Setting-up a new firm – some thoughts

Apr 17, 2019

Bennett Briegal is now approaching the end of Month 2 of operation and I thought it was worth setting out some of our thoughts on what we have learned and how the reality compared to our plan.

We decided in the summer of last year, 2018, that we would go it alone. We did not want to start planning until we had agreed our departure with our previous firm, who were very gracious and supportive of us going. We agreed to work our six months’ notice and that gave us six months to launch date, or BBrexit as we called it!

We had already decided on the key strategy of the business – providing specialist legal advice to law firms, partners and partnerships. It nonetheless took a few months to articulate that clearly and the strapline did not come to us till quite late on. These things need time to change and develop.

We were also both clear on our key values – we wanted to do work we want to do, for clients we want to work for, in a way we want to work, and to have some flexibility and also some fun in the process.

I think we were fortunate that these areas were clear to both of us from the beginning as, without that, the rest would have been difficult. Key message number one is to go into business with others who share your vision and values.

We then sat down and created a master spreadsheet. To be fair, I did as I’m a bit of a spreadsheet freak (#shouldgetoutmore) – another key message is to divide tasks based on the skill and enthusiasm of the people doing them.

The spreadsheet listed all the things we needed to do – from registration to bank accounts and from insurance to IT and websites and everything in between. We revisited it each week and it grew. We then looked at a timeline of what needed to be done in what order. I resisted a Gantt chart but it was tempting. For example, it was key to get insurance in place before we could apply for registration and we needed a logo and design template before we could work on a website or design stationery. A bank account is necessary for lots of things. The next key message is to plan and review the plan regularly.

It took longer than we had anticipated to choose key suppliers. It’s vital to work with suppliers who understand and are responsive to your needs and whom you trust. We spent time talking to IT suppliers, accountants and web designers before we chose our preferred ones. This was time well spent as the process was then relatively easy, but nonetheless, time consuming. One other timeline we underestimated was how long it takes to open a bank account. Our bank is great and we like the service, but there were so many forms!

Everything did come together before BBrexit. There was a little gentle cajoling of the regulator and some shouting at the mobile phone supplier (11 days to port phone numbers!) but we were ready to trade. We worked out that our key deliverables to be able to start on day one were regulation, a bank account, email addresses and a website. In theory, everything else could follow on or be developed as required.

We still look at the spreadsheet every few weeks and we are developing new policies and procedures as we go along, but it’s working well and we’re still having fun.

Starting a new firm