Category Archives: Business

Law Firm Virtual Receptionist

If you’re a solo practitioner or small law firm you may want to reduce your workload while improving the performance of your legal services. To do this in a cost-effective way, hiring a virtual receptionist can handle many of the small tasks required to run a law firm.

Virtual receptionists are able to help with tasks like social media, marketing, administration, advertising, answering phones and more.

Here you’ll find a variety of places to find a virtual assistant for your law firm.

What is a Virtual Receptionist?

Virtual receptionists offer highly-skilled service solutions that can manage many of the tasks your in-house staff would do. They can operate remotely, in office, or completely computer automated.

The benefits of hiring a virtual receptions include::

  • Cost effective
  • Time savings
  • Efficient
  • Reduce labour costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Access to expert talent
  • On-demand labour services

Virtual receptionists, also known as outsourcing, comes in the form of independent contractors, temporary office workers, remote workers, or

Are There Risks Using Virtual Receptionist?

While the benefits of having a virtual receptionist seem appealing, let’s take a moment to evaluate the risks of having a virtual receptionist.

Here’s some of the common risks that come with using a virtual receptionist:

  • Security & Confidentiality Risks. Providing legal services can expose you to a range of sensitive, personal information from your clients. If you choose a virtual receptions to handle your incoming calls, be sure there job requirements are clear: take calls, make appointments, and schedule consultation. Keeping sensitive information and data secure is a top priority at a law firm.
  • Quality Risks. Situations where quality becomes a risk include outsourcing calls to countries where language and cultural barriers exist. Potential clients may become frustrated explaining their needs to someone who is assigned simply to book appointments and set up an initial consultation.
  • Reputation Risks. Virtual Receptionists is another way of saying “outsourcing.” When you’re outsourcing work to other countries, it can sometimes lead to bad publicity and it may affect other staff working in house who may worry that they’ll lose their job to a cheaper, outsourcing solution.

When deciding how you’ll use a virtual receptionist at your law firm, if the risks outweigh the benefits, you should avoid including these outsourcing solutions at your law firm.

Law Firm Virtual Receptionists

If you’re busy providing legal advice or in the middle of a consultation, having an agent answering calls can increase the likelihood of securing new clients.

Services like AnsweringLegal provide dedicated call center solutions for law firms. They offer the following services:

  • Call handling
  • Message taking
  • Call routing
  • Legal intake
  • Customer support
  • Polite and professional customer experience

Call center virtual receptionist can be given a professional script to handle a range of questions and types of phone calls. Other services can provide 24/7 legal answering services to reduce missed opportunities at your law firm.

Here are a few more call answering services you can consider for your law firm:

PatLive – Offers 24/7 legal answering.

  • Pat Live provides virtual receptionists employed from the United States. They can help your law firm with message taking, appointment scheduling, lead collection, event scheduling, after hour agents, and more. With 27 years experience, Pat Live offer competitive virtual receptionist solutions for all business types.
  • Hours of operation: 24/7 services.
  • Pricing: $99 per month (50 call minutes) to $899 (1000 call minutes); provides additional features and a free 14-day trial.

Conversational – Offers friendly virtual receptionists in North America.

  • Conversational is an industry leading virtual receptionist service provider. Their team of professional and friendly receptionists come from the United States and Canada. They have over 14 years experience and are one of the few with 100% North America only receptionists.
  • Hours of operation: Custom operation solutions.
  • Pricing: $300 per month (600 call minutes) to $1000 per month (2400 call minutes); offers a 30-day free trial.

RubyReceptionist – Offers professional virtual receptionists and a mobile app to synchronize and manage all calls effectively.

  • Ruby Receptionists is a popular virtual receptionist service used by smaller law firms. They provide you with your own phone number which can be used to transfer to different lines and use detailed instructions to handle any situation coming into your office.
  • Hour of Operation: 8 am to 12 am EST + 5 am to 9 pm PST (can also operate on weekends)
  • Pricing: $259 per month (100 call minutes) to $989 per month (500 call minutes); includes 21 day money back guarantee.

AlertCommunications – Offers bilingual virtual receptionists and provide services exclusively for the legal industry.

  • Alert Communications has been providing their services since 1965 and use a client intake call centre strategy with their virtual receptionists. Instead of taking a call and transferring it to you, these virtual receptionists can handle any call volume and turn them into prospective clients at your law firm.

    Since Alert Communications is exclusive to the legal industry, their virtual receptionists are trained to use and understand legal terminology giving you that added edge of professional at your law office.

  • Hours of Operation: 24/7 services.
  • Pricing: Contact a sales representative to receive a quote for your law firm; requires a 1-month upfront refundable deposit.

Answer 1 – Offer a tech based virtual receptionist that can also provide web chat, text messaging, emails and more.

  • Answer 1 offers virtual receptionists for businesses of all kinds and every size. If you have a website for your law firm, their software system can be integrated to add additional intaking solutions. You don’t have to feel restricted to answering phone calls only and can include web chats and other virtual methods for prospective clients to contact your law firm.
  • Hour of operation: 24/7 services.
  • Pricing: $90 one-time setup fee; $239 per month (100 call minutes) to $749 per month (500 call minutes); provides a 21 day free trial.

Alternative Law Firm Solutions

Looking for more ways to make your law firm run more efficiently? Try these software solutions to reduce your workload and focus on providing quality legal services:

8 Shady Tactics Vendors Use To Trap Small Firms (and How To Fight Back!)

When Katie (my wife) started her law firm a few years ago, we were excited. It was going to be an adventure! As she walked out of her big firm job that last day, it seemed like the possibilities were endless.

And then the calls started. And the emails. And the tricks. It was like someone had put an ad on Craigslist saying “Easy mark! Hock your wares with abandon!”

With each step she took to start her firm, filing corporate docs, purchasing a domain name, signing up for phone service, setting up IOLTA accounts, it got worse.

I’m sure you’ve experienced the routine (and if you’re thinking about starting your firm, just wait.)

Phone calls at all hours. Because hey, we wouldn’t want to cold call a potential prospect during their working hours like everyone else, we need to stand out! 7am it is! Putting your kids to bed? Nuh-uh, it’s time to talk document management!

A constant barrage of cold emails with generic pie in the sky offers about this and that. None of any substance, just begging you to get on a phone call so they can see how much budget they can extract from an unsuspecting new business owner.

And the junk mail! Oh the junk mail! Not just “hey you should know about this service” junkmail, but downright fraudulent junkmail. Junkmail saying you’re in violation of some law if you don’t talk to them, or that someone’s going to steal your domain name or your trademark in China. Each looking more official than the last.

It’s exhausting. And we’d had enough. There HAD to be some good actors around. But the more I searched, the more shadiness I came across.

I’d had enough. And it was time to do something about it. So when I started AmazeLaw, I vowed to be honest with my clients, to treat them fairly, to empathize with the fact that they’re not an entity to extract money from, they’re small business owners, just like me, struggling and working their tails off for a better life.

I’ll leave it to my customers and to you to determine if I’ve succeeded, but in an effort to combat the shadiness, here are * tactics vendors are using right now to try and screw over small firms under the guise of being helpful.

Red flags in abusive vendor relationships

These are the tactics that should immediately set off red flags. Now not all vendors who use these tactics are bad by default, but they should act as leading indicators for abusive relationships so proceed with caution.

Being secretive about pricing

What they’re thinking: Their goal with this tactic is to get you to call to figure out whether it’s even in your budget. They don’t trust that you’ll be able to see the value of the product on their own, so they want you to contact a script-reading junior sales rep to convince you that it’s worth shelling out your precious cash, and then pass you off to a closer (account executive.)

Also, it means they don’t have any pricing structure to adhere to. They’re free to tell you any price (often after learning how large your budget is.) So they’ll start high, and work down so you feel like you’re getting a deal, often with steep discounts that magically appear when you tell them you’re all set.

How you can take advantage: This is the first step in some aggressive sales BS. But, if you really think the product works well (maybe you’ve had a colleague recommend it), you have a bit of an advantage if you’re willing to play hardball.

Make frequent price objections, threaten to walk away. Then actually walk away. Hang up the phone and tell them you’re just not sure about the price. I promise you they’ll call back. And there’ll probably be a discount in it for you.

Requiring annual or multi-year contracts

What they’re thinking: We don’t trust that you’ll stick around long-term, so rather than giving you 12 chances per year to consider whether that line in your bank account is worth it, they’ll only give you one option, and they’ll put a customer retention specialist in touch with you to promise big things for the next year.

And of course they’ll probably have a notice clause in the contract requiring more than 30 or 60 days notice of cancellation before it automatically rolls over. So when you contact them to cancel a few weeks before it rolls over, you’re told you’re already locked up for another year and if you want to cancel, you’ll have to pay an exorbitant cancellation fee (if they even let you).

There also appears to be a trend in the marketing services space (SEO, PPC Ads, Content Generation, Lead Generators, Directories) to require a 3 or 6 month commitment (often at $1k+/mo.)

While not as costly as annual contracts, they’re inherently higher risk. As an excuse, the sales rep will tell you that it takes time to see results from a new marketing channel. And that’s true, to a point.

But any person worth working with, any person you trust, will be able to give you an honest assessment along the way and let you know whether it makes sense to keep moving forward. They’re just trying to force the decision rather than letting their service speak for itself.

If they don’t trust that you won’t leave after a month or two, it says something (everything?) about how much they trust their product.

Note – These scenarios are different from annual prepay/billing. Annual prepay (often with a discount) can make a lot of sense for you and for the vendor. It helps them with cashflow and it provides you with a) a discount and b) the ability to play with your tax burden a little bit. If you have a strong year and you’re not sure the next year will be so fruitful, paying for the next-year’s services in December will reduce your tax burden this year (assuming you’re using cash accounting.)

Obviously, I’m not an accountant, so that’s not financial advice. But I would advise setting up a standing meeting with your accountant every fall to go over your accounting and help make decisions like this while you still have time before the end of the year.

Now before you sign up for annual prepay, you should ensure that you’re not locked in. For example, we offer 2 months free for our clients that sign up for annual billing, but if they get six months in, we’ll send them a pro-rated refund.  They’re not locked in.

So be sure to ask what happens if you cancel half-way through your annual contract so you can correctly weigh your options.

How you should handle thisExcept in circumstances where the value is clear and you’ll clearly need it long term, I would run, not walk, away from these terms. Cash is king for a small business so don’t lock yourself up unless you’re absolutely sure it’s worth it. And make sure you ask if they have…

Early cancellation fees

What they’re thinking: This is usually paired with those big annual contracts. It’s nothing more than a way to make you question your decision to cancel and extract a little more cash on your way out the door. It’s extortion, pure and simple.

AmazeLaw is actually a rare business where a customer leaving actually costs us time and money. It takes a lot of time and effort to move a website. And even we don’t have cancellation fees. We’ll lose money. That’s our punishment for not meeting our clients’ needs, and our incentive to do better. Thankfully it doesn’t happen very often.

What you can do: Honestly, not much. You can try to negotiate your contract at the beginning, but that’s about all you can ask for. But before you do that, you should probably question why they need that clause in the first place and if that’s someone you want to work with or trust a part of your business to.

Owning your domain

This is specific to website providers but it’s egregious enough that I need to call it out. Some providers insist that they control the domain name for your website. Claiming that it’s easier if they register it. That they’ll make sure it’s always renewed.

What they’re thinking: If they own your domain name, you can’t go anywhere. In order to move your website, you’ll need a new domain name and you’ll give up all of the SEO you’ve built up. What’s more, you’ll need to update all of your business cards, potentially your email address, etc. It’s just another form of extortion to keep you from canceling.

What you should do: DO NOT DO IT. Register your domain under an account you (and only you) control. Make sure you sign up for auto-renewal. I usually recommend Namecheap or Dynadot (GoDaddy is ok too because they’re ubiquitous, but they have some questionable tactics of their own I recommend my clients avoid.) If they insist, run away.

Controlling your phone number

This is just like controlling your domain name. And with the rise in importance of local search and its reliance on consistent Name-Address-Phone Number (NAP) for rankings, it’s gotten even worse. Having a different phone number on your website than the one you have on your business cards, or in the phone book is a big no no.

What you should do: There should only be one phone number for your business, and it should reside with your telephone service provider.

Acting as the middleman between you and your clients

That phone number control is often used as part of a feature called call-tracking, an attempt to funnel all website leads through a proprietary system. Of course that assumes that your leads want to call you. Some vendors even go so far as to not put an email address on your website, forcing the visitor to either pick up the phone or fill out a generic form that connects to their system and their system only.

In addition to being yet another lock-in tactic so that you don’t lose your contacts, it kills conversions and virtually guarantees that your prospect moves on to the attorney that allows contact via whatever means the prospect is most comfortable with.

What you should demand: You need to own your communication with your clients. Any barrier that’s put between you and your clients is not worth whatever low-volume metrics you might be able to pull out of your marketing vendor.

Promising the moon

This is pretty straightforward. An over-eager salesperson making empty promises to hit their monthly quota. Sometimes it’s subtle, but when you start to think maybe they’re being a little too generous with their predictions here’s a tip…

How can you use this? If you’re wondering if they’re pulling the wool over your eyes, then a surefire way to tell is by using a trap question.

Take the vendor’s pitch to the extreme, ask them if that’s a typical result. For example, for a company building a website or an SEO firm, ask them if this product will get you on the first page of Google. For a lead gen product, ask if you’ll get at least 5 qualified, high-quality leads every month.

Of course, if they say yes, ask for the names of two or three clients that have had those outcomes so that you can speak to them about their experience. And then watch the excuses fly. They’ll say that they don’t disclose client information.

You can even ask for a guarantee. That you can request a refund if those results aren’t met. That’s almost always a no-go on their part, but at this point the deal’s probably over so have some fun and watch them try to justify why they can’t 🙂

If they say no, that those results might be possible but that they aren’t typical, that’s actually a positive sign. Ask them under what circumstances you could expect to see those results. Ask them what the typical results actually are. If they’re honest about the conditions where the solution works and where it doesn’t, they believe in what they’re selling and it might be worth trying as well.

But again, ask for two or three references that would be willing to back that experience up.

Not being willing to provide references

Here’s what they’re thinking: A lot of the legal marketing vendors out there are entirely based on pump’n’dump schemes, where they sell all of the attorneys in a given area on a product, then move on, like locusts. They know after their initial contract term, 90% of the clients that remember to check their billing statements will cancel, but they don’t care. Their job is to get folks signed up as quickly as possible, on the longest terms possible.

In those scenarios, it’s really hard to find a long-term customer that’s willing to speak with prospects. And if there’s only a handful of them and they’re selling at scale, they just can’t afford to send hundreds of reference requests to each attorney that offers.

Here’s the cold hard truth. If a vendor doesn’t have at least a few attorneys literally raving about their experience, then it’s probably a no-go. After all, by the law of large numbers alone, there should be outliers that are having success. Even if they can’t give you a phone number, they should be able to send you case studies of successful clients. And often from there, you can do some basic Googling to find  the subject’s contact information if you need to verify their story.

What about you?

Have you seen these tricks in the wild? How have you dealt with them? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments!

Tired of being played?

If you need help with your marketing, but were really hoping to avoid all of those tactics, let’s chat and we’ll help you get off to a great start!

Schedule a Demo Today

Legal Malpractice Insurance For Attorneys

Whether you’re a solo practitioner of law or working with partners at a firm, having legal malpractice insurance will protect you from any unfortunate situations when a claim is made against you or your firm.

Mistakes are bound to happen and lawyers are liable for the decisions they make which have a direct impact on their clients personal lives and well-being. While some states may require legal malpractice insurance for attorneys, if you’re thinking about going without, understand the the consequences of being at the losing end of a claim against you can be devastating for your career.

This article will guide you through some of the benefits, considerations and examples of policies you can get to protect your legal services.

Why Purchase Legal Malpractice Insurance?

First and foremost, purchasing malpractice insurance protects you from any liability issues that can occur while performing legal services.

The cost of malpractice insurance for attorneys can come with a high annual premium. Depending on where you practice law, the area you practice, the years of experience you have, and the size of your firm, these are all factored into the annual insurance price.

Areas of practice such as real-estate lawyers and personal injury lawyers tend to pay higher premiums because these are seen as “high-risk” fields. Also, when a city has a higher number of malpractice claims, you can be sure to experience higher rates.

While he premiums may be extreme, especially if you’re a solo-practitioner or small law firm, malpractice insurance protects your reputation and personal indemnity.

For more detailed FAQs, please see the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability 

What to Consider When Purchasing Legal Malpractice Insurance

Legal malpractice insurance for attorneys can cover many situations while leaving you liable for claims you may not see coming. When your considering which legal malpractice insurance to purchase, here is a few things you want to have in your insurance policy:

  • If you’re outsourcing or using a virtual receptionist, can your policy provide protection against outsourcing risks?
  • Does the policy protect all your staff and associates?
  • Will the policy give you peace of mind and confidence to practice law?
  • Does the policy legitimize your practice and build client trust?
  • Will you be protected against claims of professional negligence?
  • Does the policy cover the expense of hiring an independent legal counsel to represent you in the case of a complaint?

Another important consideration when choosing legal malpractice insurance would be the types of coverage you can receive. Each claim can have limitations of liability ranging from a few thousand dollars up to millions.

If a claim is made against your law firm, you may want to know if you’ll receive an increase in policy charges in future years.

Rates for Legal Malpractice Insurance  

The actual rates of your legal malpractice insurance will depend upon factors listed above as well as the answers to some questions you’ll have to provide.

Here’s an example of some of the questions you’ll be asked which will be used to calculate the cost of your insurance coverage:

  1. How many claims or incidents have you had per lawyer per year?
  2. What was the nature of the claims (i.e. frivolous, ordinary negligence, gross negligence, criminal conduct)?
  3. What was the degree of fault by the lawyer, (i.e. clear malpractice, statute of limitations, vicarious liability [when a lawyer leaves the firm])?
  4. Have you been rejected from other insurance carriers or was renewal refused previous insurance provider?
  5. What is the nature of your practice (i.e. family law, personal injury, etc.)
  6. What was your attitude / conduct with the client in resolving claims (i.e. attitude toward client)?

Insurance companies will examine your firm carefully to determine your eligibility and insurance premium rates.

Be prepared to share some of the intimate details of your law firm or solo-practice. You’ll have to share information like your attorneys professional conduct, history of previous claims, list of attorneys, their roles, hours worked, and more. Applications will vary from insurance company to insurance company.

Insurance Company Red Flags

Some of the major factors contributing to increased insurance premiums come from the following list of “red flags” which insurance companies are looking for.

  1. 2 or more claims from the past year
  2. 3 or more claims from the past 10 years (depending on the size of your firm)
  3. Type of claim
  4. Pattern of claims
  5. Being uninsured the previous 5 years
  6. Not paying a deductible
  7. Not cooperating with client suing
  8. Any bar disciplinary incidences
  9. Continued business relationship with clients that previous sued
  10. Possession of other professional licenses.

Researching the Best Legal Malpractice Insurance

The list above determining the rates of your insurance policy can seem daunting, you have complete power to research and find the best policy provider for your firm.

Performing your own due diligence and criticizing the fine details of the policy will be in your best insurance. Insurance policy providers is a business and the advertisements you receive in your inbox are simply trying to sell you on their premiums while not providing you the right coverage for your firm.

 In the case that you are rejected from an insurance provider, you can make any requested changes to the practices at your firm and reapply. There are plenty of insurance companies to choose from and comparative shipping will allow you to find the best price at the best coverage.

Insurance Updates & Renewals

Once you have selected the best legal malpractice insurance for you and your attorneys, you’ll have to continue to send any information to your insurer regarding changes to your practice.

If you hire on more attorneys or take on different kinds of clients, you may have to make changes to your policy.

When your insurance policy expires, you are responsible to make any necessary updates to avoid defrauding the insurance provider which can lead to legal consequences.

What’s Better, In-Person Or Phone Consultations?

In today’s tech driven world, there is significant comfort and convenience using instant messaging. Since legal advice is not likely to be delivered in this way, what’s better, in-person or phone consultations?

There’s no denying that in-person consultations lead to stronger rapport, deeper connections, and easier conflict resolution. However, some people are just too busy to put aside a few hours to receive a consultation on the far end of town.

Which method will you use?

Ease of hiring an attorney

Almost everyone is looking for the quickest and safest route that answers their problems. Having access to your services can likely be best achieved by providing a place to find you online.

Your website may be the key place where you find new clients. Knowing precisely what you can offer (in-person or phone consultations) will make the ease of hiring an attorney that much simpler.

Also, if you have started a blog, you have likely already built a relationship with your prospective client and their phone call or message to schedule a consultation is the next step forward.

Overview Of Phone Consultations

There is a clear convenience for both you and your client when it comes to phone consultations. Whether you have a website scheduling appointments or a staff member taking your calls, providing this style of consultation may free up more of your time which you can devote to more prospective clients.

Consider the following:

  1. Will providing phone consultations affect the number of clients you receive compared to meeting in-person?
  2. Will providing phone consultations allow you to help more people?
  3. Will providing phone consultations led to more successful outcomes?

Phone consultations have the ability to start a relationship. There is some commitment to both your service and their legal needs that will be discussed over the phone.

Whether in-person consultations build stronger rapport or not, people seeking a phone consultations are looking for a solution to their problems and are likely unwilling to wait any longer to get that.

Features & Benefits:

  • Flexibility in scheduling for both you and your client
  • Provide urgent solutions for some clients
  • Attract more clients who don’t want to/can’t meet in-person
  • Convenient for clients with busy schedules
  • Expand your reach for legal services

Overview Of In-Person Consultations

There are somethings that can never be replaced by technology and that’s the level of intimacy that comes from face-to-face human connections.

Regardless of whether you decide to offer phone consultations or not, there will always be some people seeking to speak with you in person.

Perhaps this is your selling feature. You have established yourself as a respectable and impressive performing firm and clients are eager to walk in to sit in your offices to get your advice.

It could be the handshake, the assurance of your character, or simply the process of entering into your office that makes things “feel official.”

In-person consultations are irreplaceable.

In person consultations can give your clients the opportunity to engage in high stakes conversations. If you are addressing sensitive topics, providing this style of consultation is advised.

In general, there are simply some topics that should not be addressed over the phone. Any cases involved emotional situations like divorces, children, and death requires that human element to be handled well.

Features & Benefits:

  • Comfort in disclosing sensitive information (i.e. emotional cases involving children)
  • Access to traditional styles of consultations
  • Generally, more practical for elders (may have problems hearing over the phone)
  • More security and privacy for corporate clients

Consider Whether An In-Person Or Phone Consultation Is Right For You

If you are marketing your legal services well, you may be getting 20 to 50 requests for consultations per month. Perhaps you’re getting more and screening hundreds of calls and concerns.

Depending on the size of your law firm (i.e. individual practice vs. group of associates) you may or may not be able to handle the amount of consultations requests.

If you’re a small law firm, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Do you have the extra hours (100+) to provide all these consultations this month?
  2. Does your staff have the additional hours to handle the logistics (i.e. scheduling consultations, following up with those who don’t show up, etc.)?
  3. If needed, are you willing to put in the extra hours — working into the evening and weekends?
  4. How successful are you in these consultations? How often do they lead to your legal support?

If you have a high number of requests for in-person consultation, this can take up a significant amount of your time. If you have a website set up and it is capable of making bookings, you can save yourself a lot of personal struggles.

Investing in a lawyer website may be an ideal choice as it can alleviate the weight of calls coming in to request in-person consultations and direct prospective clients to book a phone consultation at their convenience.

Contrasting Consultation Styles

What if phone consultations led to a lower no-show rate? Convenience is key when people are seeking answers to their problems. Being able to get an answer over the phone rather than wait for an uncertain amount of time is what many people are looking for. People don’t want to wait.

This demand for immediacy can eliminate the need to “build rapport” for a relationship to build between client and attorney. The urgency some people are facing leads to people making faster decisions based on other sources (i.e. your website, reviews, etc.).

Imagine this, your legal office is empty. Can you be trusted to take on their case if you don’t have any clients that keep you busy? Your perspectives may not commit to you because you don’t appear to be very busy. And, if you aren’t busy, perhaps they may think that you are not very good.

However, if you are offering more phone consultations than in-person, it would be easy to believe that previous presumption.

So how should you value your time?

Phone consultations should be limited to lower-stake cases. These are great for clients who don’t want or need an in person conversation and they are much more flexible with their time.

What Does Research Say About Using In-Person Or Phone Consultations

Research by Heather Hewitt, Joseph Gafaranga, and Brian McKinstry examined the differences in consulting methods used by doctors: in-person or phone consultations.

They interviewed 18 professional medical practitioners and 65 of their patients.

Their results showed that phone consultations are capable of dealing with smaller, single issues and concerns. Whereas in-person consultations led to many more problems to deal with and discuss.

The phone consultations tended to be shorter while in-person consultations led to periods of silence. This research article suggests that it is during those moments of silence that new topics and problems are introduced.

One final point that was discovered, in-person consultations tend to elicit more concerns and questions from the doctor and phone consultations were more direct and focused at solving the problem at hand.

Their conclusion: Phone consultations take less time and focus on a single problem. In-person consultations involved more problem disclosure.

Knowing Your Consultation Style

So what’s going to be your style: in-person or phone consultations? There’s no right answer to this question and your decision should be based on the kinds of legal services you provide.

There are certainly some situations, such as bankruptcy and criminal defense, where providing phone consultations is the quick and easy solution for your clients.

Providing phone consultation can even give you the freedom and flexibility to work remotely.

However, the traditional in-person style is a standard in the legal world, especially for emotionally charged situations.

Whatever you decide, defining your consultation style allows you to provide legal services in a way that suits your client’s need, scheduling, and personal preference.

Law Firm Partner Rank Overview

What is the difference between a “Partner”, “Executive Partner”, and “Managing Partner” in a law firm?

Law firms can be organized in a variety of ways. You can be a solo-practitioner and work alone or you can have a team of lawyers working as partners.

If you’re thinking about creating a partnership, there are many types of partnerships to choose from.

In this article, let’s examine the benefits and ky features of a law firm partner, law firm executive partner and a law firm managing partner.

What Does “Making Partner” Mean?

First, let’s take a look at the meaning of “making partner.”

If you haven’t started your own law firm and you are not already a partner, you may likely be considered as an employee or associate for a law firm. In this position, you wouldn’t have ownership of the law firm but you would be permitted to practice law.

Starting as an associate or an employee of a law firm is a great way for fresh graduates and inexperienced lawyers to learn the ropes and become acquainted with the world of law. Your time will be spent training and you won’t be providing any “billable” hours.

When you’re ready to make the transition into a partnership, this is when you’ll earn a higher salary, become a partial owner of the firm, take on greater responsibilities and liabilities, and also receive a portion of the firm’s profits.

The structure of any partnership will vary depending on how it is incorporated and you can learn more about that in Starting A Law Firm.

Law Firm Partner

Joining a starting your own law firm or joining as a partner will immediately place more work, responsibility and liability on your career. The skills and experiences you acquired as an associate can now be put into practice at a high frequency and a much greater pay bracket.

In regards to compensation, partners can be paid in a variety of ways. You may receive a salary or receive a more common method of withdrawal from a pool of profits. Other methods can include earnings that are based entirely on the clients you secured and provided legal services for yourself.

When becoming a partner for a law firm you will receive a well-written contractual agreement outlining all the terms and conditions of your partnership. Inside this contract may be things like:

  • Required capital contributions
  • Amount of profit a partner can draw and how often each receive it
  • Salary and payment schedule
  • Penalties for leaving the partnership
  • Partnership authority
  • Clauses defining death and disability
  • Procedures to resolve disputes between partners
  • Descriptions of roles, responsibilities, and accounting information

Law firm partnerships requires delicate consideration, strategic negotiations, and careful decision making. Think of joining a partnership as getting married for a certain period of time. You’ll want to know exactly who you are going to be partnered with, how they operate, what they believe in and most importantly the “marriage” rules that will influence your practice for years to come.

If joining a partnership is in your best interest, you may want to consider becoming an executive partner or a managing partner at a law firm.

Law Firm Executive Partner

As an executive partner at a law firm, you’ll take on many a distinct role in leadership and take on many of the major decisions that affect the fate and future or a law firm.

Executive partner’s require extensive insight which will support the growth of the law firm’s objectives and goals.

The responsibilities of an executive director include the overall management strategy, financial management, social accountability, workplace compliance, etc. The executive partner will be dedicated toward preserving and promoting the way the firm practices law and makes critical decisions regarding. The scope of work focuses primarily on short and long term operational decision. In comparison, a managing partner will be dedicated  toward high level management decisions and strategic issues.

Executive partners take on most of the administrative duties in the firm to ensure that operations run smoothly. They also perform functions in accordance to the principles and rules the firm has in place. The executive partner will often be elected from a committee managing partners and other high positioned investors in the law firm.

If you’re being considered as an executive partner of a law firm or seeking this position, the overall success of the firm will be entirely up to you.

Law Firm Managing Partner

Before becoming an executive partner at a law firm, it may be in your best interest to become a managing partner.

Managing partners for a law firm are responsible for the overall operations of the firm. This includes delegating responsibilities to attorneys, secretaries, firm executives, paralegals and other employees at the firm.

Managing partners, much like executive partners, can be responsible for developing the strategies and defining the goals for the long-term success of the law firm.

Decisions regarding the cases the law firm will take on and which clients the firm will represent is one of the roles of a managing partner. They will also be required to ensure compliance with professional standards while following government laws and regulations.

Here’s a detailed list of skills required from a managing partner:

  • Financial planning and strategy
  • Legal compliance
  • Client relations
  • Decision making
  • Strong verbal communication
  • Strong written communication
  • Delegating tasks
  • Improving operations and processes
  • Legal website design
  • Profitability management

Becoming a managing partner takes you away from the legal caseloads and into the back-end operations of the law firm. The workload is significantly greater and the responsibilities differ than a partner at a law firm.

To summarize the job description of a managing partner, they focus on the relationship side of the law firm and how to effective serve their clients.

Should Lawyers Buy .law Domains?

If you are considering a website or a blog to showcase your legal services and expertise, there are many different Top Level Domains (TLD) to choose from:

  • .com
  • .gov
  • .org
  • .law

This article will examine whether lawyers should buy .law domain and briefly review a few methods to succeed online.

What are Top Level Domains (TLD)?

Without going too in depth about the concept of domain names, here’s a simplified version of what domain names are.

Domain names are the important piece of information that provides a readable internet address of your website. The ending of the domain name is what is known as a Top Level Domain with the most common being .com, .org, and .net.

Overall, there are more than 1000 TLDs available.

Is There Any Significance In Having A .law Domain Name?

Having a TLD can be useful in marketing, search engines, and website optimization. When you consider the most common TLDs like .com, .edu, and .gov, these are recognizable, popular, and rank well courtesy of their authority.

They is some speculation that having these TLDs do not provide measurable proof that you will get ranked higher (such as with .edu and .gov domains).

Also, according to Matt Cutts, new TLDs, like .law, might not receive a boost in the search rankings. Your .law domain will not be treated much differently than other domain names already available.

“Sorry, but that’s just not true, and as an engineer in the search quality team at Google, I feel the need to debunk this misconception. Google has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain (TLD). Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don’t expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com, and I wouldn’t bet on that happening in the long-term either. If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that’s your choice, but you shouldn’t register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you’ll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings.”

While Google may not rank a .law domain higher, from a personal point of view, there is significant value to be considered.

What Are The Benefits Of A .law Domain Name?

From a branding point of view, having a .law domain allows you to position yourself as a professional and a figure of authority.

Anyone who registers a new .law domain, must provide a phone number from the licensing of your agency or firm.

Having to go through this additional step during the registration process creates a trust factor for those searching for you.

Buying a .law domain name will provide an additional layer of credibility courtesy of the verification process required.

This is a summary of some the benefits you’ll receive when you buy a .law domain:

  • Brandable & Authority. Using this TLD allows you to create a strong and memorable brand. A .law domain can be descriptive and capture the core of your practice. When deciding on your domain name, consider using your own name, area of practice, or your target market.
    • Examples:law, NewYorkCity.law, StultzandBrinks.law, jones.law
  • Verified & Trusted. When you register your .law domain, you become verified and trusted by those seeking your services online. Only qualified lawyers can apply for this domain. Once approved, you will have a branded and trustworthy domain surrounding your legal profession.
  • Competitive & Professional. Your new .law domain will stand out amongst others. The .law is exclusive to lawyers and provides a distinct and official finish to your online presence.

If You Already Have Another Domain Name, Should You Transfer To A .law Domain?

As mentioned before, there may not be any considerable boost to your rankings in the search engines. If you already using a domain and it is working well, you may not want to transfer your website to the .law domain.

Consider .law as an investment in your practice but only if you don’t have a domain name already. When you transfer a website over to a new domain, you may lose traffic and potential clients.

Getting a new .law domain is an ideal choice for those starting a new website.

Aside From A .law Domain, How Can Lawyers Succeed Online?

A domain name is only one of many factors to consider when putting your law practice online.

One of the most critical areas of getting noticed and finding new clients comes from the content you provide.

Here’s a few things you may want to keep in mind:

  • Offer meaningful, relevant and original content. Most search engines approve of original content. However, they should be written in a way that’s natural and connects with your target audience.
  • Create backlinks on authority sites. When you have published quality content, try to get your site linked with .edu or .gov sites as these have authority. Read law firm SEO Tips hereNote: Never buy backlinks — you could be penalized.

As an authority on the web and a professional of law, you have a responsibility to provide quality content that is relevant and informative to your visitors.

This update from John Mueller on Google’s Webmaster Central makes it clear that content is crucial and the domain name is not given “artificial advantage in search.”

So, Should Lawyers Buy A .law Domain?

Getting a .law domain could be the strategic edge you need to have a competitive advantage online.

However, while a TLD like .law adds a professional touch your online service, providing good content that follows Google’s recommended practices will be much more powerful.

If you are preparing to settle on a .law domain name, remember to incorporate this into your website development:

  1. Publish high quality, original content on your site
  2. Provide relevant content to your potential clients and targeted audience
  3. Avoid SEO practices that could penalize your website (i.e. keyword stuffing, purchasing links, or other Google violations)

Achieving this will lead you to an authority site on the internet especially if you’re considering starting a blog.

3 Easy Ways To Gain Clients Using Your Phone Number

We already know that if your law practice isn’t present online, you’re depriving yourself and your potential clients from finding you. A good website is one of the best ways for a broad range of clients to find your services, learn about what you do, and most importantly, get in contact with you. This is essential when considering that even way back in 2013, 76 percent of consumers used online resources when looking for an attorney.

Once your site has convinced a visitor that you can handle their needs, they’ll want to contact you. The methods and devices people use to access the Internet have changed significantly according to iLawyerMarketing’s study. They asked participants what devices they’re most likely to use when searching the internet for law firms, and overwhelmingly, the most common answer was smartphones, followed by a combination of smartphones and a desktop or laptop computer—this means making sure that your website works just as well from a mobile device as it does from a personal computer.

The value of traffic from phone calls can’t be understated: A Google-commissioned survey performed by Ipsos asked which phase of decision-making is most likely to involve a phone call to a business. Findings here are critical to how your law firm designs an online experience: 65 percent of respondents said they’re most likely to call during the research phase, and 68 percent said they’re most likely to call once they’re ready to purchase. Lucky for you—we’ve compiled 3 easy ways to use the phone to your advantage.

Make Your Contact Information Impossible to Miss

According to the 2014 U.S Consumer Legal Needs Survey, 74 percent of those who begin a search for an attorney online end up contacting via phone, so making your phone number clearly accessible is everything. Therefore, it’s a good practice to add a phone number at the bottom of every page on your website, as well as at the end of certain passages of text. When a visitor is finished reading, they’re immediately faced with a phone number they can easily call. This Tallahassee law firm’s website does a good job:

The office’s address and phone number immediately follows the text, which itself includes a link to their contact form.

Images: pelhamlaw.com

They also feature their phone number at the bottom and top of every webpage, in addition to a separate “Contact Us” tab. With even a quick scroll through their site, you know the information you’d need to contact them is available with just about zero effort required to find it.

Enable Click-to-Call

The same Google survey referenced above found that 72 percent of those who search for local professional services are “extremely likely” or “very likely” to call a business if a phone number is accessible directly from search engine results. This means ensuring that your website works smoothly from a mobile device is paramount—especially since they’ll likely be contacting you from the same device they used to find your website.

These local firms, as well as a button that places a call to them, are available immediately from a search of “Tallahassee law firms”. This feature will also allow your site visitors to tap your number and automatically initiate a call. The ability to call a firm immediately after searching greatly increases the likelihood of an interested party giving you a call—if there’s one thing you make sure of when it comes to your firm’s Web presence, it’s this. (Your trusty website provider can help you with this)

Choose a Phone System to Back You Up

Now they’ve looked through your site, found your contact information, and they’re ready to call—there’s even a decent chance they’re ready to do business. Do you have a telephone system in place that can make sure every caller’s voice is heard? Any attorney knows they spend a lot of time fielding phone calls; they might even have a receptionist or someone else do it for them. But what about when you’re out of the office?

You can’t exactly answer a potential client’s call from a courtroom or an appointment, which is why the right phone system is so important in converting interested leads into trusted clients. Cloud-based phone solutions are affordable and integrate easily into an existing desk phone system. They allow you to route calls to the proper destination using an auto attendant. (Press 1 for Billing, Press 2 for Dave) They can also be easily configured to route calls from one phone number (say, your office phone) to any other device (a personal mobile phone, house phone, or even an answering service) through Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, software. This means business calls are accessible from any device, regardless of where you are.

Additionally, they often feature other useful tools like voicemail and call recordings sent straight to your email and the option of local or toll-free phone numbers to fit the size of the market you’re looking to reach.

As Sam Glover of Lawyerist put it, your website is your business card. Except, of course, that it can hold a great deal more information and is far less likely to end up in the trash can outside of a Starbucks. The fact is, the majority of incoming clients will find you online, and creating an informative and effortless experience on your website puts you in the best possible position to gain new clients. All that’s left is to make sure you answer.

Julian de Sevilla is a Marketing Specialist at Tresta, a cloud-based phone system for businesses. He manages the company’s social media accounts and writes about a range of topics regarding communication and technology on Tresta’s blog.

Starting A Law Firm

Like any business, there’s risk involved. Starting a law firm, whether fresh out of college or years into a career, requires careful planning, some financial resources, and a marketing plan to succeed.

If you’re serious about starting a law firm, you may find it a little more difficult than passing the bar. Luckily, this is a good place to help you get started.

Before Starting A Law Firm

There are a few things you should consider before going ahead and registering a law firm. The most important place to start is by creating a plan.

Consider these:

The beginning of any new business will be tough and first year startups often struggle before they succeed. Having a little patience and determination will see returns to your personal investments and the only way to get there is with a plan.

Have Enough Cash To Get Started

You need a plan to succeed but you will also need a bit of money. The amount of money you need to invest in the startup of a law firm will vary from person to person. There are many expenses you will have to cover that cannot be avoided. Here’s a list of many of the costs you can expect to pay to get your law firm started:

  • Accounting
  • Answering Service
  • Bank Fees
  • Bar fees and other organizational fees
  • Couriers
  • Insurance (for malpractice claims)
  • Employees
  • Employment Benefits
  • Entertainment Costs
  • Office Lease/Rent
  • Office Supplies
  • Office Furniture
  • Ongoing Legal Education
  • Telephone
  • Unemployment Tax
  • Website for Law Firm

The best way to tackle these necessary costs when starting a law firm is by creating a budget. Look at the bigger picture and develop a budget detailing the next few years. Break down your costs into initial start up (i.e. office supplies, marketing, furniture, etc.) and operating costs (i.e. office lease/rent, staff salaries, etc.).

Choosing a Business Structure for Your Law Firm

Now that you have considered the costs, your area of expertise, and finished all the items on the law firm checklist, it’s time to set up your business.

This part of setting up your law firm requires the legal structure of your business. Choose carefully as to which type you use for your law firm as it will affect various aspects of how you can operate as a business.

Here are the options available to your:

Types of Legal Structures

1. Sole Proprietorship

Starting a sole proprietorship is the most simple option available. In this legal structure, the business is owned and operated by one person (you) and they are liable for any of the business’ obligations.

  • You won’t have to file forms with the state, however they will be needed to obtain licenses and permits.
  • Owners are personally liable for the outcome of the business (i.e. debts)
  • Any income earned is reported on your personal income tax return.

This legal structure is ideal for it’s low cost and basic tax structures, however the unlimited liability and requirement to pay self-employment tax can become a burden. Take for example a client suing you for malpractice. You would be held accountable for any damages.

2. Partnership

A partnership requires two or more people who run and own the law firm. You can create a partnership as either general or limited and is typically governed by an agreed upon contract detailing the partners’ responsibilities

  • Each partner is personally responsible for the partnership’s obligations (for general partnerships).
  • Partners owe fiduciary duties to each other.
  • Taxes are reported and paid by each individual partner’s tax returns.

 Forming a partnership is a low cost and profitable solution for each partner. However, there as joint and several liabilities, sharing profits, and possible disputes between partners that can affect your law firm’s trajectory. If for any reason your partner is sued for malpractice or refuses to participate in some other contractual obligation, your can be held personally liable. The best way to protect yourself from this situation is to consider the next option.

3. Limited Liability Company (LLC)

 A limited liability company (llc) provides members with with protection from personal liability for debts and actions performed by the business, just like a corporation. The difference is that you can choose to be taxed as a partnership.

  • You will be required to file paperwork to your government
  • You will need an operating agreement outlining rights and responsibilities of the members and how the law firm will run
  • Taxes can be dealt with as either a partnership or a corporation

LLCs have the benefits of limited liability and the bookkeeping is less that a corporation. You may not be able to operate as an LLC and it will require research depending on where you live.

4. Corporation

A corporation is a unique, business entity that has limited liability and is owned by shareholders.

  • You will be required to file paperwork to your government
  • You must create bylaws that govern the entire operation of the corporation
  • You will be taxed when the corporation earns profit.

Corporations are taxed twice. First when the corporation earns profits and again when the dividends are distributed to the shareholders.

There are many variations in legal structure to choose from. Whether you are deciding to start your own solo law firm or joining with a partner, choose the right one that suits how you want to run your business and the local laws in your area. You could always start as a sole-proprietorship then upgrade later when your business picks up.

Marketing Your Law Firm

 At this point, you’re cash flow might be depleted but your law firm is ready to go. The next thing you will need to do to start your own law firm is: find clients.

Finding clients will come down to how effective your marketing strategy is, but also, how strong your connections and relationships are with those that know you. Getting a referral from someone who knows your potential makes for easy client acquisition. However, for those that are seeking for legal advice for the first time, they may not have a trusted friend to vouch for you.

Here’s some marketing ideas to help you turn cold connections into your new clients.

1. Announce Your Opening

At the start of your new law firm, send out high-quality announcements to everyone you know (close and distant). If you’ve chosen a niche practice, send it out to those in your local bar association. Don’t forget to send personalized letters to your friends and relatives too. This can be useful for obtaining your first few referred clients.

2. Join a Business Networking Group

There are somethings you can do, and some things you can’t. If you join a business networking group, there are all kinds of opportunities to be found. If there’s lawyers in your group from other areas of specialization, you can create a referral list for them in exchange for a referral list for your specialised legal practice.

3. Become a Public Speaker

If there’s a topic you’re passionate about or a legal issue you want to eliminate, arranging public speeches is a great way to become known in your community. Public speaking allows you to make direct connections with people from the knowledge you have. This type of community outreach lets you display your expertise and build trust in your profession.

4. Start A Blog

Similar to public speaking, consider this public writing. Starting a blog for your law firm is an ideal way to find new clients online. Web sites can receive a lot of traffic depending on how your website is set up and the quality of the content involved.

5. Provide Quality Work

It might sound strange, but you should be providing exceptional “customer” experience. You’re dealing with people and, people talk. Their experience with you, good or bad, has a good chance of being spread on social media and within personal groups. You should always provide your best work to develop a strong referral base and a list or long-term clients.

Struggling to start a law firm? Check out the Starting Your Own Law Firm Checklist.

The Biggest Mistakes Lawyers Make With Advertisements

Lawyers depend on advertisements to build an awareness of their legal services and attract new clients to their firm. While traditional methods are still in use, online marketing (via hiring the best Facebook Ads agency and the best Google Adwords marketing agency) are becoming the common trend for advertising.

If you’re considering to use advertisements for your law firm, here are some of the biggest mistakes lawyers make and what you can do to avoid them.

Unfocused Marketing Campaigns

You may have a large budget to spend on marketing your law firm, but if you don’t have a focal point you’ll be spending your money on nothing. You can create a generic “contact for a free consultation” marketing message and take anything that comes in the door.

Or, you can segment your marketing message and target the specific legal services you offer. Invest your time and money creating marketing messages related to the specific cases your law firm handles.

Once you concentrate your marketing efforts you can find the right prospects for your firm.

Poorly Written Content

The content you publish on your website is a representation of you and your law firm. The internet is filled with spammy websites and people know when they’re being sold to.

Your content should be informative, error-free, and relatable to the people you think will read it.

Also, to improve the effectiveness of your content, add logical and emotional reasons to hire you. People are searching for someone who can truly help them with their problems.

Use your content to tell people you understand what they are dealing with and that your legal services are here to help.

Asking For Too Much

Your advertising efforts may be effective and delivering high traffic to your website. However, you may find that no one is contacting you for more information or to start a consultation.

If you’re asking prospective clients too much information in your contact boxes, many prospects are likely to turn away. People are constantly concerned about their privacy and with the rise of identity theft, there is a hesitancy to sharing personal information online.

Nonetheless, lawyers require some information to begin evaluating their case and being able to respond to it. Only ask for as much as you need and after receiving their contact information you can begin to ask the questions needed to get their case started.

Complex Web Design

There’s nothing more frustrating for a visitor to a website than a complex and confusing web design. This is known as your bounce rate, which is the number of visitors that come to your website then leave right away.

When you’re putting your legal services online, consider your visitors. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the most useful information my visitors need?
  • Does my law firm web design have a clear call to action (i.e. call for a free consultation)?
  • Is my contact information easy to access or will a visitor have difficulty finding it?
  • Does my website invite visitors to join my social?
  • Would adding a pop-up lead capture improve my conversions from visitors to clients?

If you’re struggling to come up with an effective web design for your law firm, consider these best law firm websites from 2017.

Also, if you have analytics set up on your website (i.e. to monitor where visitors are coming from and where they are frequently visiting) find your best content and feature them in the sidebar of your content pages.

Spending Your Entire Marketing Budget

Whether you’re using Facebook Ads, Google Adwords or and Instagram advertising agency, you have complete control over the duration and style of your marketing campaign. If you spend your entire budget without testing different ideas, you may end up with a lower return than you hoped for.

Start by setting your budget low and creating a series of tests to see which messages make the most impact on your target audience. The analytics offered in Facebook Ads and your Google account can help you determine which campaign is effective and could use more of your marketing budget.

Incongruent Landing Pages

In the world of advertising, having a congruent message is crucial. You’re marketing message and your landing pages should live up to the promise you’re making.

Advertising something like, “Steps to take after getting in a car accident,” then sending them to a landing page with a promotion to your service may not deliver the best results.

The purpose of proving valuable content online is to establish yourself as an authority in law as well as trustworthy.

Use your landing pages to capture leads in exchange for content that people are looking for.

Not Focused On Converting Visitors

You can spend thousands of dollars on advertising to get traffic to your website. However, if your website is not developed to turn those visitors into clients, you’ll be wasting your marketing budget.

The purpose of any website, especially a lawyer’s website, is to convert visitors into clients. There are many ways to do this. You can send visitors clicking on your Facebook Ads to a landing page requesting their email in exchange for valuable content.

Or, perhaps the most effective method of converting traffic, is by adding live chat to your website. Having the ability to communicate with visitors while they are live on your site allows you to address any questions they may have and arrange a consultation immediately.

The alternative would be to hope they find your contact page and send you an inquiry.

Not Having A Unique Selling Point

Having a distinct call to action is an important feature for any lawyer’s website. In addition to that, your website should have a unique selling point which differentiates your legal services from others online.

What makes you different from other law firms? How can you help more than other law firms with the same legal services?

Having case studies and client referrals on your homepage are one way of showcasing your legal abilities to prospective clients. However, you should take a moment and ask yourself what can you offer that differentiates you from your competitors.

Now that you know some of the mistakes lawyers are making with their advertisements, you may want to review advertising regulations from the State Bar.

Starting Your Own Law Firm Checklist

Think of starting your own law firm? Here is a simple checklist to guide your toward setting up your office, deciding on the area of law you will practice, your legal responsibilities, staffing demands, and much more.

Name Your Law Firm

It all starts here: naming your law firm. This is going to be the most important decisions you will have to make for your law firm. Your name will identify who you are and what you do. Using your own surname is a traditional approach to naming a law firm, however, there may be some added benefits when you include the type of law you practice (i.e. Mathers & Son Divorce Lawyers Inc.).

Choose One Area of Law

This is important. You could provide a generic practice and try to assist anyone who comes in the front door. This is a rare approach for lawyers nowadays. Pick one or possibly two areas of law to specialize your practice exclusively. You won’t get good if you practice a little of this and a bit of that. You’ll build you confidence and credibility faster when you dedicate your time and efforts on a clearly defined area of law.

Choose A Location

 Opening a law firm, much like any startup, can be done from home. While this may serve as a financially viable solution in the beginning, in the long run, you’re going to want an office. Starting with an office in a key location (i.e. convenient and comfortable for clients to enter for consultations) is key. If you’re on a tight budget, consider sharing some office space or try virtual law offices to act as your front desk.

Legal Stuff

As a lawyer, the last thing you want to do is miss the fine print for the legal obligations you are under. Permits, licenses and identification numbers are likely required to start your own law firm. Check with your local laws to see what will be required from you.

In addition, you have to consider your taxes. Your choices include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation. Each has their own pros and cons and you’ll have to decide which will be best for your personal practice.

Office Furniture

If you’ve found a great location for your office, you’re going to need it furnished. Consider how you want the appearance and aesthetic of your office to be. Also, there are a few office necessities you don’t want to forget:

  • Photocopy machine
  • Personal computer
  • Telephone System and requisite service
  • Fax machine (if necessary)
  • Desks
  • Chairs
  • Cabinets and book shelves
  • Trash cans and recycling bins
  • Magazines and magazine racks
  • Interior decorations
  • And, don’t forget the long list of office supplies (pencils, envelopes, etc.)

Get a Professional 1-800 Office Number

This is not a necessity but a great idea for branding purposes. Having a 1-800 of 1-855 number can be used to establish yourself as being professional and serious about practicing law. You can even use this number with call forwarding to your personal or direct phone line. Getting a number like this can be set up in less than a day. Try contacting your local telephone service providers for more information.

Library

Every lawyer needs a library to stay up to date as well as for fact checking and research. In your field, law is an ongoing, evolutionary process. Practice guides and case law are constantly being updated. If you choose a location near a law library, you can minimize the cost of your own. There are also a variety of online sources that can assist you with this as well.

Start A Blog To Find Your Clients

Starting a blog may be one of the best solutions for finding new clients. Sharing your knowledge and expertise online can help build your credibility and authority in your community. Also, websites allow people to search and choose lawyers and firms that best suit their needs. If your website is setup correctly, clients will be coming to you instead of you having to search for your clients.

Build a Referral Network

 Let everyone know that you are going to be starting a law firm. Meet with other practicing lawyers and ask how they found and received their cases. If they’re in a different field of law, you may be able to build some connections that pass off some clients in your direction. Or, they may be overwhelmed with work of their own and will refer clients to other lawyers they have a relationship with (i.e. you). This is a mutual exchange. If you’re a divorce lawyer and someone comes to you asking for criminal defense, you can refer them to someone in your network.

Another alternative is to set up a system where you can pay people you trust a referral fee. This can incentivise people to send work to you. There are certain laws in place that govern this so you should try to learn how it would be applied to you.

Join Local Organizations and Listservs

Aside from building a referral network, join local organizations like Southern State Criminal Law Association, to connect with fellow lawyers in a similar area of law to discuss cases. Joining this or a listserv, which is an email that gets sent to every single member on the list, is a great way to gain advice and other perspectives from lawyers in your practice. This is extremely useful for those just starting out and require a mentor who can answer questions.

Systems

Like any business, have a key outline of operating principles will help you manage and run your law firm more efficiently and effectively. Here are a few key systems you should consider:

  • Accounting: There are a variety of software programs that can easily manage your finances. Another alternative is to hire an accountant.
  • Time Tracking & Billing: Keep on top of how you track your time and the way you bill your clients will save you from a lot of headaches. Your billing system should issue invoices to clients regularly and in a timely manner for all work as it is completely.
  • Filing: There are going to be a lot of files to organize and storing away. Having easy access so you can find certain documents in the future will create a hassle free work environment.
  • Docketing and Calendar System: Every law firm should have a system in place that manages docketing and calendars. Lawyers are humans too and the chances of forgetting something can happen to them too.
  • Client Conflict: At some point in your career you are likely to experience a few clients unimpressed with your practice. Have a system in place that allows you to manage conflict and keep it in check is a must.

Get Insurance

This is the last thing you want to happen to you in your law firm. However, it is something that must be consider: getting sued for malpractice. There are malpractice insurance companies that can provide you with the protection you need for your practice. This is especially important for those starting a sole proprietorship.

Final Notes

Starting a law firm requires a lot of planning and preparation. You’ll need a budget to cover startup expenses, opening of new accounts, and much more. When the office is set up and you’re ready to work, the next thing to do is to start marketing your law firm.