Becoming a paralegal says something about a person. No, not just “I like being verbally abused by lawyers all day.” It says you have some ambition, some drive. You like to work independently and you enjoy learning new things and managing projects. You’re not afraid of details and thrive under pressure.
In short, you have all the right qualities to become a small business owner.
And you picked the right field for it, too. Statista estimates that the entire legal services industry in the United States generates more than $250 billion in revenue, expected to increase to $288 billion by the end of 2018.
There’s a catch, of course; paralegals cannot practice law, so the most natural type of business to be in is one you can’t open.
But a law practice isn’t the only sort of firm in legal services, and the alternatives are becoming more and more widespread. The rise of Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) is a doorway to business ownership for paralegals.
Today, you can start your own firm in a niche such as:
- Document review
- Litigation support
- Discovery and e-discovery
- IP management
As a contracted specialist, you won’t be practicing law, but you can enjoy the freedom and potential that come with being a business owner… as long as you follow these five important steps.
Find The Niche
Your niche is going to determine a lot of things about your business: who you market it to, how it operates, what kind of money you will make. But it’s going to depend a lot on your own strengths and what the local market demands.
Is it going to revolve around things that you have already been doing as an employee, or are you going to strike out in a new direction? Will you jump onto a current trend in legal services, like e-discovery, and try to ride it to riches, or will you invent the next big thing on your own?
These are big questions and will probably take up most of your planning hours when you are first thinking about your business.
Don’t waste those hours. Daydreaming is great but does your market research, too. Base your ideas not only on your inspiration but ground them in where the numbers lead you as well. You’ll find the right combination of lucrative and compelling after you have put enough thought into it.
Network, Network, Network
It’s great that you’re going out on your own, but don’t think for a minute that means you won’t need other people. You’ll rely on contacts in the legal community for everything—referrals, references, staffing recommendations, you name it.
So it’s a good idea to get out there early and start making those contacts. It’s never too soon to start. Even while you’re in school, fellow students, instructors, and internship interviewers are all good people to get to know. You never know where they’ll end up, or how you might be able to help one another.
Networking is a two-way street, so you need to be prepared to offer your own efforts in return. But when it pays off, it pays off for everyone, so think of it as a necessary investment.