6 Reasons why you should start a Law Firm, even if the thought of doing so scares you to death

why you should start a law firm

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico on my recent vacation to Florida – one of the many perks of owning your own law firm

At Legal Marketing Made Easy, I’m trying to build a resource that lawyers can go to for assistance and help while starting their own law firm. Whether you are right out of school, or have been working at a firm for 15 years and find yourself suddenly laid off, I want LMME to be the go-to website for everything related to starting and building a better law practice for you and your family.

But I would be doing a disservice to you, the lawyers I help, if I didn’t start with a look into why it is that you want to start a law practice in the first place. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning your choice to become a lawyer. There are lots of people out there that went to law school and passed a bar exam only to find out that practicing law was the last thing they wanted to do with their lives.

Let’s start this discussion with the assumption that you love being a lawyer. God bless you. There are many who don’t.

So assuming you love being a lawyer and practicing law – why in the world do you want to start a law firm? Here are some of the things you have to look forward to:

  • Really long hours – at least at the start (as in, you will go home and still be working long into the night)
  • Constant fears about cash flow and how you are going to pay the bills next month
  • Constant fears about legal malpractice and making sure you are properly serving your clients
  • Worrying about when the phone will ring with the next client
  • What happens when your computers go down while you are preparing for a big hearing (Trust me, it will happen – sooner or later)

You get the idea. There are lots of things that will keep you up at night. Starting a law practice isn’t easy, by any stretch.

So why is it that record numbers of attorneys are starting a law practice these days?

This is not the way your Father/Mother/Uncle/Grandfather practiced law – that’s why. The law is constantly changing, and so is the technology that lawyers can use to practice law effectively and efficiently.

Just yesterday I discovered a fantastic product called ScheduleOnce. In five minutes I had set up an account and less than thirty minutes later I was sending a link to a client that wanted to schedule some time to come in and see me next week. This tool completely eliminated the back and forth between the client and me trying to find a time slot that would work for us both – it also eliminated the need for my legal assistant to waste 15 minutes on the phone with him getting a date and time in the schedule.

I’m in love. And I find little tools like this on (almost) a daily basis that help me to practice law more efficiently. That’s what LMME is for – to share those resources with you.

So back to the question at hand – why do you (or should you) want to start your own law practice?

There are lots of reasons why many lawyers are perfectly happy at their firm job – and I will be the first to admit that I do envy those lawyers at times. But then I remember the long hours they have to put in and the fact that they have little control over their income or future with the firm. Even the lawyers I know that make “partner” are little more than glorified associates.

So here 6 reasons why you should start a law firm:

  1. You want more than just to practice law. So you enjoy practicing law and serving your clients, but you need more than that. You want to build a business that works for you, even if you aren’t there. Now granted, there are lots of businesses you could start, but as we discussed earlier, you want to be a lawyer. Starting a law firm is the business for you.
  2. You don’t want to live in fear that today might be the day you get laid off. Let’s be honest, even if you have a good position at a good firm – that is not job security. At any point, the partners can call you in and let you go. Ask John Fisher whether he felt security at his firm the day he was let go. It happens.
  3. You want freedom. Will you work a lot at the beginning? Yes. Is starting a law practice hard? Yes. But in the end, if you want the freedom to take a vacation on a moments notice if you want, or to take a random Thursday off to spend with your family/kids, or you want to sleep on any given day – you can do that if you own your own law firm. Your time is your own. If you want to start a virtual firm so that you can work from anywhere, anytime you want – you can do that. If you want to work from home one day, you can do that.
  4. You want control over the clients you work with. This was something that really bothered me about my days working for a firm. I didn’t have any control over the clients I worked with or the projects I worked on. Back in those “dark days” when I was working for a med mal defense firm, I was asked to draft, file, and argue a completely baseless motion to dismiss. I was directed to do this by one of the partners. This was nothing but a waste of time and money to the client and was a ploy to bill more to the file. It felt wrong, and the motion was properly denied. I hated it. Now I can control the clients I work with and the cases I am willing to accept. I don’t have to (nor do I) file frivolous motions just for the sake of “billing the file”.
  5. You are a bad employee. I say this to people all the time. I was a bad employee. I didn’t take direction well – even back to when I was in high school. I remember a job I had working at a food warehouse at an amusement park in the summer before my freshman year of college. The park refused to pay overtime – even though we were being asked to work 50, 60, 70 hours a week. We were routinely asked to stay 3-4 hours after our shift ended during the busy days of that summer to get all the work done. At one point, I noticed we weren’t being paid overtime and I complained to management about it. Frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t fire me – although that probably would have violated numerous federal employment laws. Instead, to the dismay of my manager (and some co-workers), I just started walking off the job after my shift was finished. A good employee would have sucked it up and finished the job. Not me.
  6. You can’t imagine doing anything else. Next year will be the 10 year anniversary of when I started my first law firm. During that time, I’ve successfully started two law firms in two states and I currently support my wife and two (almost three) children on the income from my law firm – including health insurance, retirement funding, etc. I’m happy. I love running my law firm and can’t imagine life any other way. We take a vacation every other year (at least), and I take off two weeks at Christmas. I’m able to travel for conferences, CLE’s that I want to take, and still get to say good morning to my kids everyday and be home by 5:30 for dinner every night. You show me an associate at a firm that can say all those things.

So yes, starting a law firm is not for everyone. There is a lot of risk in starting a law firm, and it’s by no means easy. But I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.