live there.

We recommend you pick two social media platforms (LinkedIn and Facebook, most likely) and focus on those. Get good at creating content regularly, replying to comments, and figuring out what kinds of posts get you the results you want.

lerners lawyers
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If you spread yourself too thin, you might get overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do. And trust us when we say that social media is a lot of work.

If you don’t know what to post, the easiest thing to do is check out what your competitors are doing. Most lawyers share information related to their practice area, answer common questions, introduce their team members, and show off their company culture.

While it’s straightforward in theory, it takes a lot of manpower to stay active. There’s always the option of outsourcing, hiring a digital marketing agency, or just a social media marketer to manage your accounts for you.


Directories

We’ve already mentioned getting yourself on legal directories, but it’s worth talking about in detail.

It’s an easy way to build your online presence and get discovered by potential clients online. Because online directories are hubs for reviews and ratings, they can be an invaluable marketing tool if you’re performing well and have excellent reviews.

A few directories you want to get on are:

In your profiles, you can redirect visitors to your website, where they can engage with your marketing/sales funnel and ultimately become paying clients.

Here’s an example of an optimized Google My Business profile (arguably the most important directory).

Wilson-Criminal-Defence-Google-My-Business-Law-Firms

To get started, you want to have:

  • A high-quality profile photo
  • A description of your business, including your practice areas and services offered
  • Your location and operating hours
  • Contact information, including a phone number, email address, and links to your website and social media profiles

While there are a few cons to online directories (unhappy clients could leave negative reviews), the pros outweigh them.

As long as you monitor reviews and do your best to satisfy your clients, there’s no reason not to use online directories.


Setting marketing goals and attracting clients

Now that you’re up and running, the next step is to start getting clients.

This should be your priority. Without clients, you won’t be able to keep the lights on.

That’s exactly why you need to research and document your law firm’s marketing strategies. Digital marketing isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it type of deal. It requires constant work, creating valuable content, working on SEO, and making sure your law firm is easy to find online.

Be patient with your marketing efforts, and the results will come. Here’s how to get started.


What do you want to accomplish?

When you had the idea to create a law firm, what did you want to accomplish? How many clients do you want to work with at one time? And what kind of people are they?

Use these insights to set SMART marketing goals.

That is, any goal you set should be:

  • SPECIFIC. State what you need to do to hit the goal using action words.
  • MEASURABLE. How are you going to evaluate the goal? What metrics and measurements will you use to determine success?
  • ACHIEVABLE. All goals should be attainable.
  • RELEVANT. Is this goal improving your law firm in some way? Why are you trying to hit the goal?
  • TIME-BOUND. When will you meet the goal? State a specific date.

law firm smart goals

Maybe you want your law firm to be profitable within the first two months. From there, you’d need to know your fees to determine how many clients you’ll need to work with to make that happen.

If you need eight clients, then you can break that down even further into micro-goals. You could say:

I want my law firm to be profitable in two months. To do that, I need to work with four clients in January and four in February.

From there, you could even set another goal pertaining to how you’re going to get those clients.


Determine a target market

Once you know what your goal is, it’s time to figure out who your client is.

That is, who is your ideal customer persona?

law firm client persona

For example, if you’re a personal injury lawyer, you have insight into what types of clients you see most often. If you noticed that older women between the ages of 55–65 are bringing you a lot of low-effort, high-reward cases, that’s a demographic you want to target.

By determining who your ideal clients are, you’ll be able to create higher-value content made specifically for your client. You’ll become familiar with their pain points, learn what they want to hear from you, and ultimately turn more leads into clients.

But don’t turn down work from clients who aren’t your customer persona. You want to direct your marketing efforts toward what will be more successful — you’ll inevitably get unconventional clients along the way.


Building a client-centered law firm

Most lawyers would say their law firms are client-centered. After all, they’re in the business of helping clients with legal needs. But that’s not what we mean by client-centered.

What we mean is that you can create an experience that shows you genuinely care about your clients. Showing that you understand their needs, care about the outcome of their case, and that you’re the right person for the job will affect your bottom line.

A client-centered law firm might:

  • Design their law firm billing and pricing structure around their ideal customer. Does your target persona prefer to pay hourly or a flat fee? What’s better for you?
  • How do your clients like to communicate? Email? Text? Live chat? Phone? Do your best to cater to their likes, but don’t forget about data security.
  • When drafting documents, do so in a way that a layperson would understand. Focus on concise, plain-language copy.
  • Make the client intake and onboarding experience seamless so that it reflects your core values and pleases your client.
  • Capture client feedback every step of the way. It’s the best way to improve.

The reality is that there is a lot of competition in the legal space. Solopreneurs and smaller law firms can’t afford to miss these low-cost opportunities to improve their revenue.


How will you acquire clients?

Even ten years ago, the majority of lawyers would have told you they relied exclusively on their reputation and referrals from other lawyers. But those days are gone.

People are searching for just about everything online, including lawyers. Even when they get a referral, they go online to validate it by looking at marketing material and reviews.

And when they do get a referral, they go online to validate it by looking at marketing material and reviews.

What’s the answer, then? It’s digital marketing.

Today’s most successful marketing campaigns focus on authenticity and providing real value.

For example, Evergreen Elder Law’s marketing is genuine. They create meaningful videos and other resources to help clients understand the law, and it’s all free to access.

They don’t throw around buzzwords hoping to catch your attention.

evergreen-best-law-firm-websites
(Image Source)

But you also need to be strategic with your marketing. Don’t just throw money at the first marketing trend you hear about and expect results. It’s all too easy to see little return from your marketing efforts, and many lawyers would agree.

Every marketing effort you launch should be a part of an overall strategy. You should already have an idea of your target customer persona. Now let’s use that to brainstorm marketing strategies and figure out how to measure the results.

A successful digital marketing campaign will net you results.

Expect to have:

  • A top-notch website that makes it easy for clients to find everything they need to know about you.
  • A reputation that precedes you. Other local legal professionals will know your name, and clients will hear nothing but good things about you.
  • An optimized Google My Business page to attract local traffic and reviews.
  • A documented marketing plan that takes you to the next level.
  • Several marketing campaigns that get you leads.
  • Processes in place to convert leads into clients.

Developing a brand and marketing campaign take time and a lot of ongoing effort. But it’s the key to growth in a hyper-competitive space. Take the time to plan out your marketing efforts carefully, or contact a law firm marketing agency to handle it for you.


Picking your marketing channels

Where do you want to be found?

Or, a better question to ask yourself is: where are my clients looking for me?

With that knowledge, you’ll be able to select marketing channels for your law firm.

That includes channels like:

  • Social media
  • Content marketing
  • Website/blog
  • Email marketing
  • Events
  • Guerilla marketing

You don’t need to work on every channel, just the ones your customers appreciate.

For example, if your target audience is young people, you might want to invest more heavily into social media platforms that they use, like Instagram.

Over time, you’ll discover what platforms are reaping the most rewards and which are underperforming. Then you can shift your marketing budget to what’s getting results.

Sam Bernstein Law Firm has over 34,000 Facebook followers. They found what worked for them and kept at it to great success.

sam bernstein law firm facebook
(Image Source)

It’s an ongoing process, but with research and patience, you’ll be able to capitalize on digital marketing.


Document your marketing plan

Every worthwhile marketing campaign is documented in a marketing plan.

Your marketing plan will answer crucial questions like:

  • What’s the purpose of this marketing plan?
  • What do I hope to achieve?

It will also narrow in on specific goals you want to hit. Maybe you want to:

  • Establish your firm as an authority in the practice of family law in your area
  • Establish your firm as the clear go-to for child custody rights in your area
  • Ensure the firm’s online presence and messaging is consistent with the firm’s real-world prestige
  • Generate marketing leads/followers by engaging your website audience and content readers
  • Generate sales leads and new prospective clients in your area

Aside from that, your marketing plan should highlight:

  • Your SMART goals
  • Your brand story
  • Your target audience
  • Your competitors
  • Your budget
  • Your marketing tactics
  • Your means of measuring results

It’s a lot to wrap your head around. But we’ve developed a law firm marketing strategy template for you to work off of.


Using ads to get more leads

While there are a lot of free marketing channels out there (your website, organic traffic, your email list), there are also paid marketing channels that a lot of lawyers have success with.

But if you want to invest a bit of money into ads to see some quick returns, there are avenues available to you.


Directory listings

Being listed on legal directories is essential to improve your visibility.

In the past, they were glorified YellowPages. But they’ve evolved into marketing channels in their own right. They help you generate leads, build your reputation, and improve your SEO.

If you had to pick one directory to invest in, it should be Avvo. It’s the most used lawyer directory, offering marketing services to lawyers.

You can start with their free plan, which gets you a listing that’s visible on search engines. Or you can upgrade to their Advanced plan for increased visibility or their Elite plan for all of that plus ads.

Worth focusing on is your Avvo review page. Being highly reviewed on Avvo builds credibility and authority, increasing the likelihood of prospective clients making the decision to contact you.

Ryan Cadry, a lawyer in California, has an optimized Avvo profile with tons of reviews, a link back to his website, contact information, and more.

lawyer avvo profile
(Image Source)

Legal awards

Awards are about more than an ego boost.

They can help build authority and credibility in your practice area, both with fellow lawyers and clients.

Our client, Oykhman Criminal Defence, shows off their awards in a carousel on their homepage.

lawyer awards marketing
(Image Source)

If you’re going up against a competing law firm for a new client, who do you think they’ll choose? The lawyer with no awards, or the lawyer with many? The answer is obvious.

Credibility is a persuasive currency in the marketing world.

And there are hundreds of lawyer awards out there ready to be nabbed. It might take some effort on your part (in the form of time and application fees), but it’s well worth it.

Some awards we recommend you look into include:

  • American Bar Association (ABA) awards
  • American Association for Justice (AAJ) awards

Not all lawyer awards are made equal. Some are nothing more than glorified plaques. And while those types of awards have their place (for example, if you’re just looking to build some credibility on your website), they don’t mean much in the real world.

Know what each award will mean for you before applying for it.


Facebook ads

Facebook advertising is one of the best methods to get traffic to your law firm’s website and get it fast. But figuring out how to get the most out of Facebook ads is challenging for even the best of us.

While it’s a lucrative marketing route, it’s all too easy to overspend. If you have to wonder where the money went, you’ll discard Facebook Ads as another waste of time.

facebook lawyer ad

If you’re going to be handling Facebook ads yourself, be careful. You can spend more than you want without even realizing it. It’s generally better to have a professional set up your Facebook ad campaigns.

But if you’re determined to go it alone, here are some tips.

  • Create an optimized Facebook page
  • Target a hyper-specific audience (remember that customer persona from before?)
  • Set clear goals for your campaign
  • Make engaging ads that catch the eye

With that said, we do recommend hiring a professional or doing a deep dive to learn how to create powerful Facebook ads yourself. Otherwise, you likely won’t get the results you want.


Google Ads

Another powerful advertising channel is Google Ads.

Google Ads are dominating the homepage of Google, and they’re only going to become more influential.

Here’s an example of how you could appear at the top of Google using an ad targeting the keyphrase “impaired driving lawyers.”

google ad for a law firm

Launching a PPC campaign yourself can be challenging. Like Facebook Ads, it’s easy to overspend, and nailing down exactly how much you should budget takes work.

PPC ads have you paying every time someone clicks on your ad. And it’s auction-style, so you’re bidding against other law firms for the same keywords. To protect yourself, you need to set a maximum spend per day (and per keyword), so you don’t go over budget.

We recommend you hire a professional. Google Ads are more competitive, and the auction-style bidding makes it harder to stay within budget.

If you want to give it a shot yourself, here are some tips.

  • Focus on long-tail keywords
  • Use negative keywords
  • Get hyper-specific and target zip codes and postal codes, not just your city
  • Integrate keywords into your ads

Networking and hiring

Starting any business is challenging. It’s isolating, especially when you’re going in alone. But it’s also rewarding, and with the right support system, it doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor.

Your friends and family can provide moral support along the way, keeping you grounded and giving you an escape when needed.

Then you’ll find mentors and colleagues who can provide small business advice, practice area-specific advice, and even help you with menial tasks.


Find your community

While you’re headfirst in getting your law firm set up, you may forget that your best resource is your peers.

Your colleagues can help you determine things like your rates, assist you during tax season, and even provide advice on how to get your first clients.

Make an effort to connect with even one person who’s been in your shoes. They’re sure to have valuable advice.

If you need help making acquaintances, check out events run by your local bar association. The NYSBA has an event calendar on its website filled with different things to do each month.

nysba events
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Small business associations will help you make more connections in the small business world and provide invaluable support.

You could also check out Facebook and LinkedIn, as you’ll find local, national, and even international groups of all kinds.

The Law Society is one such group, with over 180,000 followers. And there are similar groups for every country, state, province, and even city.

linkedin lawyer group
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Staffing

You likely won’t have the funds to hire any full-time staff when you start out. But odds are, you’ll hire legal assistance on a part-time basis.

You can choose to hire a paralegal either virtually or in-person (remember when we said you get to choose how you work and who you work with?)

A paralegal or legal assistant will make your life much easier regardless of what you choose.

A legal assistant can take care of administrative duties, giving you more time to build the business and work on billable tasks.

Similarly, a paralegal can work with administrative duties and assist with more case-related matters, helping you scale without hiring more lawyers.

paralegal vs legal assistant

Just make sure that when you do hire, there is enough work. We recommend hiring your first employee on a contract or part-time basis and going from there.

If you find yourself taking on too much work, overwhelmed with your caseload, or spending too much time on administrative duties, it’s time to hire.


Your company values

It’s up to you to determine the culture of your law firm. It’s also up to you to keep your employees happy and ensure a positive team environment.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Your law firm’s organizational structure is written down somewhere, so everyone knows who reports to who.
  • All employees know who does what best to maximize efficiency.
  • Your hires fit in with your values and the firm’s mission.
  • Your compensation structure encourages your employees to love their job and stick around.
  • You make an active effort to hire a diverse and inclusive team.
  • You foster a positive culture that reflects your values.
  • Managers are skilled in training and managing.
  • Communication is valued and encouraged.
  • You foster a positive work-life balance with systems that encourage self-care, wellness, and mental health needs.

Consultants

Aside from legal help, you’ll also need to work with consultants to get your business up and running.

It’s always better to pay a professional to do things rather than figure it out yourself. It could cost you more in the long run if you make your own website that isn’t optimized for SEO and have to pay a designer to fix it.

hire a consultant

Some consultants you may hire include:

  • Bookkeeper
  • Website developer
  • IT technician
  • Digital marketer

You can find consultants on websites like UpWork or Fiverr or even through networking and platforms like LinkedIn.

Regardless, here are a few things to keep in mind when hiring.

  • Qualifications. Make sure whoever you hire is qualified. You don’t want to have to hire a second consultant to redo the work of the first.
  • Working hours. Check to make sure their working hours align with yours if need be.
  • Support. When you hire a website developer, will they continue to provide ongoing support when the need arises? It’s wise to sort that out beforehand.
  • Fees. Can you afford them? Make sure whoever you hire fits into your budget.

Ongoing training and development

Depending on your jurisdiction, you may have to complete continuing legal education programs to keep your license. After all, you need to know the latest changes to the laws.

Encourage training and development not only for yourself but for your team. Keeping everyone up-to-date in their respective field will keep your practice modern and encourage growth.


Ready to start your law office?

You now have all the tools and information you need to start your law firm off on the right foot.

Use the knowledge you’ve gained to create a sound strategy before you launch your new law office. And when you do, know that you’re not alone.

There are hundreds of resources out there to help you get started. Our blog is full of helpful marketing advice.

And if you want professional help with your law firm’s digital marketing, you can schedule a free consultation today.