There are certain types of clients that every attorney is on the lookout for.
Loyal clients. Sophisticated clients. Clients who know what they want. Clients who are experts in their own right, but not in the law.
So now let's think - what is it that these clients want and expect from their lawyer?
Unsurprisingly, the best clients want an expert focused exclusively on what they need right now. And those needs are related to a business or life problem. Sometimes that's a legal practice area, and sometimes it isn't. But either way, the best clients know they are looking for a solution, and for a provider who will provide that solution.
What aren't they looking for? Anything that signals that you aren't the solution for the problem they have today.
Let's take an example. When I was having my first child, I knew that I really had to get off my butt and get my estate planning done. Now I'm a pretty good client, if I do say so myself. I know what I want, I know what I don't know, will pay a premium for top-notch service, and I'm looking for an expert to help me.
Let's say that I'm considering two lawyers. I visit their websites. One clearly just does estate planning. The other's site has a half dozen practice areas on it, including estate planning, personal injury, bankruptcy and admiralty/maritime law.
Who am I going to choose? I'm looking for an expert. I'm not a pirate, I don't need maritime expertise. I need my estate plan done.
When you position your practice, your ideal client should say “That’s exactly what I was looking for! I’m finally going to be taken care of.”
Why Being Watered Down Doesn’t Work
Too many lawyers muddy the message. They think they can get more clients and make more money by having more practice areas and doing a little bit of everything.
Just think about that for a second. Who do you think will really make more money – the specialized attorney or the watered-down attorney?
Just look at the legal market today. The most profitable firms and lawyers, without fail, are always experts who drill down to solve very specific problems. I rarely come across individual lawyers who are generalists that significant profits, or have any significant impact in their market.
When you’re unfocused as a business, you look unfocused to your client. If you want your firm to be a successful business, you need to narrow down your message.
The Two Ways to Narrow
I know there are a few attorneys who are going to read this and protest "but I can't possibly drop a practice area! What do I do?"
Remember the goal here. Being the ideal choice for your ideal client. So you can slice it two ways.
You can be an expert in one area of the law. That's the obvious choice, that most lawyers take. Concentrate on one practice area, or a few closely related ones.
The other is to be the lawyer for a particular kind of client. As in, "the lawyer who represents dentists and doctors in the Dallas area".
You can do this in both ways, too. I've been working with a few attorneys in our programs who have expertise in both business law and estate planning. We've focused them on being the succession strategists for business owners - helping them plan their personal and business affairs. They're experts to a particular (affluent) demographic, and also subject matter experts.
See how it works? You've met the goal of having the client say "That's exactly what I was looking for!"
Why Specificity Means Profitability
More than a few lawyers will have stopped reading by now, thinking "Fewer practice areas? Crazy, I'll be turning away work" or "Just represent dentists and doctors? That's a fraction of the market."
And here's the thing. The thing that most lawyers miss.
More is not better. More is commodity. More gets you the price shoppers. The clients that don't pay. That don't respect you.
Less is more profitable. Boutique firms are multiples more profitable than generalists. Boutiques that either focus on a specific legal problem, or a specific "who". The largest firms on the planet aren't 500+ lawyer firms of generalists. They're teams of experts.
You can make the same money, or more, with fewer clients. And trust me, it's not twice as hard to get a client that pays twice as much. It's actually easier, if you position the way I'm describing here.
Let another lawyer be the jack-of-all-trades. Let them try to build a practice with clients who only care about price, and don't view them as experts.
Be unique. Be specialized. Be valuable. Be successful.