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Starting a Law Firm? You'll Need About $10,000

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on December 16, 2015 3:00 PM

Starting a law firm can be surprisingly simple -- the main costs are really your license and insurance.

Fundamentally, a law firm is just you (the licensed attorney), a computer, a printer and a law library. The good news is that you already (presumably) have your license and have paid your dues; and you already have a computer and a printer. All you need is access to a law library. That too isn't too bad as most major cities are equipped with one of these. Believe it or not, you're already halfway there.

The theory is that a law firm is just you (the licensed attorney), a computer, a printer and a law library. The good news is that you already (presumably) have your license and have paid your dues; and you already have a computer and a printer. All you need is access to a law library. That too isn't too bad as most major cities are equipped with one of these. Believe it or not, you're already halfway there.

The Office

To establish a firm, you will need an actual office. This does not mean that you can't start working from home, but you should plan on establishing an office. Expectations and social norms have not yet shifted so that lawyers can get away with being seen in their homes with laundry laying about. For now, virtual law offices cannot be the only means you present yourself to the world.

The best way to attack this issue is to rent with other lawyers. You're each your own lawyer, but you're sharing space. If you're new, this is a bit of a bonus because the more seasoned attorneys will act as your mentors.

Office Supplies

If you plan to open and share space with other attorneys, you may luck out. Personal experience has shown that boxes and boxes of staples and paper clips often go unopened for years and many times are simply thrown away during an overly zealous clean-up. At the most, folders, paperclips and binders should cost $40. Anymore than this and you're not using Amazon to its fullest.

Furnishings

Don't make the mistake of buying stuff made by artisans. You just need decent looking furniture that at least maintains a minimum look of professionalism. Good furniture can sometimes appear in the most unlikely of places. For example, discount retailers like TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat Factory often carry pretty snazzy looking furniture pieces. Sometimes, one can even pick up corner desks from these places. Getting them carried up into your office is your own problem, but the prices are pretty reasonable. This should run a few hundred -- $400 max when you start off.

Malpractice Insurance

You should not be practicing without insurance. You can always change form and change to a PC later on, but always start off being covered. You should be looking at less than $700 per year when you first start out.

Hardware

If you managed to get through law school without a printer, huzzah to you. Now go out and get a printer/scanner. This should be the next biggest capital expense you make. In fact, it should be more expensive than the computer. You want this machine fast, easy to use, and with scanning technology. About $500.

Your computer can even be your current laptop. But if so, you should invest in copious backup options. Some attorneys purchase large USB flash drives and backup copies of .jpg images of documents. This file format is so small you can fit millions of images on a flash drive that costs all but $20. Low resolution PDFs will also work. Make multiple copies and update them regularly.

Alternatively, you can upload your files to the cloud. These days, your Google Account gives you 15GB for free. But that number is now pitifully small. Check out CrashPlan for one of the best current deals out there.

You'll Need at Least $5,000

$3,000 is probably not enough to launch a law firm. Get ready to spend at least $5,000 just to get things under way; $10,000 to be well on your feet. The good news, however, is that many of the costs are already spent costs that you have already absorbed. These include your computer, your insurance, and your license fees. Even though the number has been revised upward, it doesn't mean that the option of starting a law firm has been closed off to you. If anything, the crude list above should prove to you that opening up a law firm is actually quite a bit more mundane that even lawyers would believe.

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