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Solid Foundations: How To Start a Law Firm From Scratch

Law as stated: 23 February 2024 What is this? This episode was published and is accurate as at this date.
Legal and social media extraordinaire James d'Apice joins David in the Curiosity Recording Room to discuss the intricacies of founding a law firm from his own recent experience with Gravamen. Touching on correcting common mistakes, the process, and the importance of being true to yourself.
Practice Management and Business Skills Practice Management and Business Skills
James d'Apice
1 hour = 1 CPD point
How does it work?
What area(s) of law does this episode consider?Founding a law firm.
Why is this topic relevant?The challenges of establishing and building your own law firm are both immense and immensely rewarding – and our discussion today aims to provide valuable insights for our listeners considering this as a career path.

For those seeking the independence and entrepreneurship of running your own firm, understanding the process of founding one is crucial.

What are the main points?
  • In James’ view, there are three options for solicitors at a certain point in their career; go to the bar, become a partner at a firm, or start a firm.
  • Starting a firm is challenging. However, there are great possible rewards.
  • James’ personal reflection is that starting a firm was the best move for his family. A move to the bar would have meant time away from his family – for example at long trials.
  • At the bar, you’re also asked questions at a very late stage of the legal process. For some people who enjoy strategic involvement in client issues, it may not be the right place.
  • James’ insight into the process of transitioning from a partner at a national firm to starting an independent practice is that he “was struck by the not extremely high barrier to opening up one’s own firm”.
  • Those barriers include acquiring an unrestricted practising certificate, the practice management course, and notifying the law society. At that point, in NSW, Lawcover will reach out about starting a firm.
  • One other element for small law firms is the the liability limitation scheme.
  • It is a voluntary scheme with large benefits for small law firms. The end result is that liability for professional indemnity insurance claims is limited to $2 million. Many large international firms do not participate in the voluntary scheme.
  • James also noted his own unexpected challenges in setting up a law firm, such as setting up a PO Box or deciding on branding and merchandise.
  • Once the firm is established, the priority then becomes the development of various revenue streams for the practice.
  • In James’ and Gravamen’s case, this includes legal services, but also pre-recorded legal training, consulting on social media for lawyers, and accreditation as a mediator.
What are the practical takeaways?
  • Forecast, forecast, forecast. Goal setting in business planning is important, even if the forecasts may not be accurate, to articulate issues and guide direction.
  • For James, an important part of his practice is understanding client reactions to the firm’s brand values and also the necessity of being authentic and true to himself.