Starting a personal injury law firm is no small task. In fact, personal injury law is one of the most complex and competitive areas of legal practice.
How you go about starting your firm determines whether you’re ultimately successful. Building a successful practice is no mistake. There are a lot of things that you can do, and there are certain things that you must do.
Here are 10 things you should know when starting a personal injury law firm.
1. Consider your mission
The first step to starting a personal injury law firm is determining what you hope to accomplish. Is your goal to represent personal injury victims in a certain location? Do you hope to handle only car accidents and slip and fall cases, or do you also hope to take workers compensation and disability cases? Research and study the types of cases that you hope to take and decide on how to tailor your legal practice.
2. File your incorporation documents
A law firm is a business. There are different ways that you can structure a business. You might be a solo practitioner or a partnership. The state you practice in may allow you to operate as an LLC or a limited partnership. How you structure your business determines your rights, legal liabilities, and tax obligations. Do the research, choose the best structure for you, and create your business structure.
3. Decide where to practice – and make sure you’re licensed
Attorneys are licensed by the state. In order to take a case to a Nevada state court, the lawyer has to be licensed in Nevada. It’s also important to be admitted in the federal courts where you plan to practice. Making sure you have the right licenses is critical to starting your personal injury law firm. Be aware of dues and continuing education requirements that may apply in your location.
4. Choose your team
A good personal injury law firm is made up of more than just one attorney. You need a competent team of professionals. Being a great personal injury lawyer takes trial advocacy, people skills, negotiation tactics, and a heart to help others. Be mindful of the attorneys and paralegal professionals that you choose to be a part of your team.
5. Get malpractice insurance
Every lawyer should have malpractice insurance. While most states don’t require it, it’s a must for any personal injury law firm. Do not begin to represent clients until you have malpractice insurance in place. Not all policies are created the same. Be sure to choose the policy that’s right for you and read the fine print.
6. Determine where to set up shop
It’s time to choose a location for your practice. Where you decide to open your business makes a big difference when it comes to your success. Most of your clients are going to meet you in your central location. That means you need your business to be accessible. You need to be accessible by car, public transit or both. Setting up a main location in a place that is very rural may limit your ability to get clients. On the other hand, a large city may be a very competitive location for growing a business. You may also want to be close to the courthouse for convenience and busy court days.
7.Develop a referral service for other types of cases
Most top personal injury firms focus exclusively on personal injury cases. However, sometimes, clients may ask you to handle other types of cases. You need to find attorneys to refer other matters to like family law cases or criminal matters. In turn, these attorneys may refer personal injury cases back to you.
8. Buy the things you need for your office
You’re going to need some things to get your office started. Your shopping trip may include a phone system with telephone and internet service, a fax machine (yes, you may still need to fax), a printer, office supplies, bathroom supplies, cleaning supplies, things to clear snow and ice from walkways (in some locations), artwork and even used, dusty law readers that you’ll only have for show. With your supplies in place, you’re one step closer to opening your business.
9. Set up a client trust account and a business bank account
Most states require attorneys to keep client funds in a separate trust account. In fact, handling client funds with proper accounting is very important. Study the client trust account rules carefully, and be sure to set up an account that follows the rules in your state. In addition, you also need a separate business bank account to pay bills and conduct day-to-day financial activities.
10. Create a web presence and advertise
Because personal injury is a competitive field, the success of your firm is going to depend largely on your advertising. Not only do you need a website, but it must be tailored to introduce clients to your law firm and encourage them to contact you. You also need a marketing strategy that is both online and in other channels. The right web presence and advertising can help your personal injury firm thrive as you grow your client base and your reputation in the community.
Making Your Personal Injury Law Firm a Success
With the right planning, you can make your personal injury law firm a success. You’re entering a competitive industry. But, understanding the rules and diligently creating a business plan can be your recipe for success. Then, you’re ready to help clients exercise their rights and receive the compensation they deserve with the help of your personal injury law firm.