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Common Mistakes When Starting a Law Practice

What's the most common mistake an attorney makes when starting a law practice -- besides choosing to become a lawyer?

Just kidding. Starting a law business may be the best thing about entering the practice of law. It's the great American dream -- now that home ownership is just a dream -- to own your business.

There are common mistakes that almost every new lawtrepreneur makes. Here are the common mistakes you should avoid when starting your law practice:

Wrong Practice

That first step, if it's a misstep, is a doozy. Don't make the mistake of going into the wrong field of law because it will set in motion a whole lot of problems -- like ending up in an area you didn't really want in the first place.

Competence should be your guiding star here. Only take cases that you can reasonably handle -- both qualitatively and quantitatively. In other words, do what you know and don't do too much.

Everybody has to start somewhere, of course, so it's alright to take matters that are entirely new. That's part of the fun and excitement of being your own boss, but choose your cases wisely.

Wrong Location

If your goal is to make lots of money, be like Willie Sutton -- go where the money is. It's not only about a practice area, it's about where to find clients in that field.

As time goes by, you will know it's the right location because success will follow you. If you build it, maybe they actually will come.

In the meantime, watch your expenses because over-spending on office space is a common mistake even for the biggest law firms. Like your parents used to say, don't spend it all in one place.

Wrong Plan

Before you know it, you will have been practicing for years if you have a good business plan. But don't let passing financial success give you a false sense of superiority.

A law practice is subject to the same market conditions that can turn any millionaire into a been-there. A Mercedes, like any other vehicle, just becomes an old car.

Many solo practitioners don't have retirement plans, other than to hope that their home and Social Security will be around by the time they hang up the shingle. In other words, start a savings plan with your new business plan.

Just Wrong

If there were a science to common lawyer mistakes, T. Michael Mather wrote about it. His treatise, "Twelve Most Common Mistakes by Beginning Attorneys," was published in the Temple Journal of Science, Technology & Evironmental Law.

Among other blunders he cited, new lawyers:

  • Do not properly keep track of their time
  • Do not respect deadlines enough
  • Do not proofread their work

So to make the most of your new firm, focus on keeping track of your time, respecting deadlines, and maintaining strict quality control on all of your work.

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