Do you have what it takes to start a family law practice? If you feel confident about your abilities but don’t know how to set up a law firm, this article is for you. In this guide on how to start a family law practice, we give you important tips and take you through some of the key steps you should take when starting a law practice.
What is Family Law
To understand the intricacies of all the requirements to properly start a law firm for family law, let’s first expound on what family law entails. In a nutshell, family law involves families and domestic relationships. You should be ready to deal with all forms of conflicts between loved ones in a relationship. In addition to being a litigator, sometimes you’ll be required to be a mediator and counselor. These are some of the duties that divorce lawyers must undertake in their practice.
Family law can include child custody, divorce, adoption, domestic violence, and child support. Some of the common practice areas in family law include contested divorce, prenuptial agreements, child support, child custody, post-divorce modifications, mediation and collaborative law, high net-worth divorces, and division of property. This is quite a wide field of law, but as you’ll soon find out in this guide on how to start a family law practice, one of the best things you can do is to specialize in one or a few areas.
Choose a Niche
Niching down means that you’ll be specializing in one or a few specific areas of family law. For example, you may choose divorce law as your niche. Within divorce law itself, there are several multiple practice areas, such as mediation and contested divorce.
One of the benefits of niching down is minimizing competition. When you’re dealing in one specific area of law and spend all your time on it, it’s easy to become an expert in the field. Furthermore, rather than marketing to a general market, you’ll be targeting a specific market. Clients will choose you because they’re looking for an expert on whatever issues they have.
Sometimes, it may be difficult to single out a specific niche to specialize in. You can try several areas and find out which ones you’re good at. Focus on the one or few practice areas you’re good at. Once you’ve decided on the specific area of family law you want to practice on, it’s time to choose a name.
Choose a Name
It’s common for law firms to go with the names of the lawyer or partners. Something like Smith and Brooks Associates. Assuming you are going solo, you have all the liberty to choose a name that you like. Remember, this is also the name you’ll be using in all your engagements and transactions with other entities. For example, when billing companies for services offered, you want them to immediately recognize that it’s you. Therefore, avoid mimicking the names of those big law firms in your city or state to avoid confusion.
One of the key tips we’re giving you in this guide on how to start a family law practice is that there are rules on how to name a law firm. For example, if you name your law firm Harrington law offices but you only have one office, it might get you in trouble. This is because the word “offices” is plural. Furthermore, you can’t be Harrington and Smith if there is no Smith. Learn about all the naming rules and ensure that you’re compliant before you register the name.
Build a Business Plan
This may not seem to be a necessary step in this guide on how to start a family law practice, but it will help you build a clear blueprint of your business. You can even project your income from the business plan. Should you need financing, some banks may ask for a business plan.
Your business plan should also set out your preferred structure of the law firm. Consult with an accountant and a business lawyer on the best model to adopt for the business. Be careful at this stage because the structure will affect many functions of your law practice, such as taxes and individual exposure to liabilities and debts. Common types of entities for small to medium-sized law firms include limited liability company, professional corporation, limited liability partnership, and sole proprietorship.
Get an Office
This is one of the most important steps in this guide on how to start a family law practice. Although we live in an era where remote work has been embraced, the remote would not be ideal for family law practice. You need a physical office location, with an address. The location should be convenient for you and your clients. Choose a location with easy access to the courthouse. Importantly, choose an office and location that portrays the image and brand you want to portray.
You may have to do some renovations to give your office the look you want. This may include new paintwork. Look for interior house paint experts near you to give your office a fresh new look. You also want the reception and waiting area to look good. Your clients will get the first impression of you and your practice at the reception and waiting area.
Your office will need furniture, accessories, and other resources. Legal resources include court forms, research materials, and practice guides. Get a reliable mover to move the furniture from the furniture store to your new office. Search for local moving companies to minimize the cost of moving.
You will need a great computer or several of them. This is probably one of your most important hard assets for your practice. If the computer goes down, it might mean that you’re temporarily out of business. Make sure you invest in a good computer with specifications that can handle all the operations of a typical law firm. You’ll also need hardware like a printer, copier, scanner, and an external hard drive.
Marketing is one of the most important activities in any business, and your family law practice is no different. So important is this step that some businesses may spend more than 50% of their income on marketing before gaining traction in the industry. This is why this guide on how to start a family law practice cannot skip this important step.
Some clients will find you through word of mouth. Therefore, ensure that you provide great service to your clients all the time, and word will spread.
There are many potential clients who will be searching for law firms online. If you don’t have a website and have not done proper digital marketing, you’ll never get this huge market. You should invest in a good website, search engine optimization, and email marketing. In addition, send newsletters to former clients to stay connected.
You Need a Website
You probably didn’t expect to find this step in this guide on how to start a family law practice, but you need a website. After going through the section above about marketing, you should understand why you need a website. Don’t worry about the technicalities of setting up one, there are many website design companies that can help you with that.
The website doesn’t have to be too fancy. However, just like your office, it should have the image and brand you want to portray. Also remember, for people searching for your services online, your website will be the first impression they have of your law practice.
In addition to the website, you may also want to create several social media accounts or pages for your family law practice. These platforms can be used to show off your knowledge and nurture relationships. You don’t have to be on all the social media platforms that exist, just a select few are enough.
Build Your Network
One of the secrets of succeeding in law is having a good network within the industry. Spend time hanging around the courthouse and mingling with bailiffs, court clerks, and judges’ secretaries. These connections can be helpful in different occasions when handling your cases.
As a family lawyer, you’d also want to build networks with counselors. It’s never too early or too late to start building these networks.
Open a Bank Account
You definitely knew that this how to start a family law practice guide had to mention finances. This may sound obvious for any business, but it’s particularly crucial for a law firm to have a bank account. You’ll not only need a bank account, but also an IOLTA – Interest on Lawyers Trust Account.
Be thoughtful about the type of bank you use. You want to use a bank that offers all the services you need for your law firm to run smoothly. For example, consider financial institutions that have merchant credit card processing services to make it easy to get payments through credit cards. This means you should research the bank’s services or offerings before choosing it. Please also remember that, as a lawyer, you’re required to properly handle client funds.
You should consider getting law malpractice insurance. This may not be a requirement in your state, but having this insurance will give you peace of mind. For a new law firm, the insurance quote you get from potential insurers can be less than $1,500 per year. Some insurers will allow you to spread the payment throughout the 12 months.
Take Advantage of Technology
Technology can make things easy. In addition to a good computer that we’ve already mentioned, you need to find good phones as well as a fast and reliable internet connection. Consider investing in a cloud storage system. A cloud system will also allow you to access your information from any device, anywhere – you don’t have to be physically in your office.
In addition to hardware, you also need specific software. For example, you should have office packages or similar software installed on your computer. There are specific legal software that you can also use in your law firm. Good legal software will automate most processes and reduce the need to hire many employees. Additional software to consider includes accounting software and billing software.
Keep Your Overhead Low
You’re just starting out. Try to keep everything to a minimum. You don’t need a large, expensive office. You can start with a small but decent office. Get creative in turning the place to be what you’d like it to look like on a budget. For example, if you want to install epoxy floors, search for cheap commercial epoxy floor coating companies in your city or state. This is an example of how to start a family law practice on a budget. There are many other ways you can get around expensive costs, such as DIY.
Find a Mentor
This is an important step, especially if you have little experience in the field. A mentor will not only guide you on the best approaches in the practice but also help you avoid the mistakes they’ve made in their practice. This will help you grow quickly as a reputable family lawyer.
You should also set time aside to regularly evaluate yourself. Identify what works and what doesn’t. For example, identify areas of marketing that work for you and those that don’t. Focus on what works to save time and money.
We hope this guide on how to start a family law practice will help you actualize your dreams and start your own law firm. Choose a niche you believe you’re good at and go with it. Start by creating a business plan that sets out all your plans, including the income you target to generate. As you start to practice, ensure you build good networks with your clients and other industry players. You can learn from other lawyers who have been in the game for years and implement strategies that have helped them to be successful.