By Nick Richardson ’03 

Hanging my own shingle was always a long-term goal of mine, but not one I was planning on for 2009 or after five years of practice. But after being laid off, I struggled to find another firm looking to add to their payroll during the financial meltdown and realized the opportunity to start my own business.

By keeping my overhead low and reaching out to other attorneys in my area for advice and guidance, I’ve grown my business each year. A decade has gone by since I passed the Bar, and now former client and attorney referrals make up a bulk of business. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to get my doors open and set up my office in those unprecedented times, especially when I’m younger than most attorneys who hang their own shingles in my area.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but here are three easy to do’s that you can start doing this week to help your book of business — regardless if it’s your name or someone else’s on the door. 

 1. Build your professional network, and nurture it. I’m not a natural networker, and at first, I felt slightly uncomfortable, but the more interactions I had in networking situations, the more comfortable it became. And remember, it’s a two-way street so I’m always willing to help others in my network when possible. Volunteer with your local bar association or an organization you’re passionate about helping.

 2. Don’t be afraid to ask former clients for referrals, and keep asking. During my first year of working for myself, I was reminded that people genuinely want to help others, and asking is the first step to get their support and help. And, don’t forget to thank people as well.  

3. Make your weakness into a strength. No marketing budget? Get creative. I wrote more than 200 handwritten letters to friends and professional contacts in the area about my new law office. The cost was mainly my time. I also attended events with like-minded people and perfected my elevator speech. You can also contribute articles to local websites, which help build your creditability.

 Going into my fifth year of working for myself, I can honestly say I’ll never go back to working for someone else. I’m grateful for all the support I’ve received since opening my office, and giving back is important to me personally just as the law is to me professionally. This year as a thank you to my local community, I’m excited to launch my inaugural scholarship program for local high school seniors looking to continue their education.

About the Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. – Based in Palatine, Ill., Attorney Richardson helps families throughout Chicago’s Northwest Suburbs navigate numerous family law-related matters every day. His direct, straightforward approach resonates with his clients. Since his admission to the Bar of Illinois in 2004, Attorney Richardson has supported efforts within his community to help fight hunger and provide assistance to those in need. For more information, visit http://www.nickrichardsonlaw.com/.