Starting a Law Firm

Law Office storefront sign

Initial Considerations

Be cautious about accepting new matters until you lay the foundation for your new practice. This foundation means setting goals, obtaining business licenses, finding services and technology resources, learning software, and setting up workflow systems.

LOMAP is pleased to offer a Business Plan Template in an editable PDF format. Use this template to get your business ideas down on paper in a format you can present to potential investors.  You can set up a consultation with us to discuss your business plan.

We also offer Law Office in a Box® for $50, which contains many useful forms and examples, and a guide to starting your own practice.

Regulatory Basics

Go to myWSBA to update your contact information in the public Lawyer Directory.

Accepting fees for your services means that you must acquire a business license for Washington and for the municipality where your practice is located and/or conducts business. Contact your municipality.

More information on opening a business in Washington is on the State of Washington Business Licensing Service website. The site includes a Business Licensing Resources Guide that allows you to select items that match your business plan to receive a list of contacts for city, county, state, and federal licenses and taxes.

Banks often ask for your Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) before you can open a business account or a trust (IOLTA) account. Do you need a trust account? To find out, check out the Managing Client Trust Accounts guide.

Practical Basics

Office space. You can delay deciding about office space. If you choose an office setting, there are alternatives such as executive suites for full-time or part-time use, sub-rentals in law firms, and traditional lease arrangements. Here are some examples:

Business planThink about your goals and develop a plan. Examples are practice area, location, services, fee arrangements, budgets, financial resources, business development, and staffing. More information:

Practice area. Your practice area determines type of client, travel, interruptions, telephone usage, size of the file, and so forth. Choose a practice area that plays to your strengths. Resist the urge to specialize in many different practice areas unless you are truly going to be a generalist in a rural environment.  The decision to be a generalist should be considered thoughtfully. More information:

Technology. Use business-grade equipment. Have a solid and redundant backup system. Above all, devote the time necessary to learn how to use it all. Technology can assist with doing the work, managing the work, and turning your work into your fees. The "cloud" (Internet, Web) is another option, but choose a cloud vendor carefully.

Low-Cost Research Links
Please note these legal-resource websites are not under the control of the WSBA. We welcome your comments on their usefulness to your law practice. Contact us.

Casemaker Legal Research
Powerful online research library provided free to WSBA members. To access Casemaker, go to your MyWSBA login page and login! Find the Casemaker link on the welcome page after login.

If you need information from any of the 4500 court database systems across the United States, you could search them one at a time, making your way through all kinds of outdated, confusing, and time-consuming systems .... Or you could search them all from a single user interface.

Municipal Research & Services Center of Washington
If it has to do with Washington codes, look here first.

Law Librarians' Resource Exchange
Current, high-quality content on legal topics

Subject guides to research at the Seattle U. Law Library

UW's Law Library Legal Research Guides

Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute  

Law Library of Congress

Historical Materials
Yale University is maintaining ancient and medieval legal resources here

WSBA Lending Library

Titles for you and your practice

Law Firm Business Plan Template

A free template to develop your business.