This is the ninth in a series of blogs on How to Practice in Estate Planning. This series is designed for attorneys who are currently practicing in another field and wish to transition to Estate Planning and Elder Law. However, many of the suggestions in this series will be equally applicable to a new attorney who is not transitioning from another area.
Step Nine: Starting Your Own Practice
Step One was learning how to approach the practice of law as a business. Step Two was learning the basic substantive knowledge you need to practice in the estate planning area. Step Three is having forms upon which you can rely and a person or people whom you can consult for counsel. Step Four is avoiding analysis paralysis and actually applying what you’ve learned. Step Five is joining local Estate Planning and Elder Law chapters and attending those events. Step Six is to subscribe to estate planning publications and follow blogs that will help you in your estate planning practice. Step Seven is learning other subject matter which is integrally related to estate planning. Step Eight is things that could change every year, even when you are a seasoned estate planning or elder law attorney. Step Nine is the logistics of starting your own practice.
Michael E. Gerber has said that good technicians are often tired of building someone else’s business and make the mistake of thinking that “if he/she can run a business like this, surely I can.” That is the very definition of the E-Myth (Entrepreneurial Myth)!
The business skills that are required to have a successful business are often a surprise to attorneys leaving someone else’s firm and going out on their own. The number of details to consider can be overwhelming.
We recommend that if you’re thinking about going out on your own, create a plan and make your move strategically. Things to consider include:
1) Location. Location. Location. Where will you set up shop?
- We recommend that your offices be nicely appointed but not flashy
- You want to be in a location that is easy for people to get to, has elevators, and plenty of parking. Ask yourself, will older clients be slogging through snow drifts to get from their car to your office? Will they get lost in a building or a section of town trying to find you?
- Some attorneys prefer to start in an office sharing situation. It can allow for some shared resources that can be helpful in the beginning. Sharing anything from a receptionist to copy machines can cut down on the overhead you have during the first 6 months or so.
2) Create a checklist of projects to complete that will make the space uniquely yours (paint, rent storage unit, moving truck, etc.)
3) Create another checklist of items to complete to get your business set up.
- Create a professional corporation (or other appropriate entity in your state)
- Draft a Strategic Plan
- Draft a Marketing Plan (you’ll need to know what your overhead costs are before you decide what your marketing needs to support)
- Hire a support person (this will require a hiring and training plan)
- Set up phone and internet services
- Hire an IT person to set up the equipment
- Talk to an interior designer
- Sign the agreement on the space
- Establish a relationship with a banker
- Get a line of credit (we always recommend you get one before you actually need it)
- Hire a reputable CPA and bookkeeper (you’ll need a chart of accounts)
- Your website should technically be LIVE just as your firm is announced
- Email needs to be set up (you should have an IT person to help you with this)
- Determine the software you need in place to track client contact as well as to produce documents
4) Create a checklist of everything you need to buy or rent.
- The list needs to have everything from supplies to equipment to kitchen implements.
- Email email@example.com if you want to have a copy of the start-up items we recommend for transitioning attorneys
If you’re contemplating a move, don’t hesitate to contact us and ask any questions that come up for you. We offer a number of free webinars that can be very helpful!
One more thing: This can be a daunting and overwhelming process, but if you talk to any entrepreneurial attorney who went out on their own in the past, you likely won’t find many who regret the sacrifices they made up front to create the practice they dreamed of. Owning your own practice isn’t for everyone, but for those who have a burning desire to be on their own, there is nothing quite like it. Be sure to surround yourself with MENTORS – yes, there is an “s” on that word. You want to be curious and ask lots of questions of people who have gone down this path already. The biggest mistakes we see are made when the business owner feels they need to appear to know everything. If they aren’t curious, don’t ask a lot of questions, or if they’re not willing to try it in a way that may not have initially occurred to them — it can be a very tough and sometimes painful process.
Let us know if we can send you any checklists or webinars that may shed some light on some of these steps: Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chief Operating Officer
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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