There are a great many things that you need to consider and have in order, from a docketing system that will let you sleep easy to malpractice insurance to engaging clients and firing clients to how to handle un-earned client funds held in trust. Here are just a few thoughts.

1. Patent Docketing System:

Every attorney who has been practicing for any length of time can tell you that its essential for you to have a patent docketing system of one kind or another. In fact having a high quality patent docketing system will allow you to sleep much easier and minimize those episodes where all of sudden something pops into your mind and you break out into nto a cold sweat wondering whether something fell through the cracks. A patent docketing system is where you (or preferably your staff) will enter due dates and other deadlines so that that nothing falls through those aforementioned cracks.
The docketing system you formerly used, the docketing system you are presently using and then the docketing system that you wish someone would create. You absolutely need some docketing software or system, but you could likely really use more than just a basic docketing system. How are you going to manage billable hours? What is your plan for document management and collaborating with clients remotely?

2. Engagement and disengagement letters:

An engagement letter is one that sets forth the agreed work to be performed and any payment terms agreed upon by the client. There is no real magic to an engagement letter and there are many different kinds of engagement letters. For the independent inventor, small business or start-up you may enter into discrete engagement letters that define the specific work to be completed, such as a patent search or the preparation and filing of a provisional patent application. You may enter into new engagement letters for each piece of work in the process. That seems laborious, but I find that many clients prefer that so that there are no surprises in terms of work that has been done and unanticipated legal fees. Our typically agreement does, however, mention our hourly rates, primarily for two reasons. First, if the client terminates you in mid project you will be entitled to payment at your hourly rate for the number of hours already worked. Second, if the client asks for work outside the scope of a flat fee arrangement you have an agreement in place already.
It is always roses and unicorns at the start of a relationship, so the engagement letter is not typically problematic. The disengagement letter, however, is far more important in some ways and at this point things may be less than pleasant. Termination of a relationship can happen for many reasons, but the law is clear if the client thinks you represent them then you do. Thus, if things have fallen apart you need to be extremely clear and convey the separation in writing.

3. NAPP and Malpractice Insurance:

The National Association of Patent Practitioners (NAPP) is a 501(c) (6) nonprofit trade association. The organization was founded by patent practitioners, mostly patent agents, who had an interest in forming an organization that is focused on procedure before the USPTO. NAPP supports its members by disseminating information via newsletter and its two e-mail discussion forums: the General Discussion Forum and the Patent Practice Forum™. The General Discussion Forum provides a forum for members to discuss a variety of issues from member-to-member referrals to Patent Law Reform. The Patent Practice Forum™ is focused strictly on patent practice issues and allows for an on-going daily discussion between members on issues related to practice before the USPTO, PCT Practice and Foreign patent practice. These discussion forums are extremely active and members ask for and provide substantive advice on a daily basis. If you have a question someone in the organization will almost certainly be able to point you in the right direction.

4. Client Trust Accounts — Accepting a Retainer:

One thing that virtually every patent attorney and patent agent learns is that if you do not get the money from the client up front you are not likely to get paid without expending large amounts of time chasing clients for payment. At the end of the day you will also simply not be able to collect everything you are owed because clients will sometimes simply refuse to pay, particularly if you opined that their invention is not patentable. It is a sad reality, but the last person in line to be paid always seems to be the lawyer.
This is why most require payment in advance for the services to be rendered. What is critically important to understand, however, is that you MUST have a separate account that you use ONLY for the purpose of holding client money that has not yet been earned. This is called a Client Trust Account.

5. Patent Searches & Patent Illustrations:

Unless you are a new patent attorney or patent agent you probably already have one or more preferred patent search firms and patent illustrators. But I am sometimes asked who I used. For patent searches I use SP Attorney Services. I find their patent searches to be exceptionally comprehensive and their prices are very attractive for the high quality that you get. For patent illustrations I use Autrige Dennis at ASCADEX Drafting Services. Autrige provides excellent drawings for a great price and it is hard to believe how fast he turns drawings around.