This checklist is meant to provide an idea of several of the ares that require consideration in a startup law firm. It is by no means all inclusive, but instead a suggestion of several things to bear in mind and research when creating a startup law firm.

The list of bellow is a checklist meant to provide an an outline of several areas that require consideration in a Startup Law Firm.

1: PLANNING & BUDGETING

  • Complete a comprehensive self-assessment about starting a practice
    • Determine your tolerance for risk
    • Assess your managerial skills
    • Assess your marketing skills
  • Write a Business and Marketing Plan
    • Project gross receipts
    • Project overhead and expenses
    • Project net receipts
    • Cash flow projections
    • Project billable and total hours worked
    • Determine marketable experience
    • Set fees to make a profit
    • Develop fee agreements

2: MARKETING PLAN & PRACTICE DEVELOPMENT

  • Identify potential client base
  • Advertising
    • Print ads
    • Website
    • TV, radio, and billboard
  • Office signs
  • Firm brochures
  • Client newsletters
  • Join civic organizations
  • Attend and participate in community seminars
  • Announcements

3: FORMS OF PRACTICE

  • Considerations in selecting firm structure
    • Taxation
    • Liability
    • Succession and/or dissolution
  • Solo practice
  • Partnership
  • Limited liability options
  • Professional corporation
    • Articles of incorporation
    • Shareholders, officers, chief operating officer

4: OFFICE SPACE AND LOCATION CONSIDERATIONS

  • Office building
  • Image: upscale or casual?
  • Square footage required
  • ADA considerations
  • Parking and accessibility
  • Custodial services
  • Expansion opportunities
  • Renovation needs or goals
  • Location
  • Office sharing/partner
  • Renting vs. leasing
  • Working from home office

5: ACCOUNTING NEEDS

  • Consult with CPA
    • Establish accounting procedures
  • Chart of accounts
  • Profit and loss statements
  • Balance sheets
  • Cash flow statements
  • Quarterly/annual tax returns
  • Payroll service
  • Bank and trust accounting systems and reconciliation procedures
  • Software compatible with CPA

6: STARTUP COSTS AND INCOME SOURCES

  • Experts suggest that funds be available to cover expenses for at least the first 6 months to one year of operating expenses (in addition to personal living expenses).
  • Sources of capital
    • Local bank or credit union
    • Personal or business loan
    • Home equity/refinance
    • Line of credit
    • Lease, equipment loans
    • Family loans
    • Private investor loans
    • Personal savings

7: BANKING ACCOUNTS

  • Trust account (separate account)
  • Business operations account for expenses and payroll
  • Short term savings
  • Safety deposit boxes
  • Firm credit cards
  • Investments
  • Checks/deposit slips/endorsement stamp
  • Ability to accept credit card payments?
  • Retirement plan

8: TECHNOLOGY

  • Software
    • Word processing
    • Time and billing/accounting
    • Calendaring and docketing
    • Conflict checking
    • Case management
    • Document production and assembly
    • Office suite software
      • Word processing
      • E-mail
      • Spreadsheet
      • Presentation software (PowerPoint, Keynote)
    • Virus protection programs
    • Voice recognition software
    • Other specialized/practice specific software
  • Hardware
    • Computers
    • Operating systems
    • Back-up systems
    • Printers
    • Network/Firewalls
    • Scanner
    • Laptop
    • Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)

9: OFFICE EQUIPMENT, OFFICE SERVICES AND SUPPLIES

  • Fax Machine
  • Scanner
  • Shredder
  • Photocopier
  • Internet Service Provider
  • Email address
  • Dictation equipment/Voice Recognition Software
  • Postage scale/mail equipment
  • Establish UPS and Fed Ex accounts
  • High speed Internet access
  • Telephone System
  • Voice mail/manual message system
  • Answering service
  • Local and long distance carrier
  • Conference calling
  • Hold music/messages
  • Cell phone
  • Pager
  • Office furniture for attorney(s), legal staff, reception, filing cabinets, conference room furnishings
  • Carpeting, area rugs, book shelves, art work, office decor needs
  • Office supplies, paper, pens, filing supplies, envelopes, staplers, etc.
  • Business cards and announcements

10: LIBRARY & LEGAL RESEARCH

  • Online legal research provider
  • Law school library
  • Local law library
  • Courts library
  • Purchase new or used law books
  • Internet research

11: OFFICE SYSTEMS AND PROCEDURES

  • Develop office manual and operations procedures manual
  • Standard procedures and policies for practice
  • Personnel policies and benefits
  • File organization
    • Opening File procedures
    • Closing File procedures, retention, storage and destruction
  • Document maintenance
  • Safety deposit box
  • Computer backup
  • Forms used in practice
  • Client interview form
  • Engagement and non-engagement letters
  • Billing Statement Form
  • Client survey form after conclusion of representation
  • General client correspondence and notices
  • Client billing procedures
    • Regular monthly statements even if no amount due
    • Detailed billing statement
  • Expense billing
  • Costs to be billed
    • Legal assistant time and/or paralegal time
    • Telephone expenses
    • Computerized legal research
    • Mailing costs
  • Collection policy
  • Client relations policy
  • Setting appointments and introducing staff
  • Returning phone calls and e-mail messages
  • Client intake form or survey at conclusion of representation
  • Accounting procedures
    • Bank account reconciliation
    • Cash flow statement
    • Accounts receivables/payables
    • Aging review
    • Expense approval
    • Signature requirement on checks

12: INSURANCE PROTECTION

  • Professional liability
  • Health Plan
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Property (liability, wind, fire, earthquake, etc.)
  • Car Insurance for business use
  • Loss of valuable documents
  • Life insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Business Interruption