Transitioning from Public Defender to Private Attorney: A Step-by-Step Guide

As a public defender, you may be ready to transition to private practice for many reasons. Transitioning from a public defender to a private attorney can offer several benefits, including increased income, control over caseload and specialization, access to greater resources, and business development opportunities. Additionally, transitioning to private legal practice may allow for increased networking opportunities, partnership or business ownership, control over the work environment, and client contact. 

Although there are risks with transitioning from a public defender to a private attorney, the benefits can be life-changing and help you create a bigger impact on your community. Here are the steps attorneys can take to make this transition seamless.

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Creative Director Chris CarrollSenior Marketing Strategist Anthony AguileraChief Marketing Officer Joe Evans
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Step 1: Reflect on Your Goals and Motivations

Before embarking on this transition, taking a step back and assessing your reasons for wanting to move into private practice is the foundation of your long-term vision. Knowing your motivations will help you make informed decisions throughout the process. Some common motivations include financial stability, greater control over case selection, and the opportunity for more varied work experiences.

Step 2: Develop a Business Plan

A solid business plan is essential for any successful private practice. Your plan should include your mission statement, target market, competitive analysis, marketing strategy, financial projections, and a timeline for achieving your goals. This document will serve as a roadmap for your transition, helping you stay focused and organized as you move forward.

Step 3: Update Your Skills and Knowledge

Transitioning to private practice may require you to broaden your legal expertise. Consider taking Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses to expand your knowledge in different practice areas. Networking with attorneys specializing in your desired practice areas can provide valuable insights and advice.

Step 4: Establish Your Legal Entity and Brand

Decide on a legal structure for your business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC). Consult an attorney or accountant to determine the best option for your situation. Once you have chosen a structure, begin developing your brand, including creating a unique logo, selecting a professional color scheme, and designing business cards and a professional website. Developing your brand is an excellent opportunity to partner with a professional marketing agency specializing in attorney law firm branding.

Step 5: Secure Office Space and Necessary Equipment

Find a suitable office space that fits your budget and meets your professional needs. Consider factors like location, accessibility, and proximity to the courthouse. Ideally, you want to put yourself in the shoes of potential clients and partners visiting your office and how your office can be accommodating. Once you have secured an area, invest in the necessary office equipment and furniture, such as computers, printers, and office supplies.

Step 6: Build a Network and Referral Base

Building a solid network will be invaluable in generating new clients and growing your practice. Build relationships with other professionals in your field, such as attorneys, judges, and law enforcement officials. Attend networking events and join local bar associations to create connections and establish a referral network.

Step 7: Create a Marketing Strategy

A well-executed marketing strategy can make or break your law firm's ability to attract clients to your private practice. Establish an online presence by creating a website and engaging with potential clients on social media platforms. Consider investing in search engine optimization (SEO) services to improve your website's visibility in search results. 

Additionally, offline marketing methods like print advertisements, direct mail campaigns, and community events can help raise awareness of your practice. Hiring a professional marketing agency for these services can give you the peace of mind that your online presence is optimized while you are focused on your clients and law firm operations.

Step 8: Set Your Fee Structure

Determine a fee structure that reflects your experience, expertise, and the local market. Research competitors' rates and consider your target clientele's ability to pay. Be transparent with your clients about your fees, and ensure that your billing practices are transparent and ethical.

Step 9: Manage Your Finances

As a private attorney, you'll need to handle your financial management, including budgeting, bookkeeping, and tax filing. It's best to consult with a financial advisor or accountant to ensure you keep accurate records and comply with all relevant tax laws.

Step 10: Stay Committed to Professional Development

Developing your skills and knowledge is crucial for long-term success in private practice. Stay informed about legal developments, attend industry conferences, and participate in networking events to stay connected with your peers. Regularly evaluate your progress and set new goals to ensure your law firm continues evolving and thriving.


Shifting from a public defender to a private attorney may present its fair share of challenges, yet the journey can be fulfilling and gratifying. Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can set yourself up for success as you establish your private law firm. Remember to keep your goals in mind, invest in your professional development, and stay committed to providing exceptional legal representation to your clients. You can successfully transition and build a thriving private practice with dedication, perseverance, and strategic planning.

If you need professional marketing services and are interested in learning how we can contribute to the growth of your law firm, we encourage you to reach out to us at Lab Coat Marketing. We are excited to explore how our 24 years of combined marketing experience can guide you toward accomplishing your goals!

If you are looking for a marketing partner that focuses on driving more leads to your firm at a low cost, then you need to talk to Lab Coat Marketing.
Armando Nava,
Nava Law

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