Opening a Law Firm After Graduating Law School

Open for business

While most graduating law students tend to work for a law firm or in a government position, there are some graduating students that wish to be more entrepreneurial by opening their own firm (i.e., hanging their own shingle). Some have asked whether this is a wise or even plausible move for law students after graduation. I’d say that it’s plausible, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

Steep Learning Curve

The fact of the matter is that law school doesn’t necessarily teach you the ins and outs of practicing law. Sure, you’ll get a sense of the vocabulary and some of the high-level concepts within the legal industry. Yet law school doesn’t teach the skills that will be critical if you hang your own shingle, whether that’s finding clients, marketing your new firm, chasing payment, and actually knowing discrete legal doctrine so that you can sufficiently represent your clients. Along with this could be further administrative headaches like finding office space or setting up your firm’s technological systems. In the beginning, you’re just one person with too many things to do and too many things to learn. It’s an extremely arduous road.

Beware the "Backup Plan"

As a separate point, some law students think that hanging their own shingle can be a backup plan if they aren’t able to find a full-time job after graduation. This can be a dangerous backup plan. Starting up a legal practice (or any business for that matter) is difficult, time-consuming, and can be capital intensive. I firmly believe that you have to be “all in” on this decision rather than backing into it after some of your more preferable options fail.

It's Still Possible

While hanging your own shingle can be very difficult, there are some law school graduates who do choose this path. In fact, 4.4% of law school graduates (nearly 1900 people) choose to hang their own shingle after graduation. So while it’s certainly possible to hang your own shingle after graduation, the real concerns will be quickly adjusting to the practicalities of practicing law and being able to whether the capital investments early on (along with servicing any law school debt). Handling all of this is tough, and as with any small business, success is not guaranteed.