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Legal product reviews and business guidance from industry experts.
19 Mar 2020
How to Write Your Law Firm Business Plan
By Cari Twitchell
News Articles Healthy Strategy
Every new law practice needs a business plan . This is a guide to creating one.
Here is what should go in your business plan once you’ve decided about your law firm business model.
Section One: Executive Summary
This section provides a succinct overview of your full plan. It should also include the following:
- Mission statement. This statement should be one or two sentences at most, so you can quickly state it off the top of your head at any given moment. It should clearly state your value and offer inspiration and guidance, while being plausible and specific enough to ensure relevancy. For further direction on how to write a mission statement, read this Entrepreneur article .
- Core values. Your core values outline the strategy that underpins your business. When written well, they help potential employees and clients understand what drives you every day. When written incorrectly, they include meaningless platitudes that become yet another thing forgotten or ignored during practice. To pack the most punch into your core values, write them as actionable statements that you can follow. And keep them to a minimum: two to four should do just fine. You can read more about writing core values at Kinesis .
- What sets you apart. If you are like every other attorney out there, how will you stand out? This is known as your unique selling proposition (USP). What is it that will convince clients to turn to you instead of your competition? By clearly stating your USP, you identify what it is about your firm that will ensure your success.
Are you feeling slightly overwhelmed by all of this? Then write this section last, as you’ll find much of what you write here is a summary of everything you include in subsequent sections.
Section Two: Company Description
Write a succinct overview of your company. Here is what it should cover:
- Mission statement and values. Reiterate your mission statement and core values here.
- Geographic location and areas served. Identify where your offices are located and the geographic areas that you serve.
- Legal structure and ownership. State whether you are an LLC, S-Corp or other legal entity. If you are something other than a sole proprietor, identify the ownership structure of your firm. How does your law firm business model influence the ownership type?
- Firm history. If you are writing or updating a plan for a law firm already in existence, write a brief history that summarizes firm highlights and achievements.
This section is often the shortest. Do not spend much time or space here. Touch on the major points and move on.
Section Three: Market Analysis
Done correctly, a well thought out market analysis will help you identify exactly what your potential clients are looking for and how much you should charge for your services. It also enables you to identify your competitors’ weaknesses, which in turn helps you best frame your services in a way that attracts your preferred clientele. You probably already considered some of these subjects when deciding on the small law firm business model, but you need to document them.
Elements of a market analysis include:
- Industry description. Draft up a summary that encompasses where your particular legal niche is today, where it has been, and which trends will likely affect it in the future. Identify everything from actual market size to project market growth.
- Target audience. Define your target audience by building your ideal client persona. Use demographics such as location, age, family status, occupation and more. Map out the motivations behind their seeking your services and then how it is you are best able to satisfy their requirements.
- Competitive analysis. This is where you dive into details about your competitors. What do they do well? Where do they fall short? How are they currently underserving your target market? What challenges do you face by entering legal practice in your field of choice?
- Projections. Provide specific data on how much your target audience has to spend. Then narrow that down to identify how much you can charge per service.
A proper market analysis includes actual data to support your analysis. If you are unsure of where to find data, Bplans has a great list of resources for you to use. And if you would like to read further about conducting a market analysis, check out this article from the Small Business Administration.
Section Four: Organization & Management
This section goes into detail about you and any others who may have ownership interest in the firm. The small law firm business model section here should incorporated into the management documentation. Do not be afraid to brag a bit!
- What is your educational background?
- What experience do you currently have?
- Why are you the right person to run your firm?
If there are other individuals involved, it is a good idea to insert your organizational chart here. Visuals help quickly convey information and break up otherwise blocky text.
Section Five: Services
The Services section is the heart of your law firm business model plan. It is where you dive into all aspects of your services, including:
- The problem(s) you are addressing. What pain points do your preferred clients experience? What can they do right now to alleviate those pain points? Answer these questions, and then take the extra step to explain how those current solutions fail to adequately address their problems.
- The solution(s) you are providing. This describes how your solutions better resolve your prospective market’s needs. This not only includes the actual work you do, but the benefits that each client will receive based on your work.
- An overview of your competition. Describe your competition here. For instance, which other solo attorneys and firms provide the same solutions as you? What are your advantages over these competitors? What do you differently when providing your solutions? How will clients gain additional benefits by seeking out your services instead of working with your competitors?
Section 6: Marketing Strategy
Your marketing strategy section needs to address the three P’s:
- Positioning. How will you position your law firm and your services? What will you say to present your practice in the best light? What short statements can you use to entice a potential client to pursue your services?
- Pricing. How much will you charge? How does that fit within the legal industry? Within your niche industry? What do clients receive for that price?
- Promotion. Which sales channels and marketing activities will you pursue to promote your practice? Who is in charge of these activities? Even if you plan to build your law firm on the basis of word-of-mouth referrals, you must remember that most referrals will still look for information about you before contacting you. Know where they will look and ensure you are there.
Section Seven: Financials
Last comes the financials section. It is the key component to your plan if you are going to seek funding to get your practice off the ground. It is imperative that you complete this section even if you are not seeking funding, however, as you need to paint a clear financial picture before opening your doors.
Two main items make up this section: budgeting and forecasting (sales and cash flow). Answer these questions to help you address these items:
- How much starting capital do you need?
- How much money will it cost to keep your practice operating on a month-to-month basis?
- How many cases will you need to close each month to break even?
- How many cases would you need to close to make a profit?
- What is your projected profit and loss for the year?
This section often incorporates graphs and other images, including profit-and-loss and cash-flow tables. The more specific you get with your numbers, the more likely you are to succeed!
One final note: If your goal is to submit your business plan to potential funders, you want to do everything you can to make sure your plan stands out. One good way to do this is to work with a designer to artfully format your plan. Great presentation can take you a long way.
Originally published 2017-09-23. Republished 2020-07-31.
About the Author
Last updated October 7th, 2022
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Writing a Business Plan for Law Firm - Law Firm Business Plan Sample
Business plans for lawyers.
New York City Bar Association Small Law Firm Committee
Writing a Business Plans for Lawyers – The Non-Financial Side
1 Why write a law firm business plan?
First and foremost, it’s a Management Tool, It f orces you to think through important issues you may not otherwise consider The recipe to grow your law practice
- A roadmap, albeit a changing one, with milestones to help reach goals you already know and have yet to define
- A sales tool to obtain financing
- A sales tool when looking to form a partnership or join one
- Some parts of a business plan include stating the obvious, but should not be overlooked because they still form a part of the whole
- As you write it, ideas come, strategies unfold, beliefs you may have had change
- It also changes your mindset. You’re no longer thinking about starting a business, you’re now in the process of starting a business.
- If you write a business plan and put it away in a drawer you have not written one that is feasible or is going to do you any good. Continual updating – whether semi-annual, annual, biennial, whichever is best for you - is your own set of checks and balances.
If you are going to buy a book, look for one that offers general advice and suggestions applicable to all businesses. And, if you choose a software package, eliminate the “techy” things like their numbering system; that is a dead giveaway that you’re using a software program. Also, eliminate sections that are irrelevant!
Suggestion: Don’t just buy one from an online bookstore. Take the time go through a table of contents and thumb through.
Examples available from Barnes & Noble:
- Alpha Teach Yourself - Business Plans in 24 Hours by Michael Miller
- Successful Business Planning in 30 Days TM, 3/ed, Peter Patsula
- The Executive Summary
- Analysis of Your Market
- Description of Your Firm
- Your Marketing Strategy
No set formula for a successful practice
Before developing a plan for a lawyer, answer the following:
- Identify your practice niche(s)
- What skills and experience you bring to your practice
- What legal structure to use: sole proprietorship, PC, partnership, LLP, etc.
- What clients you currently have and might potentially acquire
- What clients you want
- What business and social contacts you have
- What other attorneys you can call upon to fill in practice gaps
- How your firm’s records will be kept
- What equipment and supplies will be needed
- What library and other information sources will be needed
- What insurance will be needed
- What other resources will be needed
- How you will compensate yourself
- Review your current finances re assets, current cash flow, expenses
- What financing may be needed
- What financial assets do you have
- What banking accounts will be needed
- Review your current non non-financial resources
- Identify your market
- Describe your startup plans
- Where will your office be located
- What will the name of your firm be
2 The Executive Summary
For some businesses this is the most important part of the business plan because it summarizes what the company does, where it is going and how to get there. Therefore, it must describe the company, the “product” and the market opportunities concisely.
It is written after the plan is complete but is the first and, sometimes, most important part read by investors.
How important this is for a legal business plan depends on your long and short term goals, e.g., whether they are to grow a partnership, join a firm, build up a practice that is enticing for acquisition by a larger firm, etc.
In order to provide that summary, go through a number of exercises:
- Mission statement – the firm’s purpose and what it will do
- Major goals
- Objectives/milestones needed to achieve those goals
- Vision statement – where you want to go and what you want your firm to become, not just 20 years down the road but where you want to be three or five years from now
- List what is out of your control e.g., nature of the law business, direction of the marketplace, competition, mergers and acquisitions among clients, and competitors, attorneys and firms already in place
- Analyze opportunities to face and threats
- List your firm’s specific capabilities and whatever you believe you can offer that is unique
- If you are not a solo practitioner, who is the management
- What is the legal organization
- What technology will you be capitalizing on
- What is the marketing potential
- Describe your basic strategies based on the information you have learned about the legal business, your competition and applicable markets within your field.
- Provide the basis for why you believe your strategy is the right one for your firm.
- What markers will you use to change direction
- Outline what your firm needs to make that strategy succeed
- Financial projections
- Back up of those projections with assumptions (so that they can be adjusted as necessary)
- Summary of revenues by month for at least three years
- Balance sheet
- Cash flow statement
- What actions you’re going to take to carry out the plan
- What changes will be needed or skills acquired to put the plan to work
3 Analysis of Your Market: The Legal “Business” that Affects You
Purpose: an accurate understanding of trends affecting law practice in general and your specializations, client demographics, client universe.
Keep track of impact factors, obstacles, opportunities and threats to better forecast and build the strategies.
- Identify who and what firms dominate and where they are
- What new technologies have already and may yet change the way your practice is done
- What laws and regulations have and may yet change your practice
- Describe the overall demand for your specialties
- What else besides price affects your client decisions to use your services
- What clients (people or companies) can influence your areas of practice
- Large firms, mid size, boutiques, solo practitioners
- In-house attorneys
- Government attorneys
- Divide into primary, secondary and, if necessary, tertiary levels
- Is there substitution, e.g., do it yourself or outsourcing to India
- List what is available and how it affects your practice
- Describe how technology is affecting your kind of practice
- Describe who controls the technologies that affect
- Describe how you keep up with new technology
- List all the things that will make it difficult for you to practice in your expertise and locale
- List the things that will make your exit from you area of expertise or your transition to a different one difficult
- What can relationships with suppliers do for you
- Could a supplier become a competitor, e.g.; for articles you write
- Colleagues and competitors
- Professional associations
- Community associations
- Social and business organizations
- Current and former clients
- Former employment colleagues
- Pro bono colleagues
- What ways improve your position with clients
- Does pricing affect
- What else affects your relationship
- What kind of follow up do you do after meeting someone who may be a potential client or who can introduce you
- Writing articles
- Giving speeches
- How can you use your other relationships
- What are the overall costs that affect your hourly, daily or matter rates?
- Profit margins
- What do suppliers of your technology, research, information, etc. offer by way of pricing, discounts
- Are there long term agreements that can be to your advantage/disadvantage
- Elasticity of demand for the rates you charge
- If on a regular retainer, are you realizing 100% of your hourly rate, or more/less
- Identify where the biggest costs of your practice come from
- Identify fixed and variable costs
- How to gain economies of scale
- Identify where you can lower costs
- Is the profit margin you’re working with the right one for your practice
- Describe the size of your primary market
- List the niche markets that can use your expertise
- Is your kind of practice a growing or shrinking market
- Identify new growth opportunities in your areas of expertise
- Economic slowdowns
- Changing statutes, regulations and decisions
- Social pressures
- By product, industry, size, geography
- Membership lists of trade organizations
- List of conference attendees
- By referral of current clients
- By referral of colleagues, bar association, etc.
- By referral from competitors with conflicts
- What untapped market is there
- What underserved market is there
- Trade associations made of small companies in the same field
- Part time general counsel for small companies
- Trade associations you can join and committees you can volunteer for
4 Describing and Analyzing Your Own Firm
- It’s not just a law firm.
- What’s the general history
- When was it formed and why
- What is your mission
- What are your goals
- What direct experience do you have? Your partners?
- How relevant is your experience to the current world?
- How often do you talk to prospective clients
- What do you current clients feel about you
- What is the maximum amount of business you can handle yourself without farming it out
- To whom can you farm
- Who is your backup when you are too busy, traveling on business, on vacation, sick
- What is unique about you or your practice
- Describe the areas you focus on and want to focus on
- What are the ancillary areas of law that often or usually involved or triggered by your focus area
- What need does your expertise serve
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of your areas of expertise
- Identify your own strengths and weaknesses
- Who are your clients
- Who among your clients makes the decisions to use your services
- What stage of business development are your clients in
- How sophisticated/knowledgeable are your clients
- Are your clients street smart and/or business savvy
- Do they use more than one lawyer at a time
- Long term objectives
- Short term objectives
- What problems do you face
- What problems do your clients face
- What do you consider milestones
- What are the legal (statutory, regulatory & case law) trends that will affect it
- What are the technological trends that will affect it
- What are the economic trends that will affect it
- What potential risks and opportunities to be faced?
- Do you use innovative technology
- Do you offer superior client care/service
- Is your hourly, daily, or matter pricing lower than the “norm”
- Is there a small group of firms or attorneys who offer the same expertise or specialization
- Are you well known for a book, a speech, an article, news coverage, etc.
- Are you a trade association or bar association director or active participan
- Do a SWOT Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
Strengths & Weaknesses are vis à vis your competitors, rather than your own history Focus on current competition and potential competition
- Are there advantages to your expertise areas
- What do you enjoy doing
- What resources to you have access to
- What do others see as your strengths
- What can you improve
- What don’t you do well
- What should you avoid
- Do others perceive a weakness you don’t agree with
- Are your competitors doing better than you
- How can you meet a potential client
- What are the good opportunities – are they new areas, new statutes & regulations, etc.
- How can changes in technology help you
- How can changes (or no changes) in government policy affect your area of expertise
- Are there changes in social patterns or lifestyle that can help
- What opportunities can open if a weakness is eliminated
- Family/emotional/physical challenges
- Technological challenges
- What is your competition doing you are not
- How can technological changes threaten you
5 Competitive Analysis and Target Market
- List law firm/solo practice trends
- List direct competition
- List indirect competition
- Describe the extent of the unserved market for your kind of legal services
- Who is your client/customer
- What is your price
- Profile your primary customer
- Traits: geographics, demographics, psychograhics
- List client needs
- Describe how your fill those needs
- List primary, secondary and tertiary competitors
- What services do they offer in addition to yours
- What do they charge
- How do competitor firms sell their services
- What are the competitor strengths
- What are the competitor weaknesses
- What size competes with you
- What other specialties do they offer
- Who are they representing
- What is their pricing
- What are their operational strengths and weaknesses
- Are they adequately financed
- How do your competitors advertise or promote themselves
- What are their conflicts
- How does your competition market itself
- Competitive Identification
- Direct competitor – offers the same benefit
- Indirect competitor – services the client can get instead of yours
- Visit and read competitor websites and their advertising, including separate websites by individual partners
- Subscribe to competitor law firm online or other newsletters
- Does it use innovative technology
- Does it offer superior client care/service
- Is its hourly, daily, or matter pricing lower than the “norm”
- Are they well known for a book, a speech, an article, news coverage, etc.
- Are they trade association or bar association directors or active participants
Generate similar info for potential clients to help identify the target that will be most interested in you
A marketing plan must have a detailed description of the target market for your services, an analysis of the trends and conditions of that marketplace and how the trends affect that marketplace
- Total size of targeted market
- Historical current and projected growth rates
- What social, economic &political changes could affect it and your services
- Describe recent developments in the law that affect your areas of expertise
- Are there identifiable niches
- What or will be your clients’ needs and wants
- How will potential customers find out about you
- What kind of marketing, if any, are your clients and potential clients receptive to
- What do existing clients like best about your services
- Are your target clients consumers, businesses or both
- Demographics, psychographics, legal service purchasing habits
- When and how does the client decide to use a lawyer & find a lawyer
- Does your potential client use the Internet, bar association, trade association, business referral, family referral, friend referral, etc. to find a lawyer
- What is your client’s level of education and occupation
- Are they Fortune 1000,500, 100, mid size or smaller
- Is your client industry specialized and do you know that industry
- Does the client use more than one lawyer or law firm
- How long does the client take to decide to use a lawyer
- Does more than one person at the client make the decisions to use a lawyer, and if so who are they
- Is the person who decides who is going to provide legal services the one who is going to receive those services
- What influences your client’s decision to retain a lawyer
- Is using a lawyer optional, a necessity or a luxury
- Is a lawyer needed all year round, seasonal or ad hoc
- How and how well do your clients market themselves
6 Marketing & Strategy
Once you analyze your client needs you can build a comprehensive marketing strategy,
- What is it you intend to accomplish
- What is the amount of increase in clients and/or billing that you want to achieve
- Make each goal measurable and explain each one specifically
- Set each goal to a planned schedule
- Be able and prepared to assess all components to revise when necessary
- Compare these goals to what you believe your competitors’ goals to be
- Tactical objectives = measurable tasks
- Create client value
- Name recognition among your clients and potential clients
- Client retention
- Attracting partners or merging into a bigger firm
- Create a timeline for the objectives or events
- Determine the time frame for the plan, e.g., every six months, every year, etc.
- Describe the need for your services from the client’s POV
- Define the impact on the client of your services
- Ask whether your clients currently obtain this service more cost-effectively than you can provide it
- Describe what would compel clients to change from the lawyers they are using to you or to add you to their lawyer rosters
- E.g., how you will use that list of relationships
- Marketing Mix – Networking, Advertising, Promotion, PR
- Inserts in papers
- Bus, taxi, etc. ads
- Space in professional and trade publications
- Street banners
- New resident welcome kits
- Trade and trade association show directories and handouts
- Trade and trade association show sponsorships
- Coupon mailers
- Press releases
- CRM (customer relationship marketing)
- Cost based = cost plus profit margin
- Cost plus profit = cost plus fixed percentage markup
- Market based = use the market norm and add or subtract
- Ask what the highest price your target market can bear
- Determine the price elasticity for your kind of legal services
- Should you offer an introductory rate
- Age of business
- Cost to acquire a client
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Law Firm Business Plan
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Wy'East Law Firm
Executive summary executive summary is a brief introduction to your business plan. it describes your business, the problem that it solves, your target market, and financial highlights.">.
Wy’East Law Firm (WLF) is a boutique technology law firm located in Portland, Oregon. The firm will be lead by Richard Bloom, a seasoned attorney previously with (name omitted)’s e-group. WLF will service all needs generated by technology firms, with specialization on mergers and acquisitions and qualified stock option plans; and handles both start-up and established companies.
In addition to WLF’s technology practice, we will offer public interest legal work at subsidized rates. The technology practice will allow the firm to be able to provide public interest organizations legal help at the cost of overhead.
WLF is a limited liability company founded and lead by Richard Bloom.
The objectives for WLF for the first three years of operation include:
- To create a law firm whose primary goal is to exceed customer’s expectations.
- To develop a client list that includes at least 20 companies, each with revenues of over $3 million.
- To increase the ability to serve public interest organizations each year.
- To be able to offer each year some legal services at a subsidized rate.
The mission of Wy’East Law Firm is to provide the Portland community with technological and public interest legal guidance. We exist to attract and maintain customers and to support the public interest community. When we adhere to this maxim, everything else will fall into place.
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Law Firm Business Plan Template
Written by Dave Lavinsky
Law Firm Plan
Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 1,000 lawyers to create business plans to start and grow their law firms. On this page, we will first give you some background information with regards to the importance of business planning. We will then go through a law firm business plan template step-by-step so you can create your plan today.
Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan provides a snapshot of your law firm as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business goals and your strategy for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your plans.
Why You Need a Business Plan
If you’re looking to start a law firm, or grow your existing law firm, you need a business plan. A business plan will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your law firm in order to improve your chances of success. Your law firm plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your company grows and changes.
Sources of Funding for Law Firms
With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a law firm are personal savings, credit cards and bank loans. With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable, but they will also want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.
Finish Your Business Plan Today!
How to write a business plan for a law firm.
If you want to start a law firm or expand your current one, you need a business plan. Below are links to each section of your law firm plan template:
Your executive summary provides an introduction to your business plan, but it is normally the last section you write because it provides a summary of each key section of your plan.
The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of law firm you are operating and the status. For example, are you a startup, do you have a law firm that you would like to grow, or are you operating law firms in multiple cities?
Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your plan. For example, give a brief overview of the law firm industry. Discuss the type of law firm you are operating. Detail your direct competitors. Give an overview of your target customers. Provide a snapshot of your marketing plan. Identify the key members of your team. And offer an overview of your financial plan.
In your company analysis, you will detail the type of law firm you are operating.
For example, you might operate one of the following types of law firms:
- Commercial Law : this type of law firm focuses on financial matters such as merger and acquisition, raising capital, IPOs, etc.
- Criminal, Civil Negligence, and Personal Injury Law: this type of business focuses on accidents, malpractice, and criminal defense.
- Real Estate Law: this type of practice deals with property transactions and property use.
- Labor Law: this type of firm handles everything related to employment, from pensions/benefits, to contract negotiation.
In addition to explaining the type of law firm you will operate, the Company Analysis section of your business plan needs to provide background on the business.
Include answers to question such as:
- When and why did you start the business?
- What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include the number of clients served, number of cases won, etc.
- Your legal structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.
In your industry analysis, you need to provide an overview of the law firm industry.
While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.
First, researching the law firm industry educates you. It helps you understand the market in which you are operating.
Secondly, market research can improve your strategy, particularly if your research identifies market trends.
The third reason for market research is to prove to readers that you are an expert in your industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.
The following questions should be answered in the industry analysis section of your law firm plan:
- How big is the law firm industry (in dollars)?
- Is the market declining or increasing?
- Who are the key competitors in the market?
- Who are the key suppliers in the market?
- What trends are affecting the industry?
- What is the industry’s growth forecast over the next 5 – 10 years?
- What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential market for your law firm? You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of the market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.
The customer analysis section of your law firm plan must detail the customers you serve and/or expect to serve.
The following are examples of customer segments: businesses, households, and government organizations.
As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of law firm you operate. Clearly, households would respond to different marketing promotions than nonprofit organizations, for example.
Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, include a discussion of the ages, genders, locations and income levels of the customers you seek to serve. Because most law firms primarily serve customers living in their same city or town, such demographic information is easy to find on government websites.
Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target customers. The more you can understand and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your customers.
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Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.
Direct competitors are other law firms.
Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from that aren’t direct competitors. This includes accounting firms or human resources companies. You need to mention such competition as well.
With regards to direct competition, you want to describe the other law firms with which you compete. Most likely, your direct competitors will be law firms located very close to your location.
For each such competitor, provide an overview of their businesses and document their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you once worked at your competitors’ businesses, it will be impossible to know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key things about them such as:
- What types of customers do they serve?
- What types of cases do they accept?
- What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
- What are they good at?
- What are their weaknesses?
With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective. And don’t be afraid to ask your competitors’ customers what they like most and least about them.
The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:
- Will you provide better legal advice and services?
- Will you provide services that your competitors don’t offer?
- Will you provide more responsive customer interactions?
- Will you offer better pricing or flexible pricing options?
Think about ways you will outperform your competition and document them in this section of your plan.
Traditionally, a marketing plan includes the four P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. For a law firm plan, your marketing plan should include the following:
Product : In the product section, you should reiterate the type of law firm company that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific products you will be offering. For example, in addition to in-person consultation, will you provide virtual meetings, or any other services?
Price : Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your marketing plan, you are presenting the products and services you offer and their prices.
Place : Place refers to the location of your law firm company. Document your location and mention how the location will impact your success. For example, is your law firm located in a busy business district, office building, etc. Discuss how your location might be the ideal location for your customers.
Promotions : The final part of your law firm marketing plan is the promotions section. Here you will document how you will drive customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:
- Advertising in local papers and magazines
- Reaching out to local websites
- Social media marketing
- Local radio advertising
While the earlier sections of your business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your operations plan should have two distinct sections as follows.
Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your law firm, including filling and filing paperwork, researching precedents, appearing in court, meeting with clients, etc.
Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to file your 100th lawsuit, or be on retainer with 25 business clients, or when you hope to reach $X in revenue. It could also be when you expect to expand your law firm to a new city.
To demonstrate your law firm’ ability to succeed, a strong management team is essential. Highlight your key players’ backgrounds, emphasizing those skills and experiences that prove their ability to grow a company.
Ideally you and/or your team members have direct experience in managing law firms. If so, highlight this experience and expertise. But also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.
If your team is lacking, consider assembling an advisory board. An advisory board would include 2 to 8 individuals who would act like mentors to your business. They would help answer questions and provide strategic guidance. If needed, look for advisory board members with legal experience or with a track record of successfully running small businesses.
Your financial plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements.
Income Statement : an income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenues and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.
In developing your income statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you file 25 lawsuits per month or sign 5 retainer contracts per month? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.
Balance Sheets : Balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. While balance sheets can include much information, try to simplify them to the key items you need to know about. For instance, if you spend $50,000 on building out your law firm, this will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a bank writes you a check for $50,000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.
Cash Flow Statement : Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and make sure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt.
In developing your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting or growing a law firm:
- Location build-out including design fees, construction, etc.
- Cost of licensing, software, and office supplies
- Payroll or salaries paid to staff
- Business insurance
- Taxes and permits
- Legal expenses
Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include your office location lease or your certificate of admission to the bar.
Putting together a business plan for your law firm is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert and know everything you need about starting a law firm business plan; once you create your plan, download it to PDF to show banks and investors. You will really understand the law firm industry, your competition, and your customers. You will have developed a marketing plan and will really understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful law firm.
Law Firm Business Plan FAQs
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The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of law firm you are operating and the status; for example, are you a startup, do you have a law firm that you would like to grow, or are you operating a chain of law firms?
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How to Create a Law Firm Business Plan Aimed at Success
Want a successful law firm? Start with a solid business plan. Our guide covers everything that will help you create a roadmap for success.
A firm exists to serve people so its plans must consider those it aims to help. A law firm's business plan lays out the key pillars that will support a practice, from operational details to marketing strategies to financial projections. Furthermore, a legal business plan should provide a clear roadmap for where the firm hopes to be in the coming years.
In this blog, we will guide you through the process of creating a comprehensive law firm business plan that will help you achieve your goals . Additionally, in our latest Grow Law Firm podcast, our host Sasha Berson conversed with Omar Ochoa, the founding attorney of Omar Ochoa Law Firm, to discuss the topic of creating a law firm business plan aimed at success.
Why Is a Business Plan Important for Law Firms?
A business plan is a vital tool for any law firm to achieve success. It outlines goals, strategies, and the feasibility of business ideas, providing a clear direction and focus for the firm. The plan can be used to secure funding from investors or financial institutions by demonstrating the potential for growth and profitability.
Moreover, a business plan supports decision-making by evaluating the feasibility of new ventures and assessing potential risks and rewards. It helps to manage resources effectively by setting financial goals and tracking progress, ensuring the firm is making the most of its resources and achieving objectives.
Lastly, a law firm's business plan enables growth by identifying new opportunities and developing strategies to capitalize on them. By planning for the future and setting realistic growth targets, law firms can take their businesses to the next level. Overall, a well-developed business plan is critical for success in the legal industry, providing direction and focus, supporting decision-making, managing resources effectively, and enabling growth.
General Tips for Creating an Attorney Business Plan
Building a business plan for law firms is not an easy or intuitive process. By considering the following issues before opening your doors to clients, you have a much better chance of having a stable firm that matches your values and has a clear set of goals.
— Stay Focused
Forming a law firm can feel overwhelming. You have a lot of freedom and can easily get sidetracked into issues that either can wait or do not deserve your attention.
If having a strong law firm website design is important enough for you to include in your plan, you will spend time on that instead of less important matters.
A plan also includes a budget. The process of planning your firm's finances can ensure that you do not overspend (or underspend) as you start your own firm.
The attention to detail that comes from having a plan will help you avoid spreading yourself too thin by focusing on every issue or the wrong issues. Instead, you will maintain your focus on the important issues.
Whether you have law partners or develop a solo law firm business plan, the plan will help you stay focused on your end goals.
— Keep Track of Goals and Results
It is easy to set goals when you start a law firm and then promptly forget about them.
Your plan will set out your goals and the metrics you will use to determine your progress toward meeting them. The plan should also explain how you will know when you have met them.
For example, you might have a growth goal of reaching five lawyers within two years. Or you might have a revenue goal of collecting $200,000 your first year.
Too many businesses, including law firms, meander on their developmental path. By setting goals and the path for meeting them, you will have guardrails to keep your firm on track.
"If you want to be the number one law firm in the country by revenue right in a 20 year time period, have that be your goal and everything that you do right is in service of that goal. You might not get there, but you're gonna find that you're gonna be very successful either way."
"If you want to be the number one law firm in the country by revenue right in a 20 year time period, have that be your goal and everything that you do right is in service of that goal. You might not get there, but you're gonna find that you're gonna be very successful either way." — Omar Ochoa
— Sort Out Your Own Law Firm Strategy
Developing a clear vision is important for establishing a strategic law firm plan aimed at long-term goals . As Omar Ochoa discusses in the podcast, having very specific milestone visions like where you want to be in five, ten or fifteen years helps drive the strategy and actions needed to get there.
It is easy to say that you will run your law firm better. However, a plan helps you identify how to improve by articulating a concrete strategy. The process of creating the plan will help you pinpoint problems and solutions.
A plan forces consideration of operational details often overlooked. It equates to defining your firm's purpose and then pursuing that vision with purpose-driven strategies and actions. As Omar notes, marrying vision to action through knowledge of other successful law firm models is key to achieving goals.
One area that is frequently overlooked in plans is the inclusion of a law firm marketing strategy . Developing this aspect is critical for attracting clients and sustaining growth.
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— Move Forward
You should view your plan as a law firm business development plan that will guide the formation and growth of your firm .
You can review the document periodically to remind you and your law partners of your growth and expansion projections. After this review, you can ensure your growth and expansion remain on track to carry you to your goals.
The review will also tell you whether you need to update your firm's goals. When you started your law firm, you might have been unduly pessimistic or optimistic in your projections. Once you have some time to operate according to your plan, you can update your goals to keep them realistic. You can also update your processes to focus on what works and discard what does not.
The review can provide your projections for what you hope to accomplish and the roadmap for accomplishing it.
Law Firm Business Plan Template
Each of the websites below includes at least one attorney business development plan template:
- Business Plan Workbook
- Smith & Jones, P.A.
- Wy'East Law Firm
You can use a law firm strategic plan example from these sites to start your firm's plan, then turn the plan into a document unique to your circumstances, goals, and needs.
What to Consider before Starting Law Firm Business Plans
Before starting a law firm business plan, think through a few key issues, including:
— Setting the Goals
Reflect deeply on your firm's purpose. Think about who you represent and how you can best meet their needs. A law firm exists for its clients. As you think about your law firm goals , think about goals for providing legal services to your clients.
"We continue to try to have the biggest impact that we can because ultimately, in my opinion at least, that's what lawyers are for, is to be able to help people and be able to move us forward." — Omar Ochoa
You need to set realistic and achievable goals. These goals should reflect your reasons for starting your law firm. Thus, if you started your law firm because you expected to make more money on your own than working for someone else, set some goals for collections.
While you are setting your goals, think about how you will reach them and the ways you will measure your success. For example, if you want to expand to include ten lawyers within three years, think about intermediate goals at the end of years one and two. This helps measure your progress.
— Choosing Partnership Structure
For lawyers considering a partnership structure, it's important to select partners that complement each other's strengths and weaknesses to help the firm function effectively.
There are 2 main partnershirap structure options:
- A single-tier model provides equal decision-making power and liability between partners.
- Meanwhile, a two-tier structure offers tiers like equity and non-equity partners, providing flexibility and career progression opportunities.
While similarly skilled individuals may clash, partners with differing abilities can succeed together. Some attorneys also choose to run their own firm for flexibility. This allows them to leverage different specialists through occasional joint ventures tailored for specific cases, without the constraints of a single long-term partnership. Furthermore, it highlights how the law firm partnership structure impacts freedom and sustainability.
— Thinking of the Revenue You Need
Calculate how much revenue you need to cover your overhead and pay your salary. Suppose your expenses include:
- $2,000 per month for office rent
- $36,000 per year for a legal assistant salary
- $600 per month for courier expenses
- $400 per month for a copier lease
Assume you want the median annual salary for lawyers of $127,990. You need $199,990 per year in revenue to cover your salary and expenses.
But revenue is not the end of the story. Your landlord, vendors, and employees expect to get paid monthly. So, you should also calculate how much cash flow you need each month to cover your hard expenses.
You also need a reserve. Clients expect you to front expenses like filing fees. Make sure you have a reserve to pay these costs and float them until clients reimburse you.
— Defining the Rate of Payment
You need to make some difficult decisions when it comes to setting your own fee structure. If you choose a higher billing rate, you will need to work less to meet your revenue goals. But you might not find many clients who are able to pay your fees.
Whether you charge a flat fee, contingent fee, or hourly fee, you should expect potential clients to compare your fees to those of your direct and indirect competitors. Remember, your firm competes against other lawyers, online services like LegalZoom , and do-it-yourself legal forms books.
Finally, you need to comply with your state's rules of professional conduct when setting your fees. The ABA's model rules give eight factors to determine the reasonableness of a fee. These factors include the customary fee for your location and the skill required to provide the requested legal services.
— Making the Cases in Your Law Practice Meet the Revenue Needs
Figure out how much you need to work to meet your revenue target . If you charge a flat fee, you can simply divide your revenue target by your flat fee.
Hourly fee lawyers can calculate the number of hours they need to bill and collect. However, law firm owners rarely bill 100% of the hours they work due to the administrative tasks they perform to run a firm. Also, you will probably not collect 100% of your billings, and clients could take 90 days or longer to pay.
Contingency fee lawyers will find it nearly impossible to project the cases they need. You have no way of knowing the value of your cases in advance. You also have no idea when your cases will settle. You could work on a case for years before you finally get paid.
Parts of a Business Plan for Law Firm Formation: Structure
A law firm business plan is a written document that lays out your law firm goals and strategies.
For many businesses, a business plan helps secure investors. But the ethical rules prohibit law firms from seeking funding from outside investors or non-lawyer shareholders .
Your lawyer's business plan is for you and your law partners. It will help you manage everyone's expectations and roles in the firm. Here is a law firm business plan example to help you see the parts and pieces in action.
— Executive Summary
An executive summary combines the important information in the business plan into a single-page overview. Your plan will include details like projections, budgets, and staffing needs. This section highlights the conclusions from those detailed analyses.
Your executive summary should include :
- A mission statement explaining the purpose of your firm in one or two sentences
- A list of the core values that your firm will use whenever it makes decisions about its future
- The firm's overarching goals for itself, its lawyers, and the clients it serves
- The unique selling proposition that sets your firm apart from other firms in the legal industry
You should think of this section as a quick way for people like lenders, potential law partners, and merger targets, to quickly understand the principles that drive your firm.
— Law Firm Description and Legal Structure
First, you will describe what your law firm does. You will describe your law practice and the clients you expect to serve.
Second, you will describe how your firm operates. The organization and management overview will explain your legal structure and the management responsibilities of you and your law partners.
This section should fill in the details about your firm's operation and structure by:
- Describing the scope of the legal services you offer and your ideal clients
- Restating your mission statement and core values and expanding upon how they will guide your firm
- Explaining your location and where your clients will come from
- Describing your business entity type and management structure
- Detailing your unique selling proposition , including the features that distinguish your firm from your competitors
When someone reads this section, they should have a clear picture of what you will create.
— Financial Calculations
Your attorney business plan explains where your firm's revenue comes from and where it goes. This is where your skills as a lawyer begin to diverge from your skills as a business owner. You may need to learn a few new accounting concepts so you can perform the analyses expected in a financial plan.
You will need a financial plan for at least the first year.
If you plan to seek a bank loan or line of credit, your bank may need a financial plan that covers three years or longer.
You will need more than a few rough numbers for a useful business plan. Instead, you will need to estimate your expenses and revenues as accurately as possible.
"Take some financial statements courses, take some managerial accounting courses that teach you how to track costs, how to frame costs in a way that you're looking at the important costs." — Omar Ochoa
You might need to contact vendors and service providers to get precise costs. You will probably need to track your billings with your prior firm to predict your revenues. If you are opening a law firm after law school or an in-house job, you may need a competitive analysis to show what similar law firms earn in your location and practice area.
Some reports you may need in your business plan include:
- Revenue analysis listing the fees you will collect each month
- Budget describing your monthly and annual expenses
- Financial projections combining the revenue analysis and budgeted expenses to predict your profit margins
- Cash flow statement showing how your revenues and expenses affect your cash on hand.
Your cash flow statement might be the most important financial report because it explains how your bank balance will fluctuate over time. If your clients take too long to pay their bills or you have too many accounts payable due at the same time, your cash flow statement will show you when money might get tight.
— Market Analysis
A market analysis will tell you where you fit into the legal market in your location and field. You need a competitive analysis to understand the other lawyers and law firms that will compete with you for potential clients. You can also analyze their marketing messages to figure out how to stand out from the competition.
A competitive analysis will tell you what services other firms offer, how much they charge, and what features help your competitors succeed.
Your analysis should include a discussion about your :
- Ideal clients and what you can do to help them
- Market size and whether you offer something clients need
- Competitors and what they offer to clients
- Competitive advantages and how you can market them to potential clients
You can also develop and hone your marketing strategy based on the benefits you offer to clients over your competitors. Finally, a market analysis can tell you the locations and practice areas in which your firm may expand in the future.
Your market analysis helps you focus your efforts on your legal niche.
— Marketing Plan
A marketing plan sets out the steps you will take to reach your target market. Your marketing strategy will take your market analysis and turn it into a plan of action.
You will start with the results of your market analysis identifying your clients, your competitors, and your competitive advantages. You will then discuss the message you can deliver to potential clients that captures the advantages you have over your competition.
Some advantages you might have over other lawyers and law firms might include tangible benefits like lower billing rates or local office locations. Other advantages might provide some intangible benefits like more years of experience or state-bar-certified specialists in those states that allow specialization.
You will then discuss your marketing plan. A marketing plan explains :
- Characteristics of the target market you want to reach
- What your competition offers
- The distinct benefits you offer
- A message you can use to explain what separates you from your competition
- Your action plan for delivering your message
- Your goals for your action plan, such as the number of client leads, new clients, or new cases per month
Your action plan will include the marketing channels you want to use to spread your message. Marketing specialists can help you identify the best channels for your marketing message and client base.
For example, if you practice intellectual property law, you need to reach business owners and in-house lawyers who want to protect their companies' brands, inventions, artistic works, and trade secrets. A marketing agency may help you create a marketing strategy geared toward trade publications and business magazines.
However, IP lawyers require an entirely different marketing strategy than firms that practice family law . Family lawyers need to market to individuals and will tailor their marketing efforts toward different marketing channels and messages.
Even if you expect most of your client leads to come from referrals, you still need brand recognition for those leads to find you. You should consider a website, basic SEO, legal directory, and bar association listings.
— Your Law Firm Services
You will outline the services your law firm offers to clients. Lawyers with established clients and an existing legal practice can simply describe what they already do.
Any new law firm or lawyer transitioning from other practice areas should consider:
- Practice areas you know and enjoy
- Overlapping practice fields that will not require extra staff, such as personal injury and workers' comp
- Related legal services your clients may need, such as wills and guardianship
By offering needed services you can competently provide, you can gain clients and avoid referring existing clients out to other lawyers.
— Your Law Firm Budget
You should approach your budget as a living document. You will spend more money as you add more lawyers and staff members to your firm. But you can also look for ways to reduce your operating costs through investments in technology services and other cost-saving measures .
Your budget should set out the amount you expect to initially spend on start-up expenses. As you create your start-up budget, remember many of these expenses are not recurring. Furniture, computers, and office space build-outs can last several years. In short, your budget should answer the question, "What do you need to open a law firm?"
It should also lay out the amount you plan to spend each month to operate your firm. Here, you will include your recurring expenses, such as rent, staff salaries, insurance premiums, and equipment leases.
Using your operating budget, you will determine the amount of money you need to start and run your firm. This, in turn, will tell you whether you need to take out a loan or tap into your savings to start your law firm. You will need a plan for paying your expenses and day-to-day costs while your firm gets onto its feet.
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Some Useful Tips on Creating a Business Plan for Law Firm Creation and Development
As you draft your law firm business plan, you should focus on the process. By putting your thoughts down in writing, you will often identify issues you had not previously considered.
Some other tips for drafting your business plan include:
— Describe Both Strengths and Weaknesses
You want to project confidence as you prepare your business plan. Remember, you will use this plan to approach potential law partners, lenders, and merger targets. You need to show that you have a solid plan backed up by your financial projections.
At the same time, you need to remain realistic. Write a business plan that describes your business challenges as well as your competitive advantages.
For example, if you have a strong competitor that has a solid law firm reputation management and many of the clients you will target, acknowledge the difficulty of getting those clients to switch law firms. Describe your marketing strategies for approaching and pitching your law firm to those clients.
— Think Ahead
Remember that your business plan sets out the roadmap for both the establishment and operation of your law firm . Think about issues that could arise as your firm grows and matures.
For example, you may have a goal of reaching ten lawyers in three years. But as your staff grows, you may need a human resources manager. You may also seek to handle your payroll in-house instead of outsourcing it to a payroll provider. These changes will create ripple effects throughout your business plans. You will incur costs when you add staff members. You will also realize benefits like increased attorney efficiency.
At the same time, any projections more than five years into the future will likely be useless. Your firm and its clients will evolve, and technology will change how you practice law.
— Be Clear about Your Intentions
As you develop your plan, you should keep its purpose in mind. First, you want to outline your core values and goals for your law firm. Set out the reasons why you started your law firm and what you intend to accomplish with it.
"You can't just be doing something because you want prestige. There's gotta be more to that, right? You have to have a purpose that you're following. And if you've got that, that purpose is like gravity, right? You will always be grounded." — Omar Ochoa
Second, you set out your path to achieving those goals. This will include boring technical information like how much you spend on legal research every month. But it will also explain your approach to solving problems consistent with your mission statement and philosophy for law firm management.
— Consult and Update If Necessary
Your plan should guide you as you build your firm. It contains your goals and the roadmap for reaching them. But your plan is not carved in stone.
As you face challenges, you will consult your plan to make sure you approach these challenges in a way consistent with achieving your goals. But under some circumstances, you might find that the plan no longer provides the right solution.
As you work with your firm and your law partners, your goals, processes, and solutions to problems may evolve. The technology your firm uses may change. Your law firm's costs may go up with inflation or down as you realize economies of scale. You should update your plan when this happens.
There is no recipe for creating a business plan for law firm development. What goes into your mission statement and plan will depend on several factors, including your law firm's business model. But this is a feature, not a bug of developing a business plan.
The process of business planning will help you develop solutions to issues you might have overlooked. If you have law partners, just going through the process of creating a law firm business plan can ensure that everyone is on the same page.
As you create your plan, the process itself should provoke thoughts and ideas so you can have a unique law firm tailored to your goals and values. This will help you get exactly what you wanted when you started in the legal industry.
To learn how to expand your client base as your firm grows, check out Grow Law Firm, a professional law firm marketing agency .
Founder of Omar Ochoa Law Firm
Omar Ochoa is a founding attorney with extensive experience in complex litigation, including antitrust, class actions, and securities cases. He has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for clients and has been nationally recognized as one of the best young trial lawyers in the country.
Omar graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in business administration, accounting, and economics. He later earned his law degree from the university, serving as editor-in-chief of the Texas Law Review. He has clerked for two federal judges and has worked at the prestigious law firm Susman Godfrey L.L.P. Omar is dedicated to seeking excellence. He has been recognized for his outstanding achievements in antitrust litigation.
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Appendix 4 - Developing a Law Firm Business Plan
Developing a law firm business plan.
The following worksheet leads you through each of the categories of a basic law practice business plan. Although the practice of law is a profession… law practice is a business. Careful planning increases the opportunity for a successful practice without the unanticipated surprises that cause practices to fail.
- Description of the Law Firm [brief summary paragraph]
- Firm Goals and Strategy [brief statement]
- Partners and Key Staff [brief statement]
- Practice Areas and Specialties [brief statement]
- Unique Characteristics of the Firm [brief statement]
- Types of Clients to be Served [brief statement]
- Firm Economics and Profitability [brief statement]
- Financing Requirements [brief statement]
- The local Economy and the Need for Legal Services [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- The Firm’s Marketing Plan [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- The Firm’s Practice Areas [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- The Firm’s Start-Up and Growth Strategy [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- Current and Potential Clients [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- Market Size and Trends [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- Competition – Other law firms [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- Future Practice Areas [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- Overall Marketing Strategy [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- Billing Rates and Alternative Billing Policies [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- Client Service Initiatives [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
- Advertising and Solicitation Plan [detailed analysis – may be additional pages]
[detailed analysis – insert chart or spreadsheet]