Guest post by Aaron Finlayson
New law firms come to me for help setting up their businesses. I’m a technology consultant, but I’ve realized over the years that technology is inseparably linked to many other business processes. In June 2022 I helped do a webinar with tech tips for newer law firms — you can watch the 5-minute version here. In this post, I focus on the top 3 things other than technology that are important for new law firms. These are office space, prepping for the Law Society, and branding.
1. Office space is about more than location
Facilities, technology, furniture, workflow, and now that people are back in the office: safety. These are all part of working space requirements. From sole practitioners to 20 staff, you’ll have to consider where you will interact with clients, opposing counsel, employees and even the courts.
There are many options. You can choose from turn-key accommodations under a monthly subscription model like Regus, shared accommodations and co-working, and standard rental offices. You will need to plan the space that will be your new firm’s home for the next several years.
Cost for space can range from $350 per person monthly (subscription model) to $10,000+ monthly for brick-and-mortar locations. Office space is a major component when it comes to your budgeting.
Lawyers and law firms have experimented and come to terms with remote work and virtual interactions. Because of this, new law firms have a terrific opportunity to shed the conservative idea about what legal office design “should” be. Not just the physical office, but your digital lobby as well. You can make an impactful and useful website. Also, consider whether you will train your receptionist to act more like a concierge for your clients.
Your digital and physical footprint is all part of your office space. Your website, your office location and how you correspond virtually all speak to the image you are trying to project. No one wants to look like a cat on Zoom in 2023! Every legal blog, social media outlet and firm’s in-house tech champion will never let that little gem of a clip rest.
2. Prepping for the Law Society
If you plan it now, getting ready for the audit that will one day come can be made a little easier.
It’s more than keeping your records straight, doing conflict checks and making sure the trust funds are separate and keeping good backups. The right practice management software and adhering to a strict filing system can be a huge help.
Policies about the firm wills, privacy/PIPEDA and being prepared for access requests and complaint inquiries are some of the items that often get left out in the planning stages. The CBA and LSO websites are full of checklists that are incredibly helpful when you are planning your new firm.
3. Branding for new law firms
Along with your office both virtual and physical, marketing and branding for law firms is important. Right from the get-go, be sure to register and authenticate your media platforms. Lock them in and control the media presence for your new firm.
Your branding and marketing strategy will depend on the type of practice you are building. Your website, logo and fonts are only one part of the branding process.
You don’t need to use all media platforms right away. It’s far better to future-proof your needs and have them available than it is to try and get the name you want or even your firm name if it’s already taken by someone else. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, tiktoc, Facebook, Google Ads, and a plethora of other media outlets are there for you to use.
Finding the right group of people with legal branding and marketing knowledge is a must when starting out. Following the Law Society conduct rules is a given to you, but will the firm or person you use to assist you to know them?
Office space, prepping for the Law Society, and branding are the top 3 things other than technology that are important to new law firms. I hope these tips help you set up your new firm for success.
Aaron Finlayson has been in the technology industry for over 25 years, working with predominantly law firms and other professional groups. He has worked with many firms in Toronto’s downtown core as an IT, practice management, e-discovery and data forensics consultant. Collaborating with IT departments and IT vendors, he plans and implements roadmaps to use current and new technology tools for optimum solutions. He can be reached at email@example.com for more information.