Checklist for Opening a Law Office

• Decide what form your business will be (sole proprietorship, partnership, professional corporation (PC) or professional limited liability company (PLLC).

• Choose the areas of law in which you wish to practice.

• Choose a location for your office (downtown or suburbs)

• Will you set up a home office, rent office space, share office space, or locate in an executive suite?

• Other considerations include:

• Proximity to law library, access to conference rooms, small kitchen, office equipment and other resources you will need

• Proximity to major anticipated clients

• Proximity to courts and administrative hearing locations or jails

• Ease of access and parking for employees and clients

• Determine necessary office needs.

• Furniture

• Lawyer’s office (desk, chair, credenza, guest chairs, bookcase, lamp, file cabinet, chair mat, wastebasket)

• Reception area (receptionist desk and chair, guest chairs, coffee table, lamp, pictures, plants, magazines)

• Staff (desk with return, chair, lamp, chair mat, wastebasket, file cabinet)

• Office Equipment

• Telephone(s) with answering machine (or arrange for voice mail service)

• Postage scale and mail equipment

• Photocopy machine

• Fax machine

• Shredder

• Calculator

• Typewriter

• Dictation equipment (if necessary) including a portable tape recorder

• Coffee pot and cups

• Small refrigerator

• Garbage disposal, if possible

• Dishwasher, if possible

• Hardware and Software Needs

• Hardware

• Computers with adequate hard drive and resident memory capacity, preferably networked together with internal modems and CD Rom.

• Appropriate back up devices and software.

• Printers

• Scanner

• Laptop (if travel will be extensive or for use in court)

• Software

• Operating system

• Word Processing

• Legal-Specific:

• Firm accounting/time and billing

• Calendar

• Conflicts

• Case management

• Payroll (software or service)

• Practice area specific

• Spreadsheet

• Database

• Internet access

• E-mail

• Supplies (such as paper, envelopes, pens, pencils, stapler, 2-hole punch, 3-hole punch, scissors, date stamp, file folders, rubber bands, tape, 3-ring binders, staple remover, paper clips, writing pads, scratch pads, post-it-note pads and phone message pads)

• Stationery, business cards, announcements

• Personnel (receptionist, secretary, paralegal, bookkeeper)

• Library

• Specific to your practice

• Legal research services

• Books/CD Rom/On-line

• Forms

• Client interview/intake form

• Engagement letter form

• Non-engagement letter form

• Practice area specific checklists for standard procedures to be performed on every file opened in the practice area

• Time-keeping form

• Establish a relationship with a bank and open appropriate bank accounts.

• General account

• Trust account

• Payroll account (optional - can use general account)

• Client disbursement account (optional - can use general account)

• Get checks printed (general and trust).

• Arrange for a safety deposit box for wills and other client valuables.

• Prepare a budget.

• Obtain assistance from a CPA, if needed, to prepare budget statements that can be used in applying for loans or credit from a bank.

• A practice cash budget should be prepared.

• A personal living expense budget should be prepared.

• Obtain necessary insurance.

• Professional liability

• General liability

• Worker’s compensation

• Non-owned automobile insurance

• Office equipment, computer equipment and software coverage, for replacement value

• Business interruption insurance

• File replacement and valuable papers coverage

• Fire and theft insurance, for replacement value

• Umbrella coverage, if available

• Employee dishonesty coverage

• Health

• Life

• Personal

• Key man

• Disability

• Obtain a business license and necessary permits.

• Obtain a federal employer identification number.

• File federal quarterly income tax estimates for personal income taxes.

• Obtain city or county licenses or permits as required.

• Notify Board of Professional Responsibility of address.

• Notify Tennessee Bar Association of address.

• Join local bar association.

• Notify lawyer referral services of your availability.

• Notify possible sources of court-appointed work of your availability.

• Consider consulting with a CPA or accountant concerning:

• Payment of quarterly estimated taxes and other tax liabilities

• Preparation of payroll and quarterly payroll tax forms

• Treatment of client advances (asset or expense)

• Annual tax return

• Determine what type of marketing and advertising you will use (web page, yellow page ad, lawyer referral listing, brochures, business cards, sign for office, announcements).

• Establish necessary office systems.

• Accounting system

• Time and billing system

• Trust accounting system

• Docket/calendar/tickler system

• Conflict checking system

• Case management system

• Filing system

• Contact TNBAR Management Services at 615-377-1029 for assistance or answers to any questions.