What to consider when starting your own firm
Whether leaving a firm to start a new one or opening your own practice right out of law school, there are several issues to consider: the type of practice, staffing, insurance, technology, marketing and much more. If you were previously in practice at another firm, many of these are topics may have been taken care of by firm staff so you may not have had to give them much thought.
First, make sure you get set up for insurance with LAWPRO.
The Law Society of Ontario has an extensive Guide to Opening Your Law Practice which addresses these topics. We have compiled articles and resources from LAWPRO Magazine, our Managing Booklet series, and other resources published over the years to help you with the many decisions you will have to make in taking this major step in your career.
Do you have what it takes to go solo?
If you are considering going solo, take our survey and see if it might be right for you.
Imagining what kind of practice you want to build
- Cultivate Your Innovation Mindsets to Build Your Future Practice Today
- Know Your Risk Areas: There are different risk areas depending on your practice areas. By knowing your risks, you can build your practice to prevent claims from arising. Learn more about common claims by areas of practice
- Building a better clientele
- Diversify without dabbling: Are you considering branching into different areas of law in your new practice?
Insurance considerations (your LAWPRO Policy, Excess coverage and other coverages you may need)
- Leaving your current law firm: Lawyers who change firms, contact information, or practice status should notify both LAWPRO and the Law Society separately
- LAWPRO not like your auto insurer: Dispelling some myths about how LAWPRO coverage works
- Does your firm need cyber coverage? A general liability insurance policy may offer only a limited amount of coverage for cyber-related exposures.
- Untangling the myths of Excess insurance: Too many lawyers do not appreciate their full exposure to claims and how excess insurance could be of benefit to them.
- What does your malpractice policy cover? Individual lawyers or the firm?
- Insurance implications of lawyer transfers and practice structures
- When you do legal work involving foreign law or lawyers, are you covered? Handling matters that involve foreign law can increase the risk that you will face a malpractice claim, and can have important malpractice insurance implications that you should keep in mind
- Do your firm’s marketing practices expose you to vicarious liability? With new kinds of practice arrangements come new decisions about how to advertise one’s services to the public. Some of those decisions can lead to unexpected liability.
- Who pays for crime?
- Wondering when to report that potential claim? Do it now (See also “This is now a claim, but…”)
Putting together your team of lawyers and staff
- Avoid conflicts of interest on lateral transfers
- Recruiting and retaining top talent: Attracting the best possible lateral associates is critical to a law firm’s ability to maintain its competitive edge, financial leverage, internal succession and future success.
- Cultural competence: With each passing day, the legal profession becomes ever more diverse. That diversity brings challenges and opportunities
- Supervision: The buck stops with you: As a lawyer, you are responsible for ensuring that your employees abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct and the By-Laws under the Law Society Act.
- Finding and keeping good lawyers: All successful firms have excelled at finding, recruiting, integrating and keeping excellent
- Mentoring: See our Managing a Mentoring Relationship booklet and our list of Ontario Mentoring Programs
Technology and cyber dangers
- Technology Products for Lawyers and Law Firms: We have created this list of programs, services and apps that can assist with law office tasks, functions, and even help lawyers provide legal advice to clients.
- The Cybercrime and Bad Cheque Scams Fraud Fact Sheet: Learn to avoid bad cheque scams, phishing scams and email frauds. They are some of the most common, significant and costly problems for lawyers and LAWPRO.
- The LAWPRO $250,000 cybercrime coverage
What to do if money is diverted to a fraudsters account? https://avoidaclaim.com/2021/what-to-do-if-money-is-diverted-to-a-fraudsters-account/
- Avoiding the Wire Fraud Nightmare: what you need to know to protect yourself and your clients (free CPD)
Planning for disruptions
- Be ready with an incident response plan: A cybercrime attack can cause irreparable harm, and law firms should be prepared to take action immediately
- Managing Practice Interruptions: Planning and preparation beforehand is critical to minimizing the impact of any accident or disaster, large or small
- How unhealthy lawyers affect client service: When a lawyer becomes overwhelmed by stress, depression or addiction important deadlines can be missed missed, communication with the client diminishes, and files can languish
- Stepping in when a colleague needs help: Learn the signs of a struggling colleague
- A systematic approach to law firm risk management: Mitigate the various risks your firm will face
Preparing a business plan
- Law firm budget precedent: Budgeting and managing your cash flows are a big part of staying in business
- Law firm business plan precedent: If you want to be successful, you should consider how your law firm will operate well before you open your doors. A business plan is your roadmap to the future – you can show it to banks, suppliers or others whom you deal with when starting your practice