Should New Attorneys Join An Existing Law Firm or Start Their Own Legal Practice?

exclusive Attorney Marketing Network blog

In the first blog of our exclusive Attorney Marketing Network series dedicated to new lawyers and their quest for success, we are examining the options between going to work for an existing law firm, or starting your own.

In this blog post, you will learn:

  • The pros and cons of both options
  • The licensing and legal permits necessary to start your own practice
  • The advantages and disadvantages of founding a firm with a partner
  • The roles legal affiliations and associations play in new attorney success
  • The importance of building legal relationships with industry peers
  • The intrinsic value of developing a marketing budget for your new law firm

Your success as an attorney will rely on seemingly countless areas that lie outside of your actual legal abilities, and at the Attorney Marketing Network, we are here to help develop your success by providing tips for up and coming lawyers to make an indelible impact in their respective cities.

Let’s get started!

law firm marketing pros and cons

The Pros & Cons of Joining An Existing Firm or Starting Your Own Legal Practice

Once you have joined the bar in your state, you are licensed to practice law — on your own, or with an established law firm.

Let’s examine a few of the pros and cons of each direction.

Pros of Going to Work for An Existing Law Firm

  • Established practice, which requires no financial investment from you
  • Mentorships and veteran attorneys from whom you can gain knowledge and proficiency
  • Secure salary, benefits, and potential perks
  • Varying practice areas to gain experience in diverse legal areas

Cons of Going to Work for An Existing Law Firm

  • Working with clashing legal personalities
  • Lack of control over your duties, which may lead to more time dedicated to research than inside a courtroom
  • Extended working hours beyond your control, including nights and weekends
  • Conflicting ideologies about legal standards and practices

Pros of Starting Your Own Legal Practice

  • You are your own boss, now and going forward
  • You can decide which cases you want to take, and which ones to pass on
  • You control your legal approach and style when representing clients
  • You design your company values and the direction your firm takes in the community

Cons of Starting Your Own Legal Practice

  • Immediate and ongoing out of pocket costs, including office space, furniture, electronics and software, and professional expenses
  • Lack of regular income, until business picks up
  • Unpredictable work hours, until you establish some success
  • Stress of building a firm on your own

Starting your own law firm or going to work for an existing legal practice is a unique decision that only you can make. Of course, the pros and cons for each will become more evident — and more exhaustive — including whether you have a family that requires a consistent income, or if you feel like you need more experience as part of an established firm before you go out on your own. In the end, the choice is yours.

legal business

Licensing & Legal Permits Necessary To Start Your Own Law Firm

You have passed the bar exam, and are legally licensed to practice law in your state. Congratulations! Now, you’re going to have to legitimately set up your new company to ensure your law firm starts up smoothly.

Licensing For Your Law Firm’s Business Type

When starting a law firm, you should decide what type of business your practice is going to be, so you can register for a business license. If you are a solo attorney, you could operate as a sole proprietor or LLC. If you have partners, each of you will decide the best business partnership you want to practice under, whether it is an LLC, LLP, or a type of Corporation.

EIN: Employer Identification Number

If you are starting a solo practice, you may be able to operate as an individual using your social security number as a taxpayer identification number (TIN). However, if you plan to add support staff, or open a business bank account, obtain a company credit card, or other create other accounts under the law firm’s name, you will need an employer identification number (EIN).

Visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website to find out if you need an EIN, and if so, whether you are eligible to apply through an IRS online application.

Federal & State Business Licenses and Permits

Unless your law firm is involved in federally regulated fields, including transportation, broadcasting, or securities, you should not require a federal license or permit.

For more compliance information, visit the Small Business Association.

Licenses and permits for your law firm will vary by state and can be easily found in one of the following links, depending on your location. 

business of lawyers

The Advantages & Disadvantages of Founding A Law Firm With A Partner

As attorneys find trusted friends and colleagues who share their vision and ambition, partnerships are often the next step in starting a law firm.

Just as there are many reasons to go to work for an established firm, or start your practice, there are also several advantages and disadvantages to entering a partnership with another attorney.

Advantages of Starting A Law Firm With A Partner

  • Professional and personal support
  • Shared business expenses to lessen each attorney’s financial burden
  • Expanded practice areas to include the other’s expertise
  • Splitting the caseload and business responsibilities

Disadvantages of Starting A Law Firm With A Partner

  • Disagreements will occur regarding small and large decisions alike
  • Less independence when making company decisions
  • Divided profits
  • Individual liability

There are many pros and cons of starting a new business with a partner, and the right choice depends on your law firm’s long-term goals and objectives.

Become a law firm member

The Roles Legal Affiliations And Associations Play In New Attorney Success

Striking out on your own is an exciting time, and building a law firm from the ground up should be applauded. But before you can take a bow, it is important to understand how legal affiliations and membership associations will play a role in your success.

You are already a member of the bar in your state, and the next step is to become a member of the American Bar Association where you will receive access to the CLE Member Benefits Library, ABA member groups, and access to online legal resources and publications for all things law.

Also, consider memberships with legal affiliations that will provide the additional credibility you need to impress clients, and access to networking possibilities with other attorneys who are members of these esteemed groups, including the:

It is important to get involved in your local and legal communities, so you are more than the new lawyer on the block, but an active participant in your profession. The more contacts you make, and your positive commitment to the profession, will allow you to successfully build your law firm’s brand.

build your law firm

The Importance Of Building Legal Relationships With Industry Peers & Professionals

Starting a new law firm is an exciting time, but there is still a lot to learn; in the office, in the legal community, and the courtroom.

Depending on your firm’s practice areas, and whether you are focusing on family law, criminal law, or personal injury law, the courtrooms and familiar faces will differ. The more you know about your legal areas of expertise, the better you will perform with your clients.

Gaining familiarity with the court staff, judges, and opposing counsel will go a long way in establishing your firm’s mission and integrity. Building a solid, trusted name for your firm should be a priority, which means researching each aspect of your legal community and continuing pursuit of the details therein going forward.

budget of law firm

The Intrinsic Value of Developing A Marketing Budget For Your New Law Firm

Once your firm is established, one of the first things you will notice is how competitive the legal landscape is in your city and state, which means you will have to create a law firm marketing budget to get in front of the clients who are going to eventually grow your law firm.

Marketing budgets are different for every law firm, and depending on your location and practice areas — and the competition in your area — the expense will differ.

At the Attorney Marketing Network, we provide unique services for solo practitioners, partners, and small and large law firms alike. As the principal of a new law firm, you may not know exactly what type of marketing services are going to set you apart from the competition, but we do — and it all starts with your online persona.

Read part two of our exclusive Attorney Marketing Network blog series dedicated to new lawyers: The Best Practices for Marketing Your Law Firm Startup, where we discuss how to build your brand and increase your online ranking. 

If you are ready to learn more about enhancing your online visibility to grow your law firm, contact us today for more information about our services