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New Law Firm Checklist – Fort Lauderdale, Broward County

 Thomas Jordan, P.A. can help set up your new law firm with the proper structure in place

As an attorney looking to establish a new law firm, there are many items that you will need to address. Below is a general checklist to help you identify the myriad tasks that are required to start your new law firm. The specialized Certified Public Accounting firm of Thomas Jordan, P.A. is experienced in helping new law firms hit the ground running quickly and successfully. We invite you to contact us with any questions or needs during this exciting time. 

1)      Firm Planning

Many lawyers starting up new practices do not spend enough time thinking about the strategy of their new firm – types of cases and clients that they want and how they will acquire these clients to achieve their results. While a new law firm should plan on some ambiguity and flexibility, opening a new law firm requires much advanced preparation regarding your firm’s goals and how you plan to achieve these goals.

          a.       Identify firm practice areas and overall goals, including desired size of firm.

          b.      Develop firm strategies along with short and long term action plans to enable achievement of specific goals from above.

          c.       Develop initial business plan and budget. Identify your first year operating budget and projected cash flow. Be realistic about how long it will take to start receiving revenue, especially if your firm focuses on contingency-based fees.
 

2)      Firm Establishment

          a.       Establish an Employee ID Number (EIN) Number. The EIN Number (also known as a Tax ID Number) is used to identify a business entity; you can apply for an EIN Number at the IRS website.

          b.      Determine your entity’s legal structure – Professional Association, Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), S-Corporation, Corporation, etc. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages in regard to personal liability, tax advantages and tax reporting requirements. 

          c.       Initial Phone Number and fax – In today’s technical climate, there are several choices for setting up phones and fax numbers, from sophisticated integrated digital systems to free services like Skype for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service and eFax, which is a low-cost monthly fax service. 

          d.      Office Space – there are many decisions to make regarding office space, and there are several potential mistakes that can be made.

                i.      Lease (or sublease) vs. Buy decision – this is always the first step when looking for space. In today’s economy, deals can be found in most regions, no matter if you want to rent or own.  Several sources of real estate opportunities include Commercial Realtors, CraigsList.com, real estate websites, or the local Bar Association. Note that some of the best offices may not be listed with a Commercial Realtor.

                ii.      Location – Considerations to review when deciding on an office location include proximity to the courthouse, convenience for clients and accessibility for the disabled.

 

3)      Technology Requirements

           a.       URL / email address – nothing says 'startup' like janedoe@aol.com: Invest the time to register a URL and set up dedicated email. 

          b.      Hardware and equipment – in most cases, an IT consultant can be hired at a reasonable price to handle most of your computer / networking requirements. Just remember that they are not focused on the legal profession and may not be able to provide specific guidance on the nuances and best methods for the computer use and wiring in a law office.

                i.      Server, computers, backup drives, copiers and scanners

                ii.      Networking / Wi-fi

                iii.      Billing / case software - there are many choices here including large server-based solutions to web-based tools and smaller programs that run on a single specific PC and can’t be shared.

 

4)      Change of Address

          a.       Change your contact information on your Bar Association listings, Lexis Nexis, Findlaw, etc.

 

5)      Insurance

          a.       Identify the types of insurance you need to protect yourself, your employees, clients and equipment. Some specific types of insurance that you may need include Liability, Malpractice and Renters.
 

6)      Marketing

          a.       Develop a marketing plan to help build your brand and generate new business.   Unless you have an established book of business and clients from the beginning, you need to determine how to best market your firm.

          b.       Logo, business cards, stationery, etc – As a new law firm, it’s important to create a strong image that helps you to stand out from your competitors. 

          c.      Website – This is the No. 1 place for potential clients and partners to find information about you and your law firm. Make sure that you place equal emphasis in both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Digital Asset Optimization (DAO) so that your website will be found and provides useful, compelling information so that people will actually read your site.

          d.       Firm Announcement Strategy – You must build a strategy to get the word out to other attorneys, past and current clients and potential new clients that you have started your new firm.

          e.      Client acquisition strategies – direct marketing, public relations, advertising and similar tactics will help build the brand and create a steady stream of phone calls.

 

7)      Accounting

          a.       CPA support - Hiring the right CPA is crucial. An experienced accountant can provide guidance on startup activities as well as tax preparation and cash flow management support. 

          b.      Accounting / billing software – options run the gamut from the simple (like Quickbooks and Microsoft Accounting) to specific, sophisticated law firm accounting and billing software packages. Your firm size, billing requirements and budget will help dictate your choice. An experienced CPA who is knowledgeable in the legal profession can help with this decision.

 

8)      Banking

          a.       Checking Account

          b.       Credit Lines – Are you going to need a line of credit to grow your firm or to finance specific cases?

          c.       Payroll Accounts / Services

 

9)      Day-to-Day Business Operations

          a.       Client Files – If you are leaving a law firm to open up a new firm, determining which client files will be coming with you and which will be staying with the existing firm is often a sticky situation. While you and your ex-partners determine which client files stay and which ones go, remember that it typically ends up being a decision made by the clients themselves. 

          b.      Staff – Most likely, you will need at least one staff person to answer calls, help with client service and perform the many tasks associated with opening and operating a new law firm. Choose your initial staff wisely.
 

Thomas Jordan is a trusted advisor to lawyers throughout Broward County and South Florida. He and his staff welcome the opportunity to discuss how they can help your law firm plan for the future and reach your financial goals. If you would like more information on Thomas Jordan, P.A. and their offerings for the legal community, please contact the firm or call (954) 763-8455. In addition, we invite you to review the various sections of this website to get acquainted with our experience and the services we provide that can benefit your bottom line.

Thomas Jordan, P.A. – Accounting for your growth.


Thomas Jordan, P.A. works with law firms in South Florida and Broward County including Fort Lauderdale and surrounding areas. Thomas Jordan is the principal in the Certified Public Accounting firm of Thomas Jordan, P.A.