By Anna Johansson • March 10, 2019•Careers
When you first venture out on your own and decide to open up your own law practice, there’s unmistakable excitement and anticipation. There are also nerves and fears. But even the most experienced attorneys can’t possibly be prepared for everything that comes with building out a practice.
6 Untold Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities
Going from attorney at someone else’s firm to an attorney with your own practice is a much more significant transition than most people realize. Practically, it comes with more responsibility and scheduling demands. Psychologically, it comes with greater pressure. But all of the pep talks and reading can’t prepare you for some of the issues, challenges, and opportunities that you’ll face.
Here’s the reality:
1. You Need Vision (and Flexibility)
You don’t stumble into a successful law practice. Every good practice begins with certain foundational building blocks in place. One of these pillars is comprised of vision.
You don’t need to know your exact destination, but you do need to have an idea of which direction you’re heading. Otherwise, you’ll be easily swayed by whatever quick break is in front of you at any given moment.
Having said this, good vision is flexible – particularly in the early stages. Don’t become so rigid that you fail to pivot or shift when there’s a positive opportunity in your path.
2. You’ll Become a Part-Time Marketer
When you’re working for another firm, you don’t typically have to worry about bringing in a bunch of business. In most cases, the firm takes care of client generation and business is fed to you. (Or at least a percentage of your workload comes this way.) But when you run your own practice, you have to wear the marketing hat, too.
Building a competitive practice in today’s crowded legal industry is all about creating a brand and maximizing exposure – which predominantly happens online. You’ll need to create a website, carefully articulate your branding, and develop a link building strategy that helps you reach prospective clients. Don’t know how to do these things? You’ll have to outsource or learn as you go.
3. Overhead is a Constant Fight
If there’s one thing that can silently and progressively eat away at your profits, it’s overhead. Many law firms – particularly those in early growth stages – suffer as a result of poor cash flow.
When making any decision related to expenses, ask a couple of questions. First off, will it make you any money? Secondly, will it save you money? If the answer is no on both accounts, then the expense isn’t worth the investment.
4. Budgeting is Serious Business
“Law firms fail because of poor budgeting,” EnchantingLawyer explains. “We track and use analytics for finances on a weekly basis, and we always know what comes in and what comes out. Tracking weekly reports of money is a key factor in the growth of any law firm.”
If you’re unable to fund growth from profits at an early stage of the game, think about how you can strategically finance growth without saddling your practice with massive amounts of debt. Strategic partnerships can work well.
5. Clients Command Time
No matter how big your practice gets or how many lawyers you hire to work for you, there’s no replacement for time spent with clients. Offloading all client responsibilities to your team will do you a disservice. It prevents you from understanding who your clients are, what they need, and how your practice adds value.
Make an effort to spend time with clients on a daily and weekly basis. It’ll change the way you manage, lead, and grow your practice.
6. You Must Learn How to Say No
There’s a time and place for saying yes to everything that comes your way. But typically this happens early in your career when you’re trying to get your foot in the door. When you’re growing your own practice, you must learn to say no when something doesn’t add value. Depending on your personality type, this can be tough to do.
Embrace the Excitement
It might sound like this article is dogging the idea of opening up a practice, but it’s not. Instead, it’s giving you the truth so that you’re prepared. In spite of the demands and challenges, there’s great excitement and opportunity awaiting you. Choose to embrace it, and you’ll find joy and fulfillment in your career.