Five things to consider when starting your own law firm

Alistair Vigier

Have you ever wanted to start your own law firm? Working at a large law firm can be stressful. Are you already running your own firm and want to take your firm to the next level?

Managing partners often check in with their lawyers multiple times a day to ensure they are inputting their hours into Clio. This is often followed by them asking why the lawyers are not billing enough.

Six months ago, I decided to leave my management position at a medium-sized family law firm to create my own family law startup.

I learned five key lessons that I wanted to share to help you with your new law firm or to grow your existing practice.

Hire a professional marketing agency

The value of hiring a marketing agency is that it has a completely different skillset from lawyers. Law school does not teach marketing or how to get clients.

Marketing companies also stay on top of current trends, which gives them knowledge on the best way to spend limited marketing dollars. In the past, yellow pages and newspaper advertisements were the best ways to market for law firms. Many marketing agencies are now recommending online advertising instead. In the near future, there will likely be marketing opportunities using virtual reality.

Make sure the marketing agency has years of experience working with law firms. Marketing a restaurant chain is completely different from advertising a family law firm. Using family law as an example, no one is excited to be your client.

No one wants to follow you on Instagram, like you on Facebook or subscribe to your mailing list. No client is itching to spend $5,000 per month on court fees. They want to get the result they are looking for and move on with their lives as soon as possible.

Lawyers should look for the following in a marketing agency:


  1. The marketing company can explain marketing terms in plain English. If they try and make you feel like marketing is too complicated to understand, walk away.
  2. Make sure they understand and add to your goals and vision.
  3. Make sure they have represented a law firm or, at the very least, a professional service firm in the past.


Don’t do accounting on your own


I’m a salesperson, and I find bookkeeping and accounting extremely boring. But a CEO making decisions without hard financial data is a critical mistake. How do I know what is working or not?

Make sure not to take on things you hate as you will never be good at them. The last thing you want to do is make financial mistakes. It can easily lead to law society complaints and lawsuits. Instead, hire a bookkeeper and accountant. They can help you:

• File your taxes

• Give you real data you can use to make decisions

• Tell you where you are wasting money

•Tell you what you are doing well

Find the right lawyers

Not all lawyers are created equal. Lawyers went to different schools, received different grades and put different amounts of effort and skill into their work when they articled. Yes, becoming a lawyer is a challenge and anyone that became one deserves respect.

At my law firm, we look for lawyers that are between a two- and seven-year call. Lawyers that are less than a two-year call are often not experienced or confident enough to get retainer agreements signed. Lawyers past a seven-year call often want to do things their own way. We are looking for confident lawyers that can follow our proven system.

But over the four years I have been in law firm management, I have worked with around 100 lawyers. Here are what you want to look for in a lawyer as a manager:

  • They understand risk management but can still move forward with plans
  • Excellent communication with clients, staff and management
  • Clients leave good reviews on Facebook and Google

Focus on the client experience


Law is changing and some lawyers understand the future of law, while others resist it. The days of lawyers charging whatever they want and taking the file in whatever direction they want is over. Clients demand transparency and want to be the co-pilot on the file.


Be careful with office space


At the last firm I worked, we spent massive amounts of money on office space. Most of the lawyers worked from home or court. The lawyers would only go into the office to meet clients for consultations.


There are a number of shared office space companies, such as Regus, that allow you to meet clients for $70 a day. If you want to be extremely efficient, book a number of consultations on one day if you are just starting out.


If you want to learn more about remote working, I suggest the book Remote: Office Not Required.


I hope these tips help you. To reiterate, find someone to do your marketing and accounting, find the right lawyers, focus on the client experience and don’t waste money on rent. I used the Clio Legal Trends Report (https://www.clio.com/resources/legal-trends/2018-report/) to make a list of changes I wanted to make to the legal industry.

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