How Can You Start Your Own Legal Research and Writing Company?

Q: I am currently employed at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where I began working in May, 1997, as a Law Clerk, and as an Attorney in May, 2000. I enjoy the practice of environmental law, but working at the EPA does not afford me the opportunity to do what I do and love best -- legal research and writing.

I am going to move to southeastern Tennessee in approximately two months. I would like to set up my own legal research and writing business there. Do you have any ideas, contacts, or leads as to how I should go about setting up my business and marketing it to potential clients?

A: FindLaw's Small Business section offers a wealth of information on many aspects of starting one's own business. The section includes information on the different types of business organizations, an extensive tutorial on writing your business plan, suggestions on how to finance your business, ideas on how to market your business, as well as regulations you'll need to be aware of.

The Tennessee District Office is located in Nashville. Free counseling is available for beginning (and continuing) business owners through the Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) and through the Small Business Development Centers located throughout Tennessee (and other states as well). Both SCORE and the Small Business Development Centers offer regular workshops and seminars at little or no cost to prospective small business owners.

This is a great place to start your exploration and planning toward making your own legal research and writing business a reality. However, ultimately the contacts and leads you will need to set up your business and successfully market it to clients will ultimately need to be developed by you personally. In addition to the government agencies that can help you set up your business you should also involve yourself in the community of potential clients and peers. This is particularly the case since you are relocating. Spend some time preparing to market yourself to your potential clients by identifying them and finding contexts in which you can meet them and establish yourself in a context related to your mutual interests.

Local associations and groups related to environmental law and issues can provide valuable information about the local market and help introduce you to potential clients. Attorney organizations generally may be helpful, since the clients of your research and writing company are likely to be lawyers and you don't indicate that you intend to limit your services to environmental law. If you do intend to limit your services to environmental law the same principal applies, but subcommittees focused on environmental issues might be the place to focus your efforts. Attending a seminar or social event can put you in contact with many potential clients.

Just attending isn't enough though. Volunteering, writing articles, and participating in events can help establish you and your expertise within a community. Become an active member and introduce yourself to other participants. Making yourself part of the community will help ensure that when work is available you will come to mind.