Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.
I have geared my last couple of blog posts towards those of you who are thinking about starting your own law practice. In my last post, I suggested organizing your thoughts. The best way to organize is by making a “start-up” list. Last week, you considered whether you wanted to partner up or fly solo. This week, you should think about the nuts and bolts you will need to get your practice running such as malpractice insurance, business cards, websites and bank accounts.
First and foremost, you should consider your budget. Budgets can be fluid things, but you should have a general idea of how much money you want to put into your practice on the front end. If you don’t already have a budget, I recommend checking out a Web site like mint.com, which is a free budget manager.
If you know that you will buy malpractice coverage, which I strongly suggest, shop around. Ask other attorneys about their carriers. There are several options out there. I recommend that you contact at least three carriers before you decide on one. If you plan to have a side practice, ask the insurance company if they offer a part-time policy. A part-time policy will cost you less in premium payments, but it will limit the hours you may work on client matters during a week. You may also want to ask if the carrier offers discounts if you are a member of an organization like a bar association. It’s worth taking a little time to shop around before you commit to a carrier.
You should definitely have business cards. When you are out networking, business cards are the icing on your professional cake. There are obviously many places out there that will set you up with business cards. Again, it is worth shopping around for the best deal. One site you may want to check out is called vistaprint.com. Business cards are free to make on this site, you just pay for shipping. Depending on the shipping option you choose, you can end up paying a rather minimal fee for your cards. I highly recommend that you check this out.
Another business tool that you should look into is a Web site. A Web site is like a virtual follow-up to your face-to-face networking. These days, no one has credibility without a Web site. There are tons of Web hosts out there, and you can get a domain name for a relatively low price. The real key is making your Web site look professional. Chances are everyone you know also knows a web designer. My website, www.tiffanyfarber.com, was created by my cousin, graphic designer Angelica Farber. Because there are so many people versed in designing Web sites, you have a good chance of finding one that matches your style and budget. There are also lots of beginner designers out there who know their stuff and are willing to offer a discounted price. Ask around.
Aside from your marketing tools and malpractice insurance, make sure you head over to the bank and set up your accounts. In Illinois, you must set up an IOLTA account. You should also open an operating account to keep track of money that you earn and money for business expenses. Make sure to get the card of a business banker. That person will likely know how to answer your questions that arise in the future.
Your list may begin to seem a bit daunting, so make sure to chip away at it one step at a time. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself and you will be right on pace.