Marty Dolan, principal at Dolan Law and his associate Karen Munoz represent victims of wrongful death and personal injury. His column “Law and Wellness,” appears in the Chicago Lawyer and her column appears regularly in the Law Bulletin. This week’s column is written by Karen Munoz.
We often hear that it’s better to concentrate on one or two areas of practice instead of offering general legal services. Obviously, many of us don’t have the resources to be full-service law firms in the true sense of the term but, at the same time, we can’t all afford to be turning down work in areas we’re less familiar with, especially in the current economic climate. Obviously there will be different considerations for different types of attorneys and so we have to tailor our practices accordingly.
For example, a smaller rural practice will have to be ready to take on a much wider variety of cases than a firm based in a big city where there is a far greater demand for legal work in all areas. This week’s post points out that maybe concentrating in certain legal areas makes more sense for lawyers and looks at a couple of things to bear in mind when trying to create a boutique-type law firm.
This is an obvious advantage to providing specialized legal services. The more often you do something, the more familiar you become with the task. For a number of tasks, you may have substantially similar boilerplate versions of motions/contracts etc. on file already and can carry out some tasks extremely efficiently. You’ll worry a lot less if you know that most of the work you’re going to do is in an area where you’re comfortable and experienced as opposed to not knowing what kind of case is going to arrive at your door.
But even where you don’t have perfect boilerplates, as you become more comfortable and experienced in your specialist area, you will become more confident in your own abilities and the quality of the work you do for your clients will be much higher.
In my view, this is the other big advantage of being a specialist in a particular area. People are much happier referring their friends to a specialist in a particular area rather than just a ‘lawyer’. It brings with it a certain peace of mind. This is usually true for other lawyers as well, as long as you have convinced them that you are good at what you do. In some cases, other lawyers will refer you a case if they know you’ll do a better, quicker job in the hope that the client will be satisfied and ultimately bring in some business for the referring lawyer.
However, there are two important considerations to bear in mind when trying to specialize. First, it is very important to devise a solid business model. Specializing in something like ‘real estate law’ that has a very wide scope and that many firms deal with in some capacity will not result in increased efficiency or more referrals. Finding a niche can work nicely, especially one you truly enjoy.
A second, related issue is that of marketing. Effective marketing convinces potential clients and other attorneys that you are an expert in your particular area and will result in your firm reaping the benefits outlined already.