Start up your law firm in 3 days

Create your foundations for growth

Within this article, we will cover:
  1. The foundational IT decisions to make at the very start
  2. The business activities you need to organise
  3. What you need to do to complete your IT, either by yourself or with an IT professional

Starting a new firm is a big endeavour, and one that requires serious thought to get up and running. There are a lot of details that need to be considered but these can also become time-consuming rabbit holes and detract from the most important aspects of building your new profile and getting good work from good clients.

To help you get started we’ve put together a checklist for IT and the issues new practices most often ask us.

Before you do anything else, make these 5 decisions:

  • Decide on the name of your firm and secure your website domain name
    • To succeed it is very important that your domain name is your company name. One might call this ‘Branding 101’.
    • I’m sure you have some ideas already for a suitable firm name, whether that’s your name, your speciality, or a name relevant to your community, industry, or client experience you create, or potentially even means nothing.
    • If you’re stumped for a firm name then type “Business Name Generator” into Google and have a look at the options provided. Most are free of charge.
    • If you are using an agency to help you with your new brand they can also give you valuable key words and search terms popular in Google that may help you be found in the long run.
    • To check if the name you like is an available website domain, you can search on sites like Crazy Domains and Go Daddy to find out if it is free and then register it.
    • Tip: Ensure your domain is available in both the .com and versions
  • Set up your company email
    • Use a secure, professional, robust cloud option – free is not an option.
    • Using your recently purchased company domain, set up your new company email with Office 365.  Microsoft’s cloud email service is available directly from Microsoft:
      • Microsoft 365 Business Basic (email service)
      • Microsoft 365 Business Standard (Email + Word/Excel)
    • You’ll want to put your best foot forward from day one so don’t use your personal Hotmail, Yahoo, iCloud or Gmail account for business.
    • Tip: Buy your email on a month-to-month basis, not yearly
    • Tech Tip: When setting up your email, don’t change your NS records!
  • Build a website
    • The first choice is whether you will build it yourself or get an agency to build you one?
    • Tip: in 2 years, you will have wished you had started with an agency
    • Doing it yourself:
      • A drag-and-drop style web builder like SquareSpace, WIX or Go-Daddy will be suitable. They are fairly simple and easy to use, but will restrict your ability to customise and integrate.
      • Setup is question and answer driven, be careful you don’t delegate your domain to them, just change your A and CNAME record.
    • Using an agency:
      • A good agency will be able to guide your content creation and brand, ensuring your website is a supportive tool in your overall business and marketing objectives.
      • An agency will likely recommend an appropriate website builder or Content Management System (CMS).
      • Again don’t delegate your domain to them, just change your A and CNAME records.
    • We use an agency, and they chose WordPress for us because it powers nearly one-third of the world’s websites, and is a completely customisable platform with a high level of security.
    • In our opinion, it is worth nailing your website from the start as it will be your greatest sales tool.
    • Once you have secured, registered and activated your domain name, you will need a website hosting provider – for a good balance between security and aesthetics, we use Siteground.
  • Check your internet access and speed
    • Tip: The faster and more reliable your internet is, the less IT problems you will have
    • There are two measures to assess (using a water pipe analogy)
      • Speed is how fast your webpages will display on PC – The size of the (water) pipe.
      • Download data is how many webpage or videos you can load on your PC – How much total water you are allowed per month. NBN plans are often ‘unlimited data’ these days, but do check.
    • A home grade NBN service will typically work well and you should buy speed and download data. Typically you add another $20 per month to get twice as much.
    • Choosing a company is like choosing between Kmart & Big W – they are all delivering a commodity product with limited after-sale service.
    • If it is available in your office we recommend a business-grade Fiber Internet, either TPG (Fiber400) or Vocus (Fiber500).
  • Decide on the software your firm will use

    There are three main pieces of software that a legal practice uses:

    • Practice Management System (PMS) – Time recording and invoicing
    • Document Management System – Organising and managing your client’s documents
    • Templates and Precedents

    Our non-technical tips are:

    • If you don’t know – wait. Complete all your non-IT business arrangement first and then select. BUT don’t buy computers until you have chosen software.
    • Know your exit strategy. When you change software, how will you get out?
    • Buy in short contract periods. Microsoft sell in months.
    • Buy software that is relevant today. Some well-known software vendors are not advancing their products anymore.

    The decision on which software to use at your firm can lock you in for a while, either by contract or via cost. It’s important to remember before making your decision:

And then make these business decisions:

  • Set up a bank account
    • Macquarie Bank and St George have been working with the boutique legal industry for a long time and are regular contributors at the Annual Legal Practice Management Association. Banks also have good start-up knowledge and can guide you through the process.
    • These two banks would be our recommendation.

    Macquarie Bank Legal Industry

  • Obtain your unrestricted practicing certificate
    • If you are based in NSW like us, FMRC offers four distinct courses to meet the requirements of the law society of NSW. Check them out here.
    • Based in another state? Contact us and we will put together a recommendation for you.
  • Firm insurance
    • Securing insurance for your firm is an essential first step, our industry tip is to use an insurance broker to manage the process. They can help you to assess and manage your risks, and provide advice on appropriate insurance solutions for you, all at no extra cost.
  • Accountant
    • We sourced ours via word-of-mouth in our local area
    • We find it useful for them to be near our residence rather than in-town
    • Tip: Find an accounting firm that matches the size you hope to grow your firm to.
  • Secure premises or work from home
    • If you are at home, be sure to separate your home IT (photos, files etc) from your work IT
    • If seeking a premises, we recommend you review multiple serviced office arrangements as they differ widely
  • Sign-up for necessary subscriptions

    There are many sites, both general and specialist, but the following are the most commonly used by Innessco clients:

    LexisNexis has a comprehensive suite:

    • LexisRed – The lightest law library in the land. Customers can access current, trusted legal data on any device.
    • LexisDraft – Is a toolkit integrating research, proofreading & language review, allowing you to finalise your documents faster.
    • LexisAdvance – Online research platform that allows legal professionals to access research from LexisNexis quickly and easily
    • Practical Guidance – Online solution offering the practically-focused content that lawyers need to conduct a new matter.

    Other valuable subscriptions:

And then there is IT…

As a lawyer starting up a new firm, you can be your own secretary, accountant, and sales team, one thing you shouldn’t do is your IT.

Many people underestimate the inter-dependencies of IT systems, software and hardware and what’s involved in getting it set up. What might seem like a straightforward task can quickly become overwhelming. And what might seem like a short term fix can prevent you from scaling up quickly when the time comes.

If you’d like someone to take the IT hassle off your hands then contact us. We only work with law firms and we look after more than 800 practitioners in Australia.  We can purchase equipment and set you up in a secure environment with system backups and provide online access from any device in three days.  As a bonus, we’ll throw in a subscription to Office 365.

We also have a number of practitioners who have been in your shoes and would be happy to share their experience and tips for getting started. Reach out via the form below for a list of relevant firms.

Don’t underestimate what you’ll need from IT

Your new firm will need to make the following decisions in line with your long term planning:

  • Time and billing software
  • Document creation
  • Website
  • Email addresses
  • Document management
  • Multi-user accessibility
  • Phone number
  • Stable internet connection
  • Security and backup
  • Shared storage
  • Domain name and website hosting
  • Printer choice and setup
  • Multimedia storage
  • Ongoing IT support

But it doesn’t stop there. It’s also important to consider the future needs of the firm, in order to make smart long-term decisions that set you up for growth. As the firm grows and technology changes, will your IT continue to support you?

Failing to put the right amount of thought into IT setup can cause problems later on. More than likely, it will mean wearing the cost and downtime of repurchasing and reconfiguring your systems.

IT is complex, but vital for your firm to function

Any delay to your firm’s IT set up will mean loss of revenue from delayed practice. But while you need it done quickly, you also need it done right.

Law firms have different IT needs to other business – your applications, document security requirements and work practices are completely unique, so you need your IT to be set up with this in mind.

That means your set up and ongoing support provider needs more than just technical skills. They need the know-how and industry experience to help you make the right decisions from the start, and overcome any issues along the way.

Set your firm up for success with Innessco

Innessco have been providing IT set-up and support services to boutique law firms across Australia for over 20 years. We work exclusively in the law industry, support over 35 firms and 800 practitioners in Australia, and have an expert understanding of what IT is needed to support your specific firm.

Fast & Efficient set-up
Industry expertise
Supports firm growth
All services, one provider
Here’s why you should consider Innessco:
  1. Our systems, without any major change, can help you grow from 1 to 40 users.
  2. Tried & tested formula
  3. We’ll work with your current PC
  4. Tier 1 file security and document management
  5. Reliable IT
  6. Ability to get out of the contract within 1 month if unsatisfied

Don’t just take our word for it!

Shaw & Bunner Legal logo

“Innessco were really helpful and we relied on their knowledge. They gave us easy options and just made it happen. “

Shaw & Bunner nailed their IT from day one. Read how they did it here.


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Ready to setup your IT?

If you want tier 1 IT that will put your new firm in the best position to perform now and well into the future, get in touch. Fill out the below form and could be set up by this time next week.

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