On 3 September 2018 Ruth, Irena and I opened this new firm – Boardman, Hawkins & Osborne LLP.
The opening date of a new law firm represents the end of a very long road of preparation in fact, and not just the beginning of something exciting.
For us the first formal aspect of opening the firm was the bid for a new legal aid contract. As individuals we have always been wholly committed to legal aid work and specialists in an area of law (care) that relies upon legal aid funding, so this was an essential step.
Bidding for a legal aid contract is not hard but it does require certain things to have happened beforehand. For instance, we had to have a name and a registered company. It may appear now that choosing a name was easy (it is our three surnames) but we actually agonized over it for many months. Should we have a modern name that summarises our ethics and approach to law? Or should be go the traditional route of using our surnames, which also helps when old clients google us? Clearly, in the end we went traditional.
Then we had to register our company. Again, not hard to do but still a learning curve for three family lawyers with no corporate experience.
Then began the exciting stuff – the design of the logo was huge for us and we played with fonts, graphics and colour schemes. We used a fabulous graphic designer who also did our letterhead and business cards some months later: simonbranding.com
We were notified that our bid for a legal aid contract had been successful and suddenly everything became real and rather urgent.
Finding the right office also took time. We saw our current office a year ago and fell in love with it but could not actually commit to it until the legal aid contract was in place. We absolutely love our office but securing it was not simple. It is a building which comes with a long and fascinating history in Abingdon (including having been the old probation office) and we feel very grateful that we have been entrusted with it.
The single biggest job in opening a new firm is the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) authorization. The form itself is pretty intimidating but it also required us to have all our policies and procedures in place, our business plan and financial projections making sense, individual training on our new roles, compliance plans and risk assessments written up… and so on. In this we were hugely assisted by dglegal.co.uk
Once that application was in we started on the many many smaller aspects of opening.
The website was designed by the wonderful Gyroscope incorporating ideas of mine that I had been saving for a while. Getting the website ready was part of the process that I particularly enjoyed.
In the last few months before opening every day seemed to being a new challenge or a new job that needed doing – arranging commercial waste removal; finding cleaners; ordering a franking machine and photocopiers; sorting out IT suppliers; buying computers and furniture; arranging an opening party (more of that later); lining up training on the new case management system…
Another really fun job was finding art for our walls. We are very fortunate to have on loan several prints from Wendy Skinner-Smith and they look amazing in the office www.wendyskinnersmith.co.uk
Somewhere in all of this the Legal Aid Agency required us to have the first part of an audit. It’s very odd being audited before you even open to the public but we passed that and have part two next month. We also had to prove to the LAA that we had the office, the paperwork, the personnel and the experience to run a legal aid contract.
We have created a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/BHOlegal/
a twitter account: twitter.com/bho_llp
and a LinkedIn page: www.linkedin.com/company/bhollp/
so please come and find us, like us, follow us.
But we got through it all, with the help of our staff and families, and we opened on 3 September.
And then we had a party or two to introduce ourselves to local professionals and for our friends and colleagues. That was the really fun bit! I ‘accidentally’ ordered too much wine, we had lovely canapés and pizza from next door for the after party, and we celebrated all the hard work.
So here’s to the next two months…