Guide to Running a Solo Legal Practice
There’s nothing like the excitement of opening a solo law practice. You answer to no one except your clients, and every decision comes back to you.
Even with this excitement, your new venture can be intimidating. Many attorneys start their practices without experience in business management, accounting, or marketing — then realize they have to do all those things as a solo office.
Fortunately, every skill you’ll need is learnable. This guide will help you prioritize your practice management tasks while preparing you for the future.
Organize Your Finances
Aside from your client work, financial management is your highest priority as a solo attorney. Stay on track by following financial management best practices, which include:
- Creating a budget. List your necessary expenses and average monthly revenue. If you haven’t started your practice yet, use your expenses to determine how much you need to make monthly.
- Setting financial goals. Determine what the next step looks like for your practice. For example, you might want to increase your marketing budget, move into a larger office, or hire an associate.
- Establishing billing and payment processes. Have a reliable method for logging hours, billing clients, and accepting payments. Research payment management tools to reduce the time you spend billing.
- Reducing expenses. Shop around to verify you get the best value for essential services, such as utilities and insurance. Schedule another cost check for the following year.
- Reviewing reports monthly or quarterly. Know your profit margins and whether your financial performance is improving, stagnating, or declining.
Use these reports to make informed financial decisions. For example, if you have too many delayed payments, you might consider adding late payment fees or encouraging clients to pay electronically.
Hire Support Staff
Having a solo practice doesn’t need to mean you’re the only one in the office. A solo practice can have one or more support staff, such as a paralegal or legal assistant.
A paralegal has the training to work on case-related tasks, such as research and document drafting, and can provide more support to a solo firm. You’ll pay more for this additional support, as paralegals earn more than legal assistants.
However, choosing the support role you need depends on your workload and how much an employee could take on. If you can delegate enough that the new hire’s salary would let you serve more clients — or get higher-paying clients — it’s more likely to be worth the expense.
Create or Refine Your Website
In a recent consumer survey, more than three in four potential clients visit multiple lawyer websites before reaching out. They look at numerous factors, from the results you achieve to the clients you serve.
Potential clients also notice whether your website is easy to navigate. If they struggle to find the information they need, they’ll transfer that feeling of confusion to your practice. Incorporate a professional design with standard menu navigation, which leads visitors to key pages. Those should include:
- An About page detailing your background and qualifications
- Testimonials from satisfied clients
- Mentions of any awards or recognitions, including five-star reviews
- Separate pages for each practice area, with descriptions of your topic expertise
New visitors should be able to find your services page quickly so they can tell if you’re a good match. If you have multiple practice areas, nest them all under a “Services” dropdown on your home page. Some lawyers also have a generic Services page with links to specific practice areas.
Attorney website design is a subjective and personal process. It’s important to convey all the necessary information and communicate what working with you is like. You never know which client will choose you over the competition because your website seems more gentle and compassionate — or more professional and no-nonsense.
There’s plenty to consider, but you don’t have to do it alone. Consider working with professionals who design and build effective websites for lawyers.
Get the Right Technology
Legal technology makes running a solo law firm significantly more manageable. It simplifies your administrative workflow and makes your practice more efficient, letting you spend more time on active cases.
Practice management software is most solo firms’ best “starter” solution. It simplifies repetitive manual tasks, such as scheduling appointments, organizing case information, and recording billable hours. Some practice management solutions even generate invoices from stored information.
Automation technology is the next step. It improves a solo firm’s productivity by automating tasks that otherwise fall on your shoulders.
For example, consider how much time you spend scheduling meetings and sending reminders. When you add an automatic scheduling tool to your website, clients select meeting times based on your availability. The tool even sends automated reminders that can include virtual meeting links.
This complete process happens without any legwork on your end. And it’s only one of many ways automation can help your solo firm succeed.
Develop a Marketing Plan
Every solo practice needs a strategy for getting clients. It’s easy for a solo attorney’s marketing to become disorganized and haphazard, especially when the office gets busy and pressing matters take over.
A strategy keeps your marketing on track no matter what happens. It should detail what types of clients you want to reach, where you want to market to them, and how you’ll know if your plan succeeds. Measurable objectives are essential because they help you refine your strategy.
Aim to include traditional and digital marketing channels, such as:
- Print mailings
- Social media
- Content marketing
- Paid online search ads
- Local search engine optimization (SEO)
Data shows that 43% of potential clients turn to Google searches to find lawyers, so SEO is critical. Conduct keyword research to find the terms your potential clients use in search, and use those terms throughout your website. Add references to your location, like “Cleveland personal injury lawyer” or “family attorney in Los Angeles.”
Outsource Your Marketing With Martindale-Avvo
Keeping up with your marketing as a solo attorney can feel like an uphill battle. You can’t grow your practice without promoting it even when your day is filled with practice management and client work.
That’s where Martindale-Avvo can help. Exclusively focused on lawyer marketing, we help attorneys launch customized marketing strategies. We’ll work with you to identify your goals, choose your tools, and show your practice to wider audiences. Reach out today to learn more.