Budding start-up lawyer, yesterdayBudding start-up lawyer, yesterday Dear Aunty & Uncle. I want to start a law firm. Please advise.

Aunty:

Beta, give me a Rupee for every time a question like yours has come through my email box and Uncle and I could retire.

But your aspirations to be your own boss and creating employment for others are admirable. For most lawyers in India, running your own law firm is the ultimate dream, although it can also be a nightmare.

When starting up your own law firm, it is important that you know whether you are ready. Chances are that if you have to ask, you might not be.

I have prepared a checklist for you below, why don’t you see how many you can tick to know how many steps you’re away from freedom…

S.No.

Ask yourself…

Yes/No

 

1

Do you have enough years of experience to advise clients? Are you taken seriously by your current clients or they still seek a second opinion from your senior sometimes?

 

2

Do you have depth in your experience? Have you seen matters to their logical end and in the right context as compared to merely learning concepts and following processes? Would your friends recommend you to their friends and family?

 

3

The first years in any start-up are hard, hard work. I still remember when Uncle and I first started out decades ago, and we barely saw each other outside the office for months at a time. Are you prepared to compromise on your personal life in the beginning?

 

4

Do you have at least one client who will move with you and will promise to give you a bit of work in the hard early days?

 

5

Do you have enough capital to keep going for 6 months without any earnings?

What about a good office to operate from? You could work from your apartment - although that won't work for long if you want to be taken seriously.

If none of the above, do you have friends and family or some angel investors willing to help you with a loan? You could be working out of a small rented office, which should not be a problem, but if you’re going through a cash crunch then you will remain focused on your money problems rather than building up a reputed practice.

 

6

Do you have experience with handling commercial side of managing a law practice? Do you understand the market and know where to position yourself? How do you plan to differentiate your firm from the rest of the legal market? If you want to do more than just sustain, this experience is crucial. Although, to some this understanding may come naturally without formal experience.

 

7

Do you have at least basic marketing, sales and people skills? Ask any experienced law firm owner and he will tell you that running a law firm requires very different skill sets as compared to practicing law.

 

8

Do you have quality partners/ lawyers willing to move out with you/ join you? Remember, a firm is only as good as its lawyers. If you have a solid team, you will be able to win and deliver on your projects else you will sink without a trace.

 

Uncle:

If you work for me, it’s a shame you’ll be losing out on a brilliant future considering we are introducing lockstep in the next few months.

If you don’t work for me, congratulations and more power to you, as long as you don’t take any of my lawyers or my clients.

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Do you agree with Aunty and Uncle?

What do you think? Please leave a comment below.

In the meantime, Careers Counsel’s Agony Aunty and Uncle are here to answer your legal career questions. Please email your queries anonymously to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or click here.

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