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Fat Stacks: How Much Does It Cost to Start a Law Firm?

By | Jun.14.17 | Daily Dispatch, Law Practice Management, Managing, Money, Startups

Do you have $500?

Good. You’re the proud owner of a new law firm! (Seriously, congratulations.)

Thanks mostly to the spate of technology advances made possible by cloud services, it is cheaper to practice law than ever before, because lawyers can virtualize much of what they do. That means if you’re willing to bootstrap the living heck out of your law practice, you can get in for next to nothing, including marketing expenses.

How Much to Start a Law Firm - Bonus DownloadI’m going to assume you have a computer or tablet already, as well as a smartphone (maybe). You also likely have some physical area where you can work, like a home office, or your couch. What you probably don’t have is a scanner. Fortunately, you can buy a Fujitsu ScanSnap that comes with a free copy of Nuance Power PDF. 

Now you’re paperless, and you have the baseline requirements for running a modern law firm.

Of course, if that’s the direction you’re going to take, you’ll be limited to free software, which there is a lot of, even if most of it has not insignificant drawbacks. It turns out vendors that don’t charge for their services have less-robust products. Go figure.

So, You Can Start a Law Firm for Less Than $500

The question is whether you want to. Because, if you start a law firm for $500, it ain’t going to be a super professional one. You’ll have an aol.com email account, you won’t have a website and you might be sitting on a crate when clients show up at your house.

But let’s be realistic: .00001 percent of lawyers are actually going to start a law firm for under $500.

Phat Stacks: OK, This Is How Much It Really Costs to Start a Law Firm

Have you ever seen those images of different-size rocks stacked on top of each other online? Man, people love those. In most cases, rock stacks represent tranquility ( … unless you’re a seagull, in which case I suspect they make your life very, very difficult).

Less calming is thinking about stacking expenses, tier by tier, on top of that basic start-up cost of $500.

Was it intriguing to think that you might be able to start a law firm for $500? Yes. Was it a pipe dream? Also, yes.

So, let’s get down to brass tacks: What else will you want to pay for, and how much will it cost? We can organize your start-up costs into these broad categories:

  • Technology
  • Risk Allocation
  • Marketing
  • Administrative

To get to an actual, realistic first-year cost figure for starting a firm, let’s think back to those rocks. Each time you add an expense item based on the four categories above, you’re adding another rock to your tower. By the time you’re done, maybe you have a well-balanced rockpile with a nice little seashell on top, like in “Moana.”

Or, maybe you’re weeping next to a scattered pile of pebbles, and wondering where your next meal is coming from.

Eleven Tiers for Your New Law Firm Budget

Stick to my suggestions for the 11 tiers described below, to keep your opening budget on the straight and narrow.

Fat Stacks Start-up Expenses

Since the 11 different expense categories each merits their own writeups, we’ve created a separate download for them. You can save it. Read it at your leisure. Review the tiers one by one. Make notes. Check my math. Draw pictures of mustachioed firetrucks over what I’ve written. All manner of shenanigans are allowed — nay, encouraged!

Click here to download the guide and get started on a new law firm budget, or get cracking on revising your existing one.

Jared Correia is CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. Red Cave also works with legal institutions and legal-facing corporations to develop programming and content. A former practicing attorney, Jared is a popular presenter and regular contributor to legal publications (including his "Managing" column for Attorney at Work). He is the author of the ABA book "Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers," hosts the Legal Toolkit podcast, and teaches for Concord Law School, Suffolk University Law School and Solo Practice University. He loves James Taylor, but respects Ron Swanson.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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