Industry based practice

Greetings from Phoenix, where unless you live here, it’s hard to imagine how hot it is outside. I’m coaching lawyers here and one topic we have been discussing is how each lawyer can become a “go to” lawyer in his or her field.

Do you remember a blog I posted: Lawyers: Being the Best in the World is Seriously Underrated ?

 The title is based on  Seth Godin’s quote: “Being the best in the world is seriously under rated.” The world in this case is being seen by your target market as being the best at something they need.

My first target market was commercial businesses, then I narrowed it to the construction industry. A few years later I further narrowed my target market to highway, heavy civil construction contractors.

At the time, that was a fast growing industry due to Interstate construction throughout the United States. Narrowing my focus was one of the most important things I ever did.

You might be thinking that focusing on an industry may not work for you. If you are, I urge you to reconsider, because the more narrow your focus, the more likely you can be “best in that world.”

Forbes recently published: The 10 Fastest-Growing Industries in The US. Take a look. Reading it almost made me return to my law practice and put my guides pictured below on social media.

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Which industries are growing fast, but are not over crowded with lawyers seeking to serve those businesses? If you find one with those characteristics and one you would be passionate about representing, you can become the “go to lawyer.”

Recently I wrote Client Development Coaching: You will learn what will work for you. A lawyer I coach read the post and asked me for examples she might borrow to find her own best approach.

I am an example of a lawyer who narrowed my focus to an industry. Seth Godin blogged about narrowing focus marketing approach in Un essaim de puces.

As you know, I began my client development efforts as a commercial litigator. I struggled to figure out how I could market myself. I was flailing away marketing to everyone. Unfortunately for me, there were several older and better known commercial litigators in my home town.

I changed my focus and narrowed my target market to highway and transportation construction contractors. It was by far the most important decision I made in my career. I actually widened my practice, to include contracts and every day advice. I narrowed my client base so I could be more valuable as a trusted advisor.

So, if you are marketing to everyone and not finding any success, you can narrow your focus to a smaller group, find a niche practice, or continue marketing to a wider audience. Whatever approach, use the tools, like blogging to widen your visibility.

 

I recently ran into a lawyer I coached a few years ago. When her coaching program began, I reviewed her answers to my coaching questions. I could tell that she had not given much thought to what she wanted to accomplish and where she wanted to focus. Like many lawyers I have known, she basically said “I do not want to narrow my focus because I might miss an opportunity.” In our first meeting I told her that her approach had not worked for me and I seriously doubted it would work for her.

When she picked her chin up off the floor, I explained. Early in my career in the 1970s, I thought the same way. I was a commercial litigator in Roanoke, Virginia and I  did not be “pigeonholed” into a narrow practice.  So I worked on everything from criminal cases to government contract cases.  I even tried and won a patent infringement case. Then, I successfully defended a white collar criminal case. I marketed to anyone who might potentially need to hire a litigator.

 

While I enjoyed trying the cases, this approach didn’t work for me, and may not work well for you. I realized that trying to reach and connect with potential clients in a wide variety of  industries and to build relationships with so many people is time-consuming, expensive and challenging. I also realized that business clients want their lawyers to understand their business as much as the law impacting their business.

When I tried to market my services to everyone I ended up marketing to no one. What would I write about? What organizations would I be given an opportunity to speak? Less important to many, but very important to me, I ended up working within a lot of industries (mobile homes, coal mining) I just wasn’t passionate about. I wasn’t having very much fun and I wasn’t developing my own business.

As you know, I changed my focus and narrowed my target market to construction and later even more narrow to highway and transportation contractors. It was by far the most important decision I made in my career. It took some time to get traction. But, almost immediately my efforts were more effective and were certainly more efficient.

If you focus your client development efforts on an industry or a niche practice you are really passionate about, you will likely share my experience. You will see the same people at your industry’s annual meetings. You will be asked to speak at those meetings. You might be able to write columns for industry magazines that these same people read.

By focusing on an industry and your specialization within it, it’s easier to establish credibility and develop relationships.  Also, when you have something to talk about of genuine interest to you and your potential clients, it’s not just “work” anymore.

P.S. The lawyer I coached narrowed her focus and over time began to raise her visibility and credibility in her niche. That led to getting asked to write and speak, which in turn led to new business.