Dean Standish Perkins & Associates

The Help You Need Starting A New Law Firm

Whether you are a new attorney fresh out of law school or an experienced veteran of the practice of law, starting your own law firm can be an exciting – yet daunting – endeavor. There are seemingly endless details to consider, details that are not a regular part of legal practice but fall more into the category of business leadership and entrepreneurial work in general.

At Dean Standish Perkins & Associates, we understand how difficult it can be to get a new legal practice off the ground. We actually offer significant help in this respect to recent graduates of the Seattle University School of Law. Our lead attorney, Dean Standish “Stan” Perkins, offers help for young Seattle attorneys starting their own firms with the Seattle University School of Law’s Incubator Program.

Checklist For Starting A Law Practice

If you are starting a new firm, there are a few things you need to consider:

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/buying 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

Startup Costs/Credit Sources

  • Highly suggested that enough cash or line of credit be available to cover startup costs and at least the first six 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/nonengagement 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 is 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, email 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
        • Countersignature requirement on checks
        • Others

Insurance Protection

  • Professional liability
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Health 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 CLEs 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. 206-430-1467 or 206-981-5043
  • Join local bar association

Experienced Attorneys At Dean Standish Perkins & Associates

Our lawyers have more than 35 years of experience practicing law. We know how to run a successful law firm. We can be reached at 206-981-5043 or by sending us an email.