This article was co-authored by Amy Knapp and Ezra Crawford and originally appeared on the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management blog.
Lawyers often tell us they have limited time to devote to marketing and business development and want to know the most effective way to maximize their time. Without hesitation, our response is “specialize!” (Actually, because of bar rules, it’s “pick an area of focus.”) With 1.2 million practicing lawyers in the US, a major factor in individual success is how effective you are at differentiating yourself. Want to become a more noticeable lawyer? Pick an area of focus and engage in intentional acts of marketing and business development to distinguish yourself in that field.
If you buy into what we’re saying, then the next question becomes, “How do I do it?” The best answer we’ve found so far is to engage in a purposeful and coordinated content marketing strategy that delivers the same messaging across traditional and digital mediums. Lawyers and their reputations exist at the same time in multiple places (for example, there is website Jane Doe, speaker Jane Doe, author Jane Doe, etc.) and prospective clients often find you in one arena and try to validate you in others. If your reputations are not aligned, you run the risk of discrediting yourself without even knowing you have done so.
Want proof that this is what people do? Look at your website analytics on the day you speak at a conference. Chances are you will have had a 20 percent or more spike in bio views that day. But don’t stop there. Look at what people did once they were on your bio page. The data (if you have a microsite bio) will show you that people also looked at your practice areas, your publications, and your representative matters. They are doing this because they have seen you in one arena (behind a podium) and are trying to confirm or discount your claims of being an expert. If your bio, articles and related practices do not reflect what you spoke about, people will notice the discrepancy, and the hard work and time you put into preparing for that presentation might be for naught.
What are the Advantages of Focused or Niche Marketing?
Many lawyers are reluctant to claim an area of focus, but by being all things to all people you actually make it harder for people to figure out what it is that you actually do. For example, I often hear complex litigation and class action lawyers express a reluctance to specialize, because they say they can try any case and don’t want to limit themselves. But experience has shown that at any given time, they could focus on a developing legal trend to position themselves for new work. (The TCPA class actions in 2014 and 2015 provide a good example.)
Once you’ve established a focus or niche, your marketing gets a lot easier. To start, it enables you to reuse and repurpose shamelessly. Using the TCPA example above, it becomes easy, even routine, to deploy a myriad of marketing tactics from a single action. For example, let’s say you write an article on the TCPA and get it placed in a publication. You can next promote it on your LinkedIn profile, send a copy to your contacts, add it to your website bio, summarize it and turn it into a blog post, edit it down into a speaking proposal submission, and do a webinar about it. A single tactical action becomes strategic with the right follow-through and coordination.
The third advantage is that by focusing on a specific area or trend, you by default are specializing. Specialization in turn leads to differentiation, which is what marketing is all about.
Take 10 Actions in 30 days to Focus Your Practice
- Pick an area/trend/statute/issue to focus on for the next 12-18 months.
- Review and edit your bio and LinkedIn profile with your niche focus in mind.
- Review and edit your representative matters to highlight any experience in your chosen area of focus.
- Draft and submit an article for publication on a developing issue you identified in No. 1 above.
- Revise your elevator speech.
- Identify one or more in-person speaking opportunities and submit a proposal.
- Schedule a webinar on your topic of focus.
- Write a client alert or blog post.
- Create a client “roadshow” presentation on your niche topic and offer it for free to five clients.
- Draft and send an email to your partners explaining the issue and opportunities within your niche and explain how you can help their clients. Include a pre-drafted cover email they can modify to send to their clients to introduce you.
While word of mouth referrals and other more traditional methods of evaluating a lawyer’s credentials still exist, clients are now able to access more information about an individual attorney online. If the claims you are making in one medium are not substantiated by your image and thought leadership in another, you are hurting your chances of being retained. By aligning your online and physical reputations to promote a chosen field of focus, you give yourself the best chance of standing out and positioning yourself in a crowded market place. Welcome to the digital age.