After making the decision, you have to take the 1st step. Looking back I probably should have been more nervous, but blind faith seemed to do the trick. To be fair, my former business partner and co-founder was the entrepreneurial business brain. He was the one who guided me through setting up a company, opening bank accounts, and the such like. But it was my head on which the axe of the mighty SRA would fall if it all went wrong (he’s not a solicitor)!
The application process to set up a firm of solicitors is pretty lengthy. The law is a heavily regulated sector, and there are a fair few hoops to jump through in order to get up and running. Although I think that’s a good thing – you wouldn’t want just anyone giving you legal advice.
Because I was pretty clueless about setting up a new business before I did it, I now try my hardest to help our new consultants set their personal service companies up. It can be very daunting, not quite knowing where to start, so in recent years I have collaborated with our consultants to prepare a “how to” guide.
However the most daunting moment was the morning of 1st September 2014, the day the firm officially opened. Law firms aren’t like shops – you don’t just open the door & hope someone pops in to browse. Marketing and business development go hand in hand with professional services, but when you have next to no budget, it’s hard to know where to start. What worked for me was my personal network. I applied the mantra from Wayne’s World 2 “If you book them, they will come”, held my nose, & dived in head first.
I had decided to specialise on providing commercial legal services to recruitment companies. I had acted for my co-founder’s recruitment companies for a few years before we decided to set up Cognitive Law; and I continued to do so whilst we got going. Rightly or wrongly, I supposed that having a specialism would give me a niche to exploit, something to set me apart from other law firms, as far as it is possible to do so. It’s paid off, but I can promise you, it was a nerve wracking tack to take. I had no idea if it was going to work, yet there I was committing everything to that one idea.
And that’s where my personal network came in. I worked for a couple of recruitment companies, did a good job, and asked them to introduce me to others (it’s an incestuous industry!). I sought out where recruitment company owners hung out, and went there. I invited lots of people out for coffee, and shamelessly asked them to whom they could introduce me.
It was by no means an instant success, but my faith in my decision kept me going, and paid off. Thanks Wayne!
By Lucy Tarrant