Today we finish up our series on the six legal marketing mistakes that solo and small firm attorneys make when starting a law practice. The topic of today’s post is lack of focus. Before we get into that, let’s quickly recap the first five legal marketing mistakes that I discussed:
- Not marketing at all
- Not having legal marketing goals
- Failing to build systems into your law practice
- Not charging enough
- Practicing threshold law
Why is lack of focus a legal marketing mistake?
In today’s legal market, unless you live in a small town where there are only a few lawyers, the idea of a “general practice” really doesn’t exist. Back in the day you could probably get away with doing a little family law work, while also doing a little estate planning, and maybe throw some personal injury or criminal work for good measure. Not today.
People are increasingly turning to either their trusted resources for recommendations of a lawyer, or they are going straight to the internet. In either case, if you try to be a “one-size-fits-all” lawyer, you will be quickly forgotten in an increasing world of legal specialization.
A big mistake I made when I first started my North Carolina Law Practice
One of the biggest mistakes I made when I started my law practice in North Carolina was that I tried to take on two different practice areas – family law and workers compensation, and ended up confusing everyone. Referrals sources didn’t know what I was doing. I tried to keep the practices separate, even using separate web pages, but this was futile at best.
Other lawyers were constantly asking me what I was doing. Referral sources that I previously could count on stopped sending me business. My assistant was going crazy trying to figure out the court procedures in two different practice areas (as was I). It was a nightmare.
Then one day about 6 months ago, I said no more. I shut down the workers comp practice, referred all my cases to another lawyer, and have gone full throttle into family law only. This was easily the best decision of my legal career.
Consider a sub-specialty within your area of practice
Want to take the idea of specialization to the next level? Consider concentrating your efforts on a specific sub-specialty of your primary area of practice. Here is what I mean by that. I am a family law attorney – but there is a lot to that. Here are just a few of the areas of practice for a family lawyer:
- Domestic Violence Petitions/Defense
- Child Custody Litigation
- Termination of Parental Rights
- Third party claims
- Complex Equitable Distribution
- Seeking or defending claims for spousal support
Of those seven different practice areas, I only actively market myself as a lawyer that handles spousal support claims and complex equitable distribution. The other 5 areas I have no interest in – but lots of other lawyers do.
How should you choose an area to practice in?
There are a couple ways that you can start the process of deciding what area of law you should focus on. I would start by looking at your law school education. What classes did you enjoy most? Begin to make a list. Then think back to when you were studying for the bar exam. Were there any subjects in particular that you really liked or really hated? Go ahead and add them to that list.
Next, think about your personal experiences and why you became a lawyer? Do any of your life experiences fit with a certain practice area? Finally, do you have experience working at a firm? If so, do you want to continue doing the same type of work or venture into something different?
By now you should have a list of different practice areas that you may enjoy. The next thing I would do is attend a basics CLE of the one or two areas that you would most enjoy practicing in. After that, you need to just pick one and go with it.
The idea here is to really focus your practice. Over time, you will start to gravitate towards certain types of clients. Keep a mental note of those clients and recognize which clients you enjoy working with most, and which clients you do not enjoy working with. You can start to attempt to seek out the clients you most enjoy working with.
Why focusing your law practice is so important
Here is a great quote from Ivan Misner, the founder of BNI:
When it comes to being a truly great organization, I believe that a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none. Instead, I believe that you should focus on your organization’s core competencies. Do what you are good at, and do it better than anyone else.
That pretty much sums up the idea of this entire post. Know what you are good at and enjoy doing. Keep trying to get better at it and become the best attorney in your market at that one thing. That is the best way to stand out.