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‘If Only I’d Known’: What New Law Firm Owners Are Discovering

Is 2023 the year you’ll break out on your own or launch new practice areas? With a blank sheet of paper, the opportunities to innovate are both exciting and challenging against the imperative to generate profit.

Over 2022, FilePro noticed a trend – an increase in enquiries from new firms/start ups. These new clients demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to do it their way yet work with experts across the legal profession.

We wanted to find out more about what has driven this trend and what these new law firm owners have discovered. So, we asked them what they’ve learnt and what surprised them. We are grateful for their time and consideration in responding.

These findings may assist others to take the plunge, or at least start the conversations.

What drove the decision to start your own firm?

Overwhelmingly, the driver behind this trend was to achieve work/life balance allowing flexibility, particularly to allow more time with their families.

What outcomes did you want to achieve?

Whilst there was a consistent focus on achieving a better work/life balance, there was agreement that this would not come at the expense of client service.

Differentiation of their new practice was also a consistent theme – ‘to be able to assist clients in a way that traditional firms can’t allow for’.

‘Control’ also featured amongst the responses, in particular in relation to workload and the type of work they took on.

What were the fears/concerns heading into the process?

What was refreshing about their responses to this question was the clarity of the daunting  challenges involved in running a firm.  There was a clear awareness that this move required the wearing of a lot of different “hats” or roles to achieve a satisfactory revenue stream:

  • They would no longer have the support of a large administrative/support teams to run the business and compliance aspects required of a law firm.
  • The need to attract enough new clients to fund the business as well as implement efficient systems and processes to deliver a profitable financial result.
  • Recognition of the loss of senior colleagues for advice and guidance.

Did those fears/concerns come to pass? If so, why and how could they be avoided and if not, what were the contributing factors?

‘No’ was the unanimous response ie their fears did not come to pass.

The factors that mitigated these fears (particularly the fear of finding enough new clients) and ensured a strong start for their new firms included:

  • Having strong relationships across their peers and other organisations, particularly as referrers.
  • A focus on quality client service to foster positive word of mouth referrals.
  • Feeling more control by being selective about the types of matters taken on.
  • Creating a strong collaborative support network also featured in their responses. Many are able to continue to reach out to colleagues as needed.

FilePro also received kudos for helping these new law firm owners:

  • To stay up to date and compliant – eg. the new costs notices with invoices when the uniform law came into effect.
  • To feel supported during the installation of their PMS as well as the ongoing support. New firm owners were able to set up the business as they required it from the outset. FilePro’s intuitive and user friendly interface eased the administrative and compliance pressure on these start ups.
  • To feel more in control of the entire matter management process including all administrative and bookkeeping tasks.
  • Access to resources such as training and enewsletters.

What surprised you the most since your firm has launched?

The level of support offered stands out in their feedback, particularly  during the set up stage. This has meant that many aspects fell into place much easier than anticipated.

Realistically, there were some tweaks needed once set up but these were by far less challenging than expected.

For some, it was the realisation of the unending demand for lawyers!

What advice would you give to others looking to start their own firm knowing what you now know?

Nike’s philosophy of ‘just do it’ resonated across the responses with special mention of the following:

  • Take as much as you possibly can from the Practice Management Course.
  • Be selective in the work that you accept – do what you know best.
  • Build a network of other lawyers that you can seek advice from time to time.
  • Whilst it’s a lot of work, its worth every second. So start small, keep overheads low and build as workload and profit build.
  • Ask questions, listen and surround yourself with the right people but also trust your intuition. Build a bank of wisdom.

We also took the opportunity to ask about our support during implementation and ongoing service and support and were very pleased that we continue to be the PMS that law firms can lean on. Some notable quotes include: 

‘I wish I had engaged File Pro when I initially started as I think they would have been very helpful in the set up.  The support provided for the trust accounting has been very helpful.’

‘My favourite thing is that your support team is WA based so someone is always there to pick up the phone during business hours.’ (Note: our extended hours of operation mean that eastern states have the same level of personal support and access.)

For over 30 years, FilePro has been working with firms with an entrepreneurial spirit looking to start up and/or add new teams. In our experience, what is clear is that the energy and focus to differentiate your firm relies on attracting the right teams, flexible systems, personalised support and implementing streamlined processes. All of these aspects excite the FilePro team.

At FilePro, we are committed to investing and innovating to remain a leading legal practice management software provider. Our solutions evolve to enhance our clients’ productivity, client service standards and system’s security whilst keeping abreast of the demands of the legal marketplace.

We understand the pitfalls of some software solutions and recommend as part of your research of PMS’s to ask software providers about:

  • the level of support (and cost) during implementation to day 1 and beyond;
  • their training programs (at implementation and ongoing) and costs;
  • upgrades – frequency, support and costs;
  • reporting capability and access to client, finance, risk and matter management data;
  • their IT development plans for the next 2 years (as a minimum); and
  • client reference sites that match your current firm size and the firm you plan for!

We believe law firms should be able to lean on their provider for all their practice management needs, which is why our promise is: Your choice, your data, your peace of mind.

Find out more about what new law firm owners are saying and to download our comprehensive due diligence checklist to support you with your research.

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