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5 Expert Tips on Starting a Law Firm From Attorneys Who "Have Been There, Done That."

One of the most important things I’ve learned as a business owner is to learn from those who have already been there and done that. Benchmarking off successful entrepreneurs can save you a lot of time, money and headaches when it comes to running any business.

Five members of Forbes’ Legal Council, experienced chief legal officers and law firm partners who regularly contribute content on legal issues  share their advice:

Tip #1: Focus on the quality of your leads, not the quantity. With so many avenues available today to capture leads, it’s not that difficult to fill your bucket quickly. But are these people truly qualified? Do they have a problem you can solve? Can they pay you what you’re worth? Do they meet the qualities you look for in an ideal client? When you’re starting out, you need to focus on building a robust strategic referral network that can send you qualified leads.

Tip #2: You will have infinite opportunities — and challenges. There is no way you can foresee the number of both opportunities and challenges you will face when you run your own law firm. Technology has erased both physical and operational boundaries and you can find clients and competitors anywhere in the world. Keep yourself open to all possibilities.

Tip #3: Learn to market your practice. Your phone will not automatically start ringing just because you do good legal work. What is key is learning how to differentiate your practice through legal marketing. Attend marketing conferences and read marketing books. Realize that consumers are confused about the legal marketplace and are looking for ways to determine differences between what appears to them to be a sea of lawyers all offering the same services, marketing to them in the same way. Learning to differentiate your practice will be the key to your success.

Tip #4: Understand that you will be running a business. When you start your own firm, you will quickly discover (especially if you worked previously in a large firm) that you are responsible for managing everything — accounting, marketing, case management systems, technology, client relations, and more. You may have a legal practice, but that’s not the business you’re in. You’re really in the business of running your business.

Tip #5: Make sure you’re up for the challenge. If you have a deep aversion to risk — and many attorneys do — then starting your own business may not be the best path for you. Starting your own business will always bring bigger risks, but also has the potential for much bigger rewards. To help manage your risk, see the first four tips!

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About this Author

Stephen Fairley legal marketing expert, law office management

Two-time international best-selling author, Stephen Fairley is the Founder and CEO of The Rainmaker Institute, the nation’s largest law firm marketing company specializing in marketing and lead conversion for small to medium law firms. Since 1999, he has built a national reputation as a legal marketing expert and been named, “America’s Top Marketing Coach.” He has spoken numerous times for over 35 of the nation’s largest state and local bar associations.