How to Open Your Own Law Practice on a Shoestring

Here are some helpful tips on how to open your law practice on a shoestring.

Many young lawyers tell me they would like to open their own law practice but they don't have the capital. Of course, having significant financial resources will make opening your own law practice easier and surely increase your chances of success. But significant capital is not necessary. You certainly can open your own law practice and initially operate on a shoestring, and if it is done correctly, you can succeed. Here are some helpful tips on how to open your law practice on a shoestring.

Office space. When seeking office space, try to find a small office in a larger suite filled with legal professionals. Lawyers in these types of suites often share the expenses for a telephone system, copy machine, facsimiles, law books, even personnel. This can significantly decrease your initial start-up costs. And even more importantly, the other lawyers in your suite will likely have overflow work and referrals. Not only will they decrease your outlays, they can be a great source of income.

Stationary and supplies. You can cut costs early on by designing your own letterhead using a word processor. Don't overstock on office supplies. Keep that Mont Blanc pen on your wishlist and settle for that trusty old Bic. Buy new stationary and supplies as they become necessary.

Staff. If your new law office comes with a receptionist, perfect. If not, answer your own phone in the beginning. Show prospective clients in yourself. Better yet, contact the career office at your local law school. Advertise an opening for an unpaid intern. Law students usually jump at the opportunity for experience. If there are no law schools nearby, contact a nearby college with a paralegal studies program.

Per diem. Per diem work involves going to court on behalf of other lawyers and law firms and being paid by the appearance. In large cities, this is the norm. This is not only a great way to earn money early on, it's a great way to build courtroom experience.

Areas of practice. Personal injury is great, but it's just not going to pay the bills in your first two years. Contingent fees are just that, contingent. If you are operating on a shoestring, you need upfront legal fees. Consider a general practice that includes criminal law, immigration, bankruptcy, wills, divorce, and the like. You can still take on personal injury cases with the intention of making that area your primary focus in the future.

I hope How to Open Your Law Practice on a Shoestring was helpful. Do yourself a favor and pick up Jay Foonberg's book, How to Start and Build a Law Practice, for some really good tips on growing your practice.