Concentrating Your Practice (Part VI)
Concentrating Your Firm: Pick A Practice Area
Building A Legal Practice Designed To Last, Part VI
The modern world of business has pushed professionals more and more into concentrated areas of service. In law school you study four to five areas of the law a semester to get a broad idea of each individual area.
The bar exam is the ultimate proof of the inability to know every single point of law that exists and is constantly changing.
Trying to operate a general practice is comparable to studying for the bar exam, except that your legal practice will continue for longer than 3 months. If you are interested in building a practice designed to last, you should focus your area of expertise.
Why not dabble?
When you start your practice it is hard to turn down clients, i.e. business. Telling someone that is ready to pay you money “no,” is a difficult thing to do when you are trying to pay the light bill. However, in the long run, dabbling will yield low financial returns.
This is because as an attorney the thing you are selling is your time (including your experience and your professional knowledge). If you are using your time to constantly be researching new areas of the law, you are forced into constantly reinventing the wheel, creating new legal forms, and adding additional practice areas to remain current on legal changes.
Not only is this inefficient, but it also opens you up to liability if you are handling cases in unfamiliar legal territory. It is hard to consistently produce great outcomes for your clients where your experience and knowledge are vastly inferior to that of opposing counsel.
What do people buy when they hire an attorney?
A potential client who walks into your law office does not expect to leave with a gallon of milk or a box of pencils.
If he hires you, the client expects to leave your office knowing that his legal matters will be handled by you and your team. A client is generally not buying a tangible product (other than paper), from an attorney but rather investing in the firm or attorney’s intellectual capital.
This is why clients sometimes ask “how long have you been practicing?” or “do you routinely handle this type of case?” The client is trying to determine if you have the intellectual capital to help solve his legal problem.
Concentrate, and you will succeed.
By concentrating your practice in a particular (or a few) practice area, you are able to better respond to a client’s legal situation. Focusing your practice means that both you and your staff are able to create a comfort level with the legal issues you will be expected to help the client navigate.
This does not mean that you don’t have to work to maintain continued competency in your given practice area; quite the opposite. By concentrating your practice in a particular area of law, you are better able to narrow the spectrum of knowledge required to help your client’s in tough situations.
Continuing legal education courses, legal guidebooks, and professional listserv opportunities can now all be focused in expanding your knowledge of a very specific area of the law.
Don’t compete on price; compete on value. Focus on the value you are providing to the client. Every business decision you make should be influenced by the question “how does this provide more value to our clients?” Make your legal services more valuable by increasing your knowledge of the law in a particular practice area and thereby increase your ability to help those in need of your services.
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