It may seem counterintuitive to narrow the focus of your law practice, but often establishing a niche practice brings you more, not less, business.
Consider another professional practice – medicine. Would you rather see a doctor that may have seen only a few patients with your particular medical problem, or a doctor that deals with your particular illness or injury and successfully treats patients like you on a regular basis? The same principle can be applied to a law practice.
Having a niche practice or focusing your practice on a few practice areas in which you excel and can develop in-depth knowledge and skills will instill confidence in your clients. By establishing yourself in a niche, you’re more likely to get referrals from other lawyers. You may be able to collaborate with other attorneys in related fields on the specialized issues encompassed by your niche.
Establishing yourself as an authority in a particular field brings more focus to your marketing efforts and helps create a more pointed marketing message with a specific target audience. Just because you focus your marketing or your practice on a particular niche doesn’t mean you are required to turn away clients in other areas if you’re equipped to handle those matters as well. Believe it or not, your focus may make you more attractive, even for clients that need services that technically fall outside of your niche, if you’ve established a reputation as a skilled lawyer in a related area. But I would advise lawyers to carefully consider whether sometimes it’s worth turning away some business to focus their energies or establish themselves as lawyers with ‘higher value’ practices.
Narrowing your niche too much can be a problem, particularly in the scenarios she discusses. Sometimes your narrow niche is your true love, the area of law that gives ‘meaning’ to your practice, and you also provide services to clients in other practice areas that can bring more money, or more consistent cash flow. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I think it’s far too common for lawyers to create a practice that’s too broad or encompasses so many practice areas that potential clients are left with the impression (particuarly for solos or small firms) that the firm can’t possibly be competent at all of them (or perhaps any of them).
There may still be a place for generalists in the legal field, particularly in certain areas of the country. And large firms that provide services in many practice areas, with lawyers that practice in only a limited number of them, can certainly market those individual practice areas and develop sufficient skills to represent their clients well. But as a general rule, particularly in today’s marketplace with the increased competition and availability of information to consumers, spreading yourself too thin and trying to be a lawyer that can handle anything for anyone is counterproductive – for both lawyer and client.
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Allison C. Shields
Legal Ease Consulting, Inc
Creating Productive, Profitable and Enjoyable Law Practices
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