Set up a Law Firm — Entrepreneur India

Set up a Law Firm

You might be a very capable lawyer, but running a business around your skills and qualifications is altogether a different ballgame. However, like all things business, having a plan and going step-by-step will make it a cakewalk.Registrations & Qualifications
To practice law in India, you must be at least 21 years old and hold a law degree from any Indian or foreign university recognized by the Bar Council of India. You must also be registered with any of the State Bar Councils in India. Although you can start your own firm as a fresher with guidance from established lawyers, a few years of work experience will not hurt at all.Practice Development Planning
A ‘Practice Development Plan’ is necessary to help you evaluate your strengths, weaknesses and the resources required to set up a law firm. This evaluation will give you a road map as well as a timetable for where you have to go and when to get there. Proper practice development planning begins with deciding on the kind of entity you propose to establish: a sole proprietorship or a partnership. Both these entities have their own pros and cons. For example, in a partnership, you could diversify your areas of expertise and quickly obtain additional sources of capital and clients. On the other hand, in a sole proprietorship, you will have increased flexibility, play a lead role in assignments, and can develop direct relationships with clients. Eventually, your practice’s growth will dictate when and how you will scale up.Name your firm
You would want to get the name of your law practice out to as many potential clients as possible. The name should be easy to remember and should relate to your practice. If you are setting up your practice with partners, you may consider a neutral name, the names of all the partners, or an acronym.The Practice Area
You should be certain about the areas in which you wish to practice. It is food to focus on more than one practice area; so, besides your core competency, also include the general practice of law. In many cases, clients have diverse legal needs and prefer ‘cheap generalists’ to expensive specialists. A general practice can thus develop into a more specific practice, based on clients’ needs and emerging market requirements.Location & Office Space
A lawyer’s office should be strategically located and accessible to existing and potential clients. If your main practice area is litigation, renting a chamber within the court complex in addition to your primary office may be a good idea.If you intend to set up a transactional-centric law practice, an office in a commercial building could be your best bet. On an average, 150 square feet of usable area per lawyer is required. In addition, you will need space to set up your reception, library, accounts department, IT department, etc.Practice Development
Once set up, the next step is to develop your client base. To achieve this, you should become a member of the several Indian and international chambers of commerce and bar associations, such as your local bar associations, the International Bar Association, FICCI and ASSOCHAM.You should also enter your firm in noteworthy international law directories, including Martindale Hubbell and the Asia Pacific Legal 500. You could also identify and execute a strategic alliance with foreign law firms, as this could result in a cross-referral of work.Lawyers & Staff
Engagement programs need to be developed to attract and retain committed, enthusiastic lawyers who will increase your firm’s profitability. To avoid misunderstandings with other lawyers, retainership agreements are commonly executed, detailing the terms of compensation and retention. These agreements should set monthly or annual billing targets in order to increase the productivity and efficiency of your lawyers.You should also develop a team of of-counsels, chartered accountants, company secretaries and consultants to serve your clients’ needs. Keeping the right employees actively involved in your practice is critical for long-term profitability and growth.Appointing a team of competent administrative staff—office managers, a receptionist, a chief information officer, IT technicians, accountants, support staff—is critical to the sustenance of your practice as well. Do practice the same diligence in their appointment.Accounts & Billing
The most important part of setting up and sustaining your law practice will be getting your clients to pay. Knowing a client’s preference regarding the wording or presentation of invoices is very helpful.Clients often have difficulty in paying for something they cannot see or feel, such as your professional advice. The source of information for invoices is your time records.If you have recorded all the work you have performed, preparing invoices will be a matter of transferring the narration of the services rendered from your time records to the invoices.To avoid any misunderstanding regarding the payment of your professional fees, you should draft your fee engagement agreement carefully; describe the scope of work and the fee you would charge for it.Technology
You must devote substantial time and resources to the protection of your data and information from unauthorized use. It is important to ensure that data and information is not damaged due to technical problems. Keep a regular backup of all your data at an offsite location as part of your disaster management plan.Advertising & Website
The Bar Council of India Rules initially prohibited an advocate from soliciting work or advertising, either directly or indirectly. Last year, however, the rule was amended to allow only the following information to be advertised. However, this also can only be advertised on the internet and not on print, radio or television:(1) Name of the firm
(2) Address, telephone numbers and e-mail id
(3) Your enrollment number, the date of enrollment, the name of State Bar Council where you originally enrolled, the name of the State Bar Council on whose roll name you currently stand, and the name of the Bar Association of which the advocate is a member
(4) Professional and academic qualifications.
(5) areas of practice.

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