By Peter Carayiannis; President, Conduit Law
You’re reading this article today because of the concept of time. You’ve been practicing law, for a long time or a maybe just a short time, but always on someone else’s time. Now you want to consider your own law firm.
You feel like you’ve put in enough time to have a go yourself.
You feel like things will be different this time.
Maybe you’re sick of being a cog in a BigLaw firm, just selling time. Six minutes, at a time.
Regardless of the reason you found this article today, you know that now is your time and you’re ready to start your own business in the legal industry.
If I’ve got your attention, then may I be so bold as to ask for a few minutes of your time to consider a few of my thoughts and experiences on how to launch your new legal business.
1. Lawyers have always been entrepreneurs
We are part of a business, and a profession, but also part of a tradition of entrepreneurship. The truth is that it is only in the past 50 or 60 years that law has begun to be dominated by the mega-firms; both national and international.
In point of fact lawyers have been hanging their shingles around the world for centuries. ‘Twas ever thus and nothing will change.
By waking up to the fact that you are ready to launch your own firm, you’re not so much stepping away from the warm (and stifling) embrace of yet-another-super-big-law firm, rather you’re stepping back into the time honoured tradition of independent-minded lawyers the world over who have decided that they can better serve their clients, in their own way, with a law firm of their own creation.
Don’t be intimidated. You are surrounded by legal entrepreneurs and they will all be only too happy to speak with you, mentor you and even refer work to you (more on the important topic of referrals a little bit later on).
You may not have thought that being a lawyer was halfway to being an entrepreneur, but that’s the truth and the sooner you get on with building your firm, the better.
2. Don’t spend a lot of money – the lean startup
It used to be that starting a business meant a huge up-front investment; something that is understandably challenging for most of us, and impossible for many of us.
First, keep in mind that law is a knowledge-based business. It is about ideas, service, and solutions and nowhere in that equation is it mandatory to have opulent offices on the 50th floor of some glass tower with glorious vistas. No, clients don’t need that opulence. They don’t want to pay for you to have it and you don’t need to invest in it.
All of your investments should be limited, targeted and based on getting the operation up and running. There are phenomenal SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions available to power every aspect of your business and that cost only a few dollars per month. You can use co-working spaces when necessary and spend all of your time and energy focused on your work, your clients, your staff and drumming up new business.
3. The three most important things – Market, Marketing, Marketplace
If this heading doesn’t make it clear, let me sum it up as follows: Marketing will be the difference between your success or your failure. Full stop. Period. End. Of. Story.
What do I mean by this?
First – know the market you intend to serve. Will you be a generalist or a specialist? Will you be tied to one geography or be global? Will you start a small firm that is intended to stay small and serve small clients or will you start a small firm intended to grow? You need to know the market you will serve.
Second – marketing is the key to success. The legal industry is by and large, with limited exceptions, pretty universally dismal in marketing. Most of the marketing is copycat/derivative, lacking in originality, full of stuffiness and far more interested in boasting about degrees and experience rather than being focused on marketing how the legal solutions will help the client.
I understand how the legal industry got to this point of marketing banality and I understand why it continues to this day. I also understand that if you want to build a new firm or legal business for tomorrow’s solutions, you should not recycle the tired old marketing tricks from yester-year. This is your chance to set yourself apart from the crowd. Seize the opportunity.
Third – making sure to know your marketplace and to build your reputation within that marketplace will help you succeed. And that marketplace includes lawyers. You will need referral work and you will learn to love referral work. Lawyers (everything from classmates, to colleagues to opposing counsel) are pleased to make referrals to trusted counsel. Work hard to increase your profile through writing and speaking engagements and other reputation and profile enhancers, and then work hard to cultivate and grown those relationships. This marketplace will be the source of your work.
There’s no better time than now for you to launch your new law firm.
There is opportunity at every turn. There are countless clients, in all parts of the community, who need proper legal support, who need counselling, who need guidance, who need advice and who are unrepresented or under-represented (and I’m not talking about the Access To Justice crisis, which is a topic for another day).
I am talking about solid clients – individuals and businesses – who have been priced out of the market or for whom retaining a lawyer seems an impossible thing. It’s not impossible. And now is your time to stand up and make it happen.
About our Guest Blogger
After practicing law for several years at one of Canada’s largest national law firms as a corporate lawyer, Peter set out to build a new model of law firm focused on finding more efficient and effective ways of working with his clients and to deliver quality legal services to Canadian businesses. It was this experience of delivering on-site and on-demand legal services that would lead to the founding of Conduit Law.
Peter has also worked closely with the LegalTech community in Canada and is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurship and innovation, especially as it applies to the practice and business of law. He has spoken at numerous conferences and events in the US, Canada and Europe.
Conduit Law Professional Corporation
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