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Starting a Law Firm | Timeline for Success

Daily thoughts on law firm success.

Starting a Law Firm | Timeline for Success

This post is from the first blog I started, called “How to Start a Law Firm.” Over the years I’ve moved to different sites a few times and wanted to catalog all of my content in one place. If an article refers to a link and there is no link, sorry, that’s consequence of the move. Enjoy!

A funny thing happened to me yesterday that is a perfect starting a law firm post. I was sitting in my office, working away as usual, when the owner of the space I lease from (who is also a DUI attorney in the area, by the way) poked his head in to ask if we could have a chat. This guys okay as a person, but I’ve quickly learned he’s not talking to me or anyone else unless he wants something or unless he’s got something to tell me. He didn’t want anything.

He just hired a new attorney, and while that was great for him, he’d overextended himself on space. What I mean is, he rented out all of his open offices to people. The other people are probate attorneys, employment attorneys, and non-attorneys. I was the only person in the suite that was a fellow criminal defense attorney. I knew where this was going.

My lease is up at the end of May. And he’s not renewing. No hard feelings (and none felt), but he needs the space. “No worries” I told him. “I’ll start looking for a new law firm office space immediately.”

The lesson there is that business is business, and you can’t take it personally. I knew he didn’t want me there. Quite honestly, his employees like me better than him, and he knows that if I asked they’d all come and work for me. It’s a way for him to kill two birds with one stone. So I move on.

But, while I had him in my office, I wasn’t going to let him escape just like that. I knew he was feeling a little guilty about kicking me out, so I peppered him with a few business questions. If this guy is nothing, he is successful, and I wanted to get some of that information from him.

It started out with one simple question – how long did it take before you felt like your firm was really successful, until you were meeting your expectations? He didn’t even wait until I was finished with the question before he said – “5 years.” “And,” he said, “that timeline applies with almost all new businesses.”

He went on to tell me that in his first years he’d met most of his goals, though just barely. Then, in year three he started to do pretty well. Then in year four, he was really starting to kick ass. And then he looked back at the end of year five and found that he was exceeding his goals.

Another thing he said, and something that I think is important for all of you out there thinking about starting a law firm, is that you have to stick with it. It isn’t nearly as easy as I make it sound here. It takes a lot of hard work. You are going to be out of your comfort zone almost every day (especially if you are doing things right), and there are going to be days where you wonder if you are moving in the right direction.

But the key is to keep progressing, keep working on the plan and keep pushing forward. Service based businesses aren’t built over night. And if you quit before you even get started, you have no chance.

Heading into this weekend, don’t think about how you are going to start your firm. Think about where you want to be in year one. Think about where you want to be in year two. And think about what you are going to do to get there. And then get going.

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