The following is adapted from The New Law Business Model by Ali Katz, New Law Business Model Founder and CEO—find it on Amazon.
Many lawyers mistakenly think they need to take whatever business walks in the door just to keep the doors open.
Does someone need a divorce lawyer? You’ll take it. Someone else needs help with immigration papers, you say yes. The next person you meet needs help drafting a will, you take them on, too.
We call this being a “door lawyer,” and it’s the fastest path to unhappiness, a poor client experience and ultimately going broke for lawyers.
Being a door lawyer means you can never develop systems, you can never become known as the go-to lawyer for your practice area of expertise, and you can never command premium fees. Instead, with each new client, you are reinventing the wheel—a jack-of-all-trades, and master of none.
Find Your Niche
You may be taking on so many different types of clients in so many different practice areas because you are afraid that if you don’t, you’ll starve. Or perhaps you are afraid that specializing could subject you to the whims of the economy.
These are legitimate fears, but surprisingly, the answer is just the opposite of what you are doing right now if you are operating as a door lawyer.
Instead, find your niche and create an economy-proof practice in which your services will be needed no matter what happens in the economy “out there”. Then, go all-in learning how to deliver a great service and creating the systems to do so, while becoming the go-to lawyer in your area for those services, so even when the economy does shift, you’re still the lawyer that gets hired for the services you provide.
Great lawyers are always in demand, especially those that focus their practice on being THE go-to lawyer in their community for families and/or small business owners.
Focusing on more than one practice area is a major pitfall many lawyers make. It’s scarcity-based thinking that causes you to do it. You think there aren’t enough people who will pay you, if you specialize, focus, and build a premium practice. But, it’s just not true.
Focus on creating a law practice that delivers a unique service experience to your clients, and you’ll be busier than you can handle, and get to pick and choose the clients you serve.
The Value of a Complementary Service
Once you are consistently hitting your goals with the foundational systems in place for attracting and engaging all the clients you can handle, and serving those clients with “raving fan” client service systems, managing your financials and your team, then, sure, add another complementary practice area. Just don’t add that service until you have your first practice area fully dialed-in.
This is the foundation of having a law practice you love built as a business that you, your clients, and your family can truly count on, for life.
Then, if you’re going to add another practice area, add a complementary service for the same clients that you serve in your primary practice. By adding on a complementary legal service in a practice area that is needed by the clients you are already serving, you don’t have to expand your marketing reach to a whole new audience, but instead can leverage the audience you’ve already built and provide additional services they want and need. Build on the relationship you’ve already created, rather than starting from scratch, again.
For example, I began with an estate planning practice, serving young families in my community. Then, once I had established systems and was known as the go-to lawyer in my community for families, I began to serve business owners because I was a business owner myself, and many of the young families I served also owned businesses.
Once I had built my own businesses, and truly understood all that it takes to build a business from scratch and maintain success, I began to work with other business owners as a strategic advisor. Some of those business owners I had already served with estate planning.
It’s all complimentary. I just kept building upon what I had already created, expanding my offerings and reach systematically. This is how you turn your law practice into a business you love.
Don’t Be Afraid of a Narrow Focus
Having said that, I do want to acknowledge that taking the first step and narrowing my focus to marketing only to families with young children in my community was terrifying and took me over a year to do, even after I had learned from Michael Port (author of Book Yourself Solid) that it was critical to focus on one market in order to get booked solid with clients. Putting in place Michael’s “red velvet rope policy” was one of the most impactful decisions I made in my law practice, and while it was scary, it paid off.
Your first step is to identify which law practice area is going to best help you create a life and law practice you love. I know this can be scary, but it will pay off in the long run. So work through your fear.
Start by looking at the clients you would love to serve, and the legal services they need. The best part of building a business around your law degree is that you get to choose all of it. You don’t have to take any and all clients, you get to set the rules.
Only want to work with people who are kind, caring, entrepreneurial, have children, and are easy to work with? You get to set those criteria for your clients. Only want to work with people who love boating, or yoga, or who have a consistent meditation practice? You could set any of those as part of your criteria too. Yes, you can get as creative as you want here.
Then, consider the services they need, and that you would love to offer.
You don’t have to choose civil litigation or criminal defense (as examples), just because that’s what you’ve always done or know how to do. You can choose bankruptcy, business counseling, estate planning (our favorite), or immigration. Once you’ve settled on the best practice area for your interests and needs, you can start to become a master of the field, learn how to educate your community, and within 1-2 years of dedicated focus (or even shorter for many of the lawyers we train in our estate planning and business practice models) become the go-to lawyer in your community for these legal services. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to focus your marketing and bring in clients who are excited to have found you—a lawyer they can love. Best of all, you’ll be able to stop being a door lawyer once and for all.
For more advice on narrowing your legal practice area to a single specialty, you can find The New Law Business Model on Amazon.
If you are a lawyer who is ready to focus your practice and become THE go-to lawyer in your community, book a call with a Law Business Advisor today to find out what is possible for you with the training, guidance, and support from New Law Business Model.