If I started my law firm today, here's what I would do
You create your law firm in one practice area - and then struggle - and ask yourself: should I start a different practice area?
Should I change my client focus?
All of this thinking and questioning happens after the fact, and you start to narrow down your pool 5 years in, maybe after 10 years.
Instead, you should START with a more narrow focus and then zoom out over the years if you want. The hard truth is that you’re not setting yourself up to win when you start your law firm.
You’re stacking the cards AGAINST you and not in your favor. After 5 years of consulting and 4 years as a law firm owner, here’s EXACTLY what I would do if I started a law firm today.
1. Practice in a Tier 2 city - I’m thinking Fort Worth or Ft. Lauderdale or even Cincinnati. Your law firm profits need to support your lifestyle, and too often, I see people setting up shop in insanely expensive cities, making it that much more challenging to be profitable in year 1. I started my practice in Hoboken, working from my home office in 2013. I never had an actual office and was virtual because renting an office in NYC was insanely prohibitive to profitability. My hedge fund clients didn’t care where I worked because they NEVER came to my office. I went to their office, and they preferred that.
2. I would work with a super small group of clients and be ultra-clear in my marketing - Nermin, the Divorce lawyer for Doctors, or Hire Nermin, the Commercial property Queen. Calling myself an immigration attorney or something generic isn’t going to make me stand out or make it clear who I work with and WHY that person should hire ME over the others.
3. Find a practice area that creates repeat business and is word of mouth friendly - Divorce lawyer for doctors - well, doctors usually have kids, which leads to child custody modifications. Doctors also get re-married and WILL have a prenup the second time around. Each doctor could easily give me 3-peat business, reducing my marketing costs. And doctors work on referrals in their industry, they are a natural word-of-mouth resource, and I could expect 20-30% of my practice to be referral generated.
Nermin the Commercial Queen - Commercial property owners typically don't only have one piece of commercial property - they have multiples. So this checks off the "repeat business" requirement. Next, I could leverage myself into their outside counsel by being their trusted commercial advisor to review employment agreements, other business contracts, etc. Commercial property owners are also a small group of people who easily refer their trusted partners. I could expect 2-3 additional commercial property referrals each year, easily. Also - I'm not looking to work with the condo builders or the massive shopping plaza builders. I'm looking to work with small business owners, like the manufacturing business or warehouse owners (trust me, I speak from personal experience here because I started and ran my parents' mattress business for two years).
4. Business development - I would join 2 networking groups - one that lends itself more socially, like the Lawyers Club or the Buckhead Club, and another that is pure networking. My goal would be to be known for this one practice area in my local community through word of mouth. Not billboards. Not SEO. Not Instagram. WORD OF MOUTH. Once I felt I got everything I needed from one networking group, I’d work up to a new, maybe more expensive, group. Remember, your network IS your net worth. If I start building relationships on Day 1 in my practice, then ten years in, I can cash in all of the connections I have made over ten years.
5. Productize my legal offerings - Fixed fees for everything, so I’m not tracking time and being handcuffed by 6-minute increments. If there’s one thing I’ve learned: 99% of people HATE being billed in 6-minute increments, and 100% of attorneys hate billing by the hour. No one has ever said: oh, thanks for charging me for that 7-minute conversation about my visitation this weekend. No lawyer has ever said: so glad I went to law school so I could do work and then summarize the work I just did in 6-minute increments.
Consider this if you’re confused about what services you could productize or want to get away from the hourly rate.
6. Tech EVERYTHING - I will always stay a lean company without full-time staff because I want to keep 80-90% profitability and not worry about swings in the economy and then fire people because I can't afford them. I believe and have seen solo 7-figure earners with 80% profits. That's where I'd want to be. And to get there, I'd leverage technology to the 9th degree. Everything would be a system, from invoicing, to collecting payments, to client scheduling. And if you haven't read Company of One - read it now.
Remember, it's not too late for you to implement some of these changes in your practice.
Nermin proud Company of One Jasani, Esq.
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