Let’s face it, if you needed brain surgery to remove a tumor you would look for the best neurosurgeon modern medicine has to offer. Too much would be at stake to put your life in the hands of anyone but the most capable specialist with the skills to deliver the needed result when it really counts. The same is true when it comes to the law. Consumers are smart enough to know that when they need important legal help with a personal injury, workers compensation, social security disability or other legal matter, they will seek out a specialist.
It seems like common sense to promote yourself as an expert in a clearly defined area of law and help remove potential client anxiety about the likelihood of a favorable outcome for their case. However, many attorneys still cast the widest possible net across dozens of topics in the hopes that they will not miss a case and instead end up discouraging contact from most everyone, including the right kinds of clients for their firm.
Adam Smith, generally considered to be the father of modern economics, said in his magnum opus, The Wealth of Nations, “The greatest improvement in the productive power of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seems to have been the effects of the division of labour.” This simply means that there is great power in the focus of limited resources into a specific task or service. When it comes to marketing and positioning your law practice it is critical to stand out from the crowd in clearly defined practice areas and present yourself and your staff as specialists that can deliver focused results.
Beyond helping consumers make good choices, there are other great reasons to specialize:
- Other attorneys will be more likely to refer business to you if you are not in direct competition with them. Again, seems obvious, but if you present yourself and your firm as handling almost any kind of case, it is hard to set up an exchange of referrals.
- Developing systems to take advantage of repetitive tasks. The example Adam Smith gave was in regards to making pins. One person would draw the wire, one would sharpen it, one would prep it for the head, etc. The same is true in a law office. Once you set up forms and systems it becomes much easier to scale your case load.
- Geographic identity. People like to work with attorneys that they feel a local connection to. Specializing in Auto Accidents in New Orleans or Workers Compensation cases in Idaho are clearly ways to differentiate yourself and your law firm.
- Large vs. small cases. Some law firm specialize in huge, complex litigation that runs into the millions of dollars, and other focus on the smaller size cases, perhaps in a higher volume. Both are effective ways to define your core market.
- Language or other cultural expertise is another way to specialize and attract a very specific type of client
Remember, we’re not talking about turning away business. If someone calls your firm or finds you online and wants to hire you for something that is outside the norms for your practice, by all means take or refer the case. Specialization is all about the niche you serve and your ability to make the public aware of it. It’s much better to have a small percentage of a huge legal services pie than 100% of nothing. It’s worth taking a look at where your wheelhouse is for your firm and see if you can stand out from the competition.
I think Adam Smith would agree.