Angela N. Nicewonder 2017-06-01 21:24:02
Flying Solo Tips for starting out with your own practice. Some attorneys dream of hanging up their own shingle as soon as bar results come out while others fall into the life either out of convenience, the job market, or any number of other reasons. Unless you have a mentor that runs his or her own practice or a family member that does the same, the knowledge behind running the business itself is where fear of the unknown often comes into play. The most valuable tips for a starting solo are those that save money and help maintain a work-life balance. Here are a few of my personal favorites. Start with a virtual office or no office. Affording a full-time office may be out of the question for a lot of new solo practitioners. Fortunately, companies that rent out office space have caught on to this and have come up with the solution of virtual offices, where you normally pay a monthly fee that allows you to reserve office space on an hourly basis. There may or may not be an additional hourly fee for the use of the space, so make sure you check before signing up. Typically, you can sign up for different monthly price plans, with the more expensive options including access to larger conference rooms for a set number of hours per month, telephone answering services, and other perks. If the virtual office route is out of your price range, you can opt for no physical office. You can often meet clients in their area at a local coffee shop or bookstore cafe. Potential clients often appreciate it when you are willing to meet them close to where they are if you just happen to be on their side of town for another meeting that day. If the client is too far away, then suggest a halfway point. Use a no-charge or low-cost phone service for your business line. This is one of the best practices I have found to help with work-life balance. The downside to clients having your personal number is that they feel you are easily accessible at 9 p.m. for a random question about something that could have waited until 9 a.m. the next day. To combat this, you should look into Voice over Internet Protocol or internet calling services. Vendors may offer different features, but some of the best include voicemail to email conversion, texting capabilities, and a different, local phone number. Many of these options are free and work on your current phone by downloading an app. With a few changes to the settings, you can choose to use your company or personal number before dialing. But perhaps the best work-life balance element is the disable button, which allows you to send incoming calls directly to voicemail. This is ideal for those who want to shut down after 5 p.m. or whenever you want some freedom in your evening or weekend. When you are ready to get started the next day simply turn off the feature. Find cost-effective advertising methods. Billboards and commercials may be the long-term goal for your law firm, but they are often too expensive when you are getting started. Some of the best low-cost advertising methods are found on social media. Whether you are more comfortable with Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter, each platform offers a way to connect with potential clients. Some provide advertising opportunities in which for a fee, your name can appear in the public’s newsfeed or sidebar. You can also create a website, whether using a DIY service online or hiring a company to build it. Be sure to utilize search engine optimization so that your site will appear as one of the first two or three results listed when someone runs a search for your area of law. Keep in mind that attorneys must comply with advertising guidelines as required by the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. For more information, go to the State Bar of Texas Advertising Review Department webpage at texasbar.com/adreview. Customize these tips to fit your firm and preference and do research to find more advice. The more you know and implement, the more your practice can grow. This article was originally published in the December 2016 edition of the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s eNews. It has been edited and reprinted with permission ANGELA N. NICEWONDER is the owner of Nicewonder Law Group, which focuses on family law and provides services in many other practice areas. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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