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Checklist for Starting A Law Practice

  • Forms of Practice
    • Considerations in Selecting Form of Practice
      • Taxation
      • Liability
      • Succession/Dissolution
    • Solo Practice
    • Partnership
    • Professional Corporation
      • Articles of Incorporation
      • Shareholders, officers, chief operating officer
      • Statement of Good Standing from Clerk of Supreme Court
    • Limited Liability Partnership
    • Consult with CPA
  • Office Space/Location Considerations
    • Office Building
      • Image, upscale, informal
      • Square footage
      • ADA Considerations
      • Parking
      • Services, Janitorial
      • Expansion Opportunities
      • Renovation Needs
    • Location
    • Office Sharing
    • Renting, Leasing
    • Purchasing/buy into a law practice
    • Working from home
  • Accounting Needs
    • Consult with Bookkeeper
    • Consult with CPA
      • Set up accounting procedures
      • Chart of accounts
      • Profit and loss statements
      • Balance sheets
      • Cash Flow Statement
    • Quarterly and annual tax returns
    • Payroll Services
    • Bank and trust accounting systems/reconciliation procedures
    • Software compatible with accountant
  • Start Up Costs/Credit Sources
    • Highly suggested that enough cash or line of credit be available to cover stat-up costs and a least the first 6 months to one year of operating expenses plus personal living expenses.
    • Sources of credit
      • Local bank/credit union
        • Personal, business loan
        • Home equity, home refinance
        • Line-of-credit to be drawn upon as needed
        • Lease, equipment loans
        • Family loans/private investor loans
      • Personal savings
  • Bank Accounts
    • Trust account (separate account)
      • IOLTA account, if applicable
      • Business operating account for expenses/payroll
      • Short term savings
      • Safety deposit box
      • Firm credit card
      • Investments
      • Checks, deposit slips, endorsement stamp
      • Set up account to accept credit cards
      • Retirement plan
  • Technology
    • Software
      • Word Processing
      • Time and billing/accounting
      • Calendaring and docketing
      • Conflicts checking
      • Case Management
      • Document assembly
      • Office Suite Software
  • Office Systems/Procedures
    • Develop office manual/operating procedures manual
      • Standard procedures/policies for practice
      • Personnel issues/benefits
    • Docketing, calendaring, tickler system
      • Computer (dual system is highly recommended)
      • Manual
    • File Organization
      • Alpha/numeric
      • Centralized/decentralized
      • Opening file procedures
      • Closing file procedures/retention/storage/destruction
      • Document maintenance
        • Offsite – safety deposit box
        • Computer backup
        • Fireproof files
      • Forms used in practice
        • Client interview form
        • Engagement/non-engagement letters
        • Written fee agreements
        • Practice specific checklists
        • Billing Statement Form
        • General client correspondence, notices, etc
        • Client survey after conclusion of representation
      • Client billing procedures
        • Regular monthly statements even if no amount due
        • Detailed billing statement
        • Expense billing
        • Costs to be billed
          • Legal assistant time/paralegal time
          • Telephone expenses
          • Duplicating expenses
          • Computerized legal research
          • Mailing costs
          • Other
        • Collection policy
        • Credit cards for payment
      • Client relations policy
        • Setting appointments, introducing staff
        • Returning phone calls, e-mail messages
        • Client intake form/survey at conclusion of representation
        • Keeping clients informed
          • Sending copies of work, documents
        • Communicating fee
          • Clear discussion about fees
          • Written fee agreements/engagement letters
        • Accounting procedures
          • Bank account reconciliation
          • Cash flow statement
          • Accounts Receivable/Payable
            • Aging review
          • Expense Approval System
          • Counter signature requirement on checks
          • Others
  • Insurance Protection
    • Professional liability
    • Workers Compensation
    • Heath Plan
    • Car insurance for business use
    • Property (liability, wind, fire, earthquake, etc)
    • Loss of valuable documents
    • Life
    • Disability
    • Business Interruption
  • Miscellaneous
    • Call WSBA’s Law Office Management Assistance Program lomap.org
      • Lending library
    • Register d/b/a name (if applicable)
    • Obtain city or county business licenses or permits
    • Order Post Office Box (if needed)
    • Build a forms file
    • Become a notary or have someone on staff or close by that is available
    • Develop a disaster recovery plan for your office, files, computers, etc.
    • Develop a plan for your illness, incapacity or death
    • Attend law practice management CLE’s such as LOMAP’s Traveling Seminar
    • Join solo and small firm sections to network with other solo and small firm lawyers
    • Change address with your bar
    • Call your bar’s Ethics Counsel with prospective ethical questions (206) 727-8284 or (800) 945-WSBA
    • Join local bar association