By Dennis Hung • November 02, 2018•Careers, Firms and the Private Sector, Other Career Issues
Law school typically prepares lawyers to join established firms. Many, however, want to strike out on their own. If you want to start your own firm, you might think that the best place to do is in your own hometown. Before you start looking at office space, though, you should make sure to that you know what to expect when you start practicing law.
Learning the Business
Unfortunately, law school rarely teaches you how to open your own firm. While there might be specialized classes taken by some students, the truth is that you'll have to figure out how to run a business at the same time as you'll have to figure out how to be a lawyer. Learning how to deal with invoices, how to use a market research app, and how to maintain your bank accounts will have to be done alongside learning how to practice on your own. It can be a rewarding experience, but it can seem like a lot to process at once.
The Client Problem
You will spend an inordinate amount of time learning how to get your first client. While you might be a part of the community, you haven't established a legal presence in the community yet. This means that you're going to spend quite a bit of time learning how to attract clients, which in turns means learning how to market yourself and how to stand out from other attorneys. Once you figure out how to get one client, you'll have an easier time attracting more.
Your reputation in your hometown will matter when you open up a firm. People will judge you not just on your legal education, but who you were before you left for law school. This can make it difficult for some to practice close to home, though it can be beneficial for others. One of the things with which you will have to deal during the earlier parts of your local legal career is establishing a new identity as a lawyer. The name you put on your door will matter, but you may be able to leave the past behind more quickly than you assume.
When you go home, you will be entering a community that you might not have been part of before. While most towns have very few lawyers (if any), many small towns already have an entrenched legal community. As such, it's important to figure out not just if your town can support another lawyer, but if there's a legal niche that hasn't already been filled. New attorneys might feel like the best way to attract clients is to be a generalist, but filling a need that's been unmet in the community can make things easier. Learning how to work with (and get referrals from) other local lawyers will be the key to your early success.
Lawyers have to be part of the local community to succeed. You're going to have to reach out to more than just attorneys in order to start a firm in your hometown. Get to know the people who are members of the Chamber of Commerce, as they can help to refer clients to you. You'll also want to know people involved in other professional fields - especially finance because you'll want to ensure that all of your accounts are properly kept. The more you can connect with the people around you, the better able you'll be to serve your community.
Starting your own firm in your hometown won't be easy, but it can be very rewarding. If you're willing to put in work and network with others, you'll have an easier time than if you try to go it alone. Starting a firm isn't for everyone, but those who have the right attitude might find it to be the best way to practice law.