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This is Written by Krishnendra Joshi, Research Associate, LawSikho with significant inputs from Ramanuj Mukherjee.

One is supposed to work under a good lawyer or at a good law firm to learn legal work after getting the law degree. What do you know when you just graduate? It is hard to tell a hole in the ground from your mouth when you just graduate from a law school, thanks to great Indian legal education.

And still, there is a rare kind of people who manage to start a law firm or an independent practice right out of law school. They don’t bother to work with a senior or learn the craft while being employed under someone else and still succeed.

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Who are these mythical creatures? How do they pull this off? Can you imagine yourself doing it? Let’s dive into this today.

Why would anyone want to start a law firm straight out of law school?

I remember I was interning at a law firm. My boss Adv. Nitin Bhati had done a masters in law from a prestigious college in London. He had a few publications to his credit and had an impressive CV with top-notch internships.

I asked him why didn’t he apply for jobs in the big law firms? He looked at me sipping his tea and smiled, “I am not cut out for working under someone else”.

He loved the fact that he was his own boss. He was a big fitness freak, so he enjoyed the fact that his job gave him the flexibility so he could go out for long marathon cycling sessions with his tribe at his will.

The fact that he enjoys the most is that he gets all the fruits of his labour at the end of the day.

A friend of mine used to dream of working in the big fancy law firms but after a couple of internships in the law firm of his dreams, he changed his mind. He got very uncomfortable with law firm culture, the cutthroat competition, the pressure on associates to put more billable hours and the power game that exists.

He then proceeded to work very hard and took as much pre-qualification experience as possible during internships and decided to start his own law firm with his own rules and office culture after he graduated from law school.

I interviewed half a dozen lawyers who started their own law firm (usually just a one person set up to start with, but a firm like, name and a vision that goes with it) and managed to do well within a few years. They all struggled, saw a lot of hard times, but they are happy and successful people a few years down the line.

What made them do this unusual thing – starting on their own right out of law school and never bothering to work under anyone else at all?

While some like the autonomy it brings to the table, others find it simply very difficult to work under anyone due to their personality traits. Some just find it unavoidable after bad experiences they suffer while working under others and decide that there is no other way to work with dignity apart from starting on their own. There is another set of people who have a clear vision during law school and love the entrepreneurial aspect that opening their own law firm entails.

The reason can vary quite a bit, but the most common thread has been an unusual appetite for risk, a very high level of self-esteem and a desire for maximum autonomy.

Does that ring a bell for you?

What are the pros and cons of starting on your own before working anywhere else?

Autonomy is an obvious pro for starting your own law firm. The luxury of going on a vacation without applying to the HR department for leave is something any independent professional would cherish in lieu of the hours of hard work and client meetings.

However, in reality, you may not get that option at all as you begin. You may be worried about your practice, trying to find work, doing low margin work in volumes for years before you go on any vacation.

One may also feel that they do not deserve a break as they are far from success. Success takes time, and lawyers who strike out on their own very early tend to over-work. Burn out is something they have to learn to deal with.

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With autonomy, comes massive responsibility. It can be soul crushing. You are the captain of your fate, and captains rarely sleep as the ocean is usually stormy in the early years. It takes backbreaking work, tremendous tenacity and immense courage to survive this.

Ananya Banerjee says that the need for excellence is much higher as the security of a paycheck is not available. That drives the young lawyers who started on their own to work much, much harder in many different directions. If they survive the grind, they definitely mature very fast compared to their peer who are still working for someone else.

It can be a driving force to building a successful litigation practice. if you are aware of the market and know the problems people are facing, you hustle and energy would be a tremendous USP compared to old, boring, imperious law firms that do not have as much skin in the game.

Autonomy also means rapid personal development and an amazing learning curve. Such lawyers also tend to innovate to compete with more established competitors. Young lawyers with passion, drive, energy can do a lot more when they have autonomy compared to lawyers caged by seniors.

However, law practice is better done by a group of people rather than a single person. It is just too much to handle. There is no one else to cover for you especially in the initial days. There is nobody to even get an adjournment or postpone a meeting if you fall sick.

As a young lawyer who started a law firm or independent practice, you are never off the hook when it comes to answering to your clients. You will probably be working even on a vacation if you are operating as a one-man army.

It can be tough to do deal with the financial uncertainty when you don’t have regular clients who pay you steadily and you don’t know where the rent is coming from next month. This is the flipside of being your own boss, and one of the most nerve-wracking experiences for a young professional.

Starting on your own gives you flexibility with regards to working hours. You set your own schedules and timelines. That is actually a major boon for a young lawyer if you can stay disciplined nonetheless.

How can you find your own clients when you are young and inexperienced?

Finding clients is the biggest challenge for young lawyers as grey hair is given more weight when it comes to attracting clients.

Clients equate grey hair with experience. No doubt experience brings clarity but it’s not a guarantee for getting the work done. No wonder, I have heard stories of young lawyers dyeing their hair grey or keeping their head bald to appear seasoned.

Sarvesh Giri, a lawyer based out of Mumbai, told us that his international clients only want to get quality work done, and for them age is just a number. However, it’s the Indian clients who are more concerned about your age than your calibre.

It’s not impossible to find work though. If a budding lawyer can plan well in his college days. He can very well achieve it. Take, for example, Sarvesh who did as many as 30 internships with international and Indian lawyers and potential clients during his college days in a span of 3 years.

He would volunteer for work, started freelancing, interned under a senior lawyer, learned the ropes all by himself. Later when he started his law practice, the professional relationships that he made during his internships helped him to land his clientele.

Another Delhi based lawyer stressed the importance of doing as many internships during your law school as possible if you are clear that you want to start your own law firm straight out of law school. He was a student of DU Law Centre evening batch, so he pursued internships during the day and maximised his time and professional development.

A few lawyers are a part of networks like ISKON, Toastmasters, BNI etc, and through such networks, they start getting referrals and start finding work in the initial days.

Some lawyers get referrals through school and college alumni networks too. For some, their relatives, family and friends refer them.

Getting referrals has more to do with your interpersonal skills rather than legal aptitude. For example, managing expectations well other than delivering quality work makes a big difference like explaining to them how the case is proceeding at every stage, replying to their emails or WhatsApp messages timely adds that extra zing in your relationships with your clients which can help you earn more referrals.

Here is a step by step guide you can use for marketing yourself to potential clients as a lawyer. Believe it or not, it is possible to find legal consulting work even while you are in college.

How are you going to build your brand and reputation?

Brand building is a continuous process. Your brand should reflect the value you generate. Making a website, writing research papers, blogging, organizing events, writing books and even teaching definitely helps you in the process.

There are lawyers like Jay Sayta who managed to tremendously well by starting our their own practice right out of law school thanks to their extremely well known blogs. The blog had put Sayta’s name on the map even before he graduated. That kind of branding really helps.

Doing pro bono work is another great way to build a brand. Senior lawyers call it enlightened self-interest. I know lawyers who deploy this strategy very effectively. For example, if you do pro bono work for poor people, the marginalised, helpless animals or even entrepreneurs who are not yet funded, you may not make money but you earn tremendous good will. Many people want to help you and promote you because they can see your work and they wish to promote you.

Very good ways to strengthen you blog will be to contribute your knowledge for free in the public domain, in the form of blogposts, videos, whatsapp circulations, and even free helplines or free events that educate your potential clientele.

Here is more about how to build your brand as a lawyer.

Should you specialize or do whatever comes your way?

There are two schools of thought here. Nitish Banka, a Delhi based lawyer took up consumer cases, to begin with. Taking up small civil matters definitely helps to boost your confidence. He accepted whatever came his way, which kept the lights on and him on his toes, helping to learn new things on every turn.

On another hand, Sushanth Samudrala, a technology lawyer who is passionate about technology, stressed on the fact that specialising ultimately should be your focus.

It helps to create your own niche and sets you apart from the growing crowd of lawyers. Someone specializing in shipping law, for example, will get known in a niche shipping industry rather quickly than say a civil lawyer taking up random, miscellaneous cases. It may be counterintuitive, but building a brand in a small, specific niche is easier as Jay Sayta’s success demonstrates.

However, be open to take whatever matter comes your way, because while you do not want to be known as the lawyer who takes whatever is in front of him, you can quietly take some to keep the rent money in your pocket. However, do not build your brand as a generalist lawyer, it does not help usually to do so.

To learn more about specialization, read this article by Ramanuj.

What are the other major challenges you will face?

Finding your first client can be challenging. Litigation is a jealous mistress. Money is hard to come by in the initial years. Even if getting one or two clients is not difficult, it is difficult to build a steady stream of clients and a predictable flow of revenue.

For Divyam Agrawal, a Delhi based lawyer, family support to set up his practice is his biggest safety net. Having a side hustle helps. I know a lawyer, who set up a small cafe in the same business centre in which he had his office to generate a stream of income for himself. A Nasik based lawyer arranges her own art exhibitions. These things definitely help. Building a law practice is a long term game. You need to survive in the game long enough, that’s most of the equation. If you last long enough, you will figure out the rest and things will begin to fall into place.

So focus, focus and focus more on survival and longevity of your practice.

The managing partner of a major Delhi law firm told me stories about how he used to organize parties for pocket money even after starting his law firm, as he struggled to find clients in those initial years. Another one told me how he used to had to ask his wife every time for money to buy petrol for his scooter. They now run law firms that employ in excess of 50 lawyers and have turnover upwards of 10 Cr.

So focus on surviving, whatever it takes. If you can keep the candles burning at your law practice by doing a side hustle for a few hours every week initially, it is totally worth it. Just be careful that you do not get totally distracted.

Try and see if you can help more established lawyers with some of their caseload or matter, without becoming attached to their chambers or law firms.

Being a lawyer can be a demanding and stressful career, especially when you strike out on your own so early. It’s good if you have any alternative ways to fetch you money without demanding too much attention in the initial years to support your main ambition.

You will also face it challenging to keep training and upgrading yourself constantly. Lawyering is a learned person’s profession. You are never supposed to stop learning. Your knowledge and skills will be your edge, and without the supervision of seniors, it becomes even harder to identify your weakness and to work on them. The only way you can survive is by finding mentors and getting help from other lawyers who can guide you to learn faster and identify your blind spots.

Therefore, it is critical to have humility and the courage to go up to others and ask for help.

You also need to make it a habit to learn new things every day, even though it may not be directly related to your work immediately. Working for the future when your present is bleak and difficult is very hard, but it is the only way you will make it through the difficult times and usher in prosperity as a lawyer. It is a very rare habit to cultivate when you are trying to find clients, keep them and do their work all at the same time, but that is no excuse for failure, is it?

This stark reality is most obvious when you are trying to build your own practice.

It is overwhelming. You need to develop good habits and tremendous discipline to keep improving your lawyering skills through thick and thin, failing which you will get assigned to a list of non-descript struggling lawyers very soon. Pay attention to learning and development if you do not want to face certain failure.

Another big problem will to be to find qualified people to hire when you need to expand. Most Indian law graduates do not want to work with new names. They are attracted towards big brand names, and it is hard for new lawyers to hire quality talent even when they are ready to pay market rates. This is where your personal brand matters. If you are regularly taking interns and offering classes, and even writing on social media, it will help you to attract the right kind of people.

When you start your organization so early, lack of experience in or exposure to organization building is also a major area of stickiness. You are likely to make many mistakes. Hiring and firing is the usual things most new lawyers get wrong. Be slow to hire and quick to fire. This should be the thumb rule. I know it is hard to do so when so few people are even willing to work for you, but not doing this will cost you dearly.

How should you decide on your pricing?

The biggest mistake rookie lawyers make is to price themselves too low. If you charge too less, people will not trust you. And you will not get enough time to spend on the matter because you are always running around to find more work so you don’t remain hungry.

Being very cheap as a lawyer is not a strategy. It is suicide.

It also cements your reputation as a cheap lawyer which is hard to shake off later.

Please charge a reasonable amount. Calculate the number of hours you will spend wisely before you quote. GIve yourself a wide margin because legal work often tends to explode and cross all expectations, so do not quote hours conservatively.

However, always take great pain to explain your pricing to the client. Give them a roadmap on how the work will be done if different stages and what you will be charged in each stage. Show them how you calculate it and why it is fair. Make sure that pricing is transparent. However, also make sure that you are not the cheapest lawyer. Genuine clients do not mind spending a fair amount on legal matters after all their life and death depend on it. Make sure to limit the scope of work with specific language in your written quote, otherwise experienced clients will take you for a ride.

Find out the usual market rate, and charge a little below or a bit above it, depending on how you want to position yourself.

Remember that apart from your time there are other inputs like the office rent, electricity, clerkage, cost of your secretary etc. Even printing cost can get upto thousands. You need to charge enough to cover all overheads.

You can charge less while you are a complete greenhorn, and just want to get some work to learn more about it. But it is not a strategy that often works because people do not want to hire cheap and greenhorn lawyers for important matters.

What are the major mandatory and optional expenses?

Spend on your branding. Get a good logo, a nice website, a presentable blog. Make sure you have good tools to work with, such as a good laptop, good internet connection, access to necessary online databases.

However, an office is not mandatory for a lawyer who is just starting out. I know a lot of lawyers who earn in crores but still work from their apartments and cafes. An office is not at all necessary, and get a co-working space if you must. Do not spend on a fancy office and increase your overhead, it is a bad idea in initial years.

Begin to get staff and juniors as work increases. Getting a secretary is usually a great idea. Start taking in interns as soon as you can. Pay them only if they actually contribute to the work. Having other people to work with and the train is likely to increase your enthusiasm, and make your lonely journey a little easier.

Most rookie lawyers make a mistake. They think building a practice happens when you have all the trappings of a successful law firm. So they focus on showing off. Get a fancy office. Hire a lot of people that they cannot afford. They invest more in office decor than their own training. They spend on cars and club memberships thinking that these are essential to building a law practice. They spend a lot of money on publicists in order to get media coverage.

Not really.

Again, a sure shot sign of another new law firm that will not be around the block for too long. Smart lawyers wait till they are successful before increasing overheads. You want clients to come to you because you deliver results, not because you have a fancy office. It is ridiculous to think that you can succeed in the long term by doing this.

It is much harder and much better to focus on becoming a better lawyer who their clients trust based on the results that were delivered so far.

What should be your focus in the first few years?

In the first few years, you should focus on acclimatizing yourself with the workings of the court, the babus, the clerks. You want to figure out your areas of interests and where you have a sweet spot for the first round of growth. You want to discover a niche you can work towards ruling in the medium term.

Focus on learning and development. Focus on finding mentors and supporters who want you to be successful. Learn about marketing and sales. You need to learn those skills one way or the other.

Work on finding people you will love to partner with and work with. Your chance of success and growth increase dramatically when you find good partners and team-mates.

Focus on building a great reputation in the legal industry, amongst your peers. If other lawyers think that you are bright, hard-working, unassuming and an agreeable person, on the rise as a lawyer, it will go a long way to cement your reputation and get you the right clients.

Please improve the quality of your work. If you start on your own right in the beginning, there are good chances that you will do a lot of shoddy work initially. No worries, just make sure you learn from every mistake. Invest in learning programs like the Master Access by LawSikho so that you can prepare well for every meeting, every piece of work and you make fewer mistakes.

What could be the biggest reasons for failure and how to avoid them

People fail at running their own practice mostly due to their mindsets.

Either they are not ready to do whatever it takes to succeed. That may sound surprising, but many will not work as hard, or not be able to handle the sheer pressure of running your own practice.

This is not for the faint-hearted. This is not for people who want or expect quick success. This is not for someone who cannot work tirelessly, with great focus and zeal when the future looks uncertain and bleak.

It takes tremendous courage and self-confidence.

It takes the ability to work alone and still be able to work on assembling a kick-ass team.

More importantly, it requires the ability to sacrifice the short term comfort for long term success.

It is certainly one of the hardest career choices, with massive rewards if you can pull it off.

There are too many reasons you may fail, and most of them are internal factors – related to your personality, tenacity, and patience.

Outside reasons and obstacles can be overcome if you have those internal factors sorted out.

So if this is something you want to do, focus on the basics. Work on your physical and mental health, or else you will not survive this. You need to have the mental fitness of a US navy seal, and the physical ability won’t hurt you either.

If you try to pull it off by putting your health, mental or physical, in jeopardy, you will soon burn out and fail. So do not ignore these things.

Once your basics are in place, the rest of it is about improving yourself on the go, every day, on every opportunity you get.

If you are one of the brave people who want to set up a law practice or a firm right out of law school, kudos to you, and all the luck in the world. You definitely need it.


Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution.

Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE and VC transactions).

Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws.

Executive Certificate Courses:

Certificate course in Advanced Corporate Taxation.

Certificate course in Advanced Civil Litigation: Practice, Procedure and Drafting.


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