Recently, I participated in a program which included a panel of three in-house lawyers. They shared many valuable things to the lawyers who attended. One point they stressed was the importance of understanding their industry and their business.

I often say:

If you market to everyone you market to no one.

Over the years I have known many fine litigators who have told me they did not want to become “pigeon holed” into one area.

I started along the same path when I was trying to attract commercial litigation. The best moves I made were narrowing my focus and marketing efforts to construction contractors and later to the transportation construction industry.

Narrowing my focus to an industry enabled me to understand the problems and opportunities and changes contractors were dealing with, know the influencers personally, get opportunities to write in industry publications and to speak at industry events.

I was hired to help on construction projects, in part because I had studied and  understood how they were designed and built.


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Other professional services firms focus on industries. Large law firms are organized by practice groups based on the work they do and not on based on what the clients for whom they are working do. That is backward.

In my old firm I was asked to try and “cross sell” our labor and employment lawyers and environmental lawyers. Clearly this makes sense because the construction industry has lots of legal work in both those areas.

There was only one slight problem: None of our labor and employment or environmental lawyers understood the construction industry, much less established a reputation in the industry. They had neither written articles nor spoken at industry meetings. They had not even read construction industry publications.

How could I cross-sell their services other than on blind faith in my judgment? I often thought about what we could have accomplished if one or more lawyers in those groups had focused on the construction industry.

What do you know about your clients’ industry and their business? Find ways to continually learn more and you will become a more valued lawyer.