New firm? Beware underpants gnomes

It is trite to note that there is many a truth said in jest, but the Underpants Gnomes episode of the somewhat infamous comedy show South Park so effectively skewers business strategy as to barely count as satire.

In the episode, the South Park boys discover a group of gnomes who sneak into houses at night and steal underpants. When the boys catch up with the gnomes and ask them why, the gnomes have a simply explanation which goes like this:

Phase one: steal underpants. Phase two: ? Phase three: profit

Anyone who lived through the dot-com bubble of the late ’90s will find this strategy eerily familiar. It is the epitome of the saying that ‘a goal without a plan is just a dream’, and it is sadly the strategy of many a small business, including law firms. Simply put, if you do not know how you are going to get to the profit phase, you won’t.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but it doesn’t follow that just because you (as an employed solicitor) are servicing lots of clients and have more work on than you can shake a stick at, you will be able to kick off a successful law firm of your own.

There is no guarantee any of those clients will follow you, and it is almost certain some won’t. There is also a good chance a lot of your work was generated by someone else – and of course many clients are one-off engagements you will never see again.


To start your own successful firm, you will need more than just a bunch of loyal repeat clients. You will need to be able to generate fresh leads, attract new clients and build your firm into a sustainable business. In short, a viable business strategy, which takes into account the inevitable down times. It is also worth noting that promises from past firms to send overflow work your way are only worth the paper on which they are never written, and only good in times of plenty.

So, when you kick off a new firm you will need a sound plan. Anyone who has done the QLS Practice Management Course (PMC) will already have a lot of information on business plans. QLS also provides a Practice Advisory Service  (PAS) for members looking to kick off their own firm (or to get a health check on their current one).

Indeed, anyone planning on doing the PMC would do well to take advantage of a PAS visit before even enrolling in the course to get an idea on what you need to consider in establishing your own firm.

The PAS provides in-person and on-line consultations throughout Queensland, providing members with the opportunity to have a confidential discussion about any aspect of their practice, including accounting and finance, business planning and management, pricing of services, HR issues and information technology.

In addition, PAS consultants can also provide referrals to external services (accountants, business advisers, marketing, cyber experts, technology consultants) to further provide advice on these aspects of practice.

Our PAS consultants are practitioners with long experience in running their own firms, and travel regularly to Queensland’s regions as well as throughout the South East.


So whether you are thinking of starting your own firm, or have started one, and would like some guidance (or indeed are looking to transition to retirement), the PAS should be your first port of call.

For more information or to book a practice visit, contact the QLS Ethics and Practice Centre on 3842 5843 or email

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