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Start-up Principles for Law Firms

Customer focus and simplicity among success factors for start-up businesses.

Law school and, often, several years of working at a larger firm prepared you well for a career as a lawyer. You know your area of law, and you’re a good lawyer, but are you prepared for the business of law? If you are launching a solo or small law firm, or growing one, you must have a little business savvy in addition to law smarts. That’s where it helps to follow some simple start-up principles for law firms.

Owning a solo practice or a small firm gives you the leeway to be nimble and to meet the needs of your clients in sometimes non-traditional ways, in much the same way as many innovative tech start-ups that are lauded in the press.

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Following some basic start-up principles for law firms can make all the difference between success and failure.

Mashable’s “10 Start-ups to Watch in 2014” included the line, “…the mark of a good Internet start-up is addressing a basic pain point among consumers.” It can be said that the mark of a good entrepreneurial lawyer is finding and addressing those pain points for clients as well.

Brooklyn attorney Kyle Westaway approached his new law business using “lean start-up principles” as he told Business Insider reporter Aimee Groth.

“I’m really passionate about working with a certain subset of clients, startups and social entrepreneurs, and I had to figure out a way to do things differently,” said Westaway in the article.

His way of doing things differently included considering what worked best for the client and ditching the traditional billable hour. He said he took this approach in the face of law’s changing landscape, which includes more automation and demand from clients for more flexible billing options.

Advice from Inc. columnist Jeff Haden echoes the idea that start-up business owners should place the customer’s needs first. He wrote:

“Spend only on what touches the customer. Leaving a corporate position for a start-up with the assumption your amenities should be equal? Sorry. Before you spend, always ask, ‘Does this touch the customer?’ If it doesn’t – don’t buy it. If you’re a lawyer, your office reinforces your professionalism; if you run a store, no customer should even know your office exists.”

This bit of advice is part of the reason LawBank exists. We offer lawyers the office space and professionalism your clients expect while allowing you to run a leaner operation with lower overhead costs.

Entrepreneur and Forbes columnist Ilya Pozin offers the advice that start-ups should focus on growth. “Many companies fail because they aren’t disciplined enough about growth,” he wrote.

He goes on to tout the benefits of simplicity, which harkens back to the lean start-up principles we mentioned earlier. He specifically calls out engineers for trying to build too many features up front, an expensive exercise, but this idea can apply to other businesses as well. In law, as in most professions, you can’t be all things to all clients. Find a simple focus for your law business and grow from there.

Look for more advice on running your law business in future blogs. www.law-bank.com

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