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How Lawyers Can Succeed by Developing Careers as Specialists

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Experts get to experience more focus and charge more for their services. What more do lawyers need to know before narrowing down their niche?

Expertise lends a strategic advantage over the long term. Business development cycles can be exhausting. Narrowing your niche into a specialty can deliver clients who are willing to pay a premium for your services with less effort than it takes to find clients who won’t pay their bills.

Most lawyers fall in the middle of the generalist-to-specialist spectrum. Expertise evangelist Jay Harrington, author of One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Law Practice illustrates the differences across the work of a “Jack of All Trades” and “Master Craftsman”. Male-oriented terminology aside, Jay’s comparison highlights four benefits to specializing in his piece for Attorney at Work.

  • Specialists get work when results, not price, matter. Generalists get price sensitive work.
  • Specialists are busy and focused. Generalists are busy and scattered.
  • Specialists are sought after. Generalists seek out work.
  • Specialists control client engagement. Generalists don’t.

Generalists never control client engagement? Specialists evolve from generalists. You can start your evolution even if you can’t yet conceive what specialty would return enough income and fulfillment by focusing on the clients and humans already in your life. Develop your communication skills and client relations processes — start with these resources. Jay Harrington presented a webinar for us a couple years back, in which he shares an anecdote about how a small, young San Francisco firm recognized an opportunity to narrow their consumer finance litigation by focusing on lawyers departing partnerships. You can catch that at around the 32-minute mark below, or viewing here on YouTube.

Self-awareness is everything in career development. Otherwise, you might find yourself pursuing nicely packaged opportunities that aren’t fulfilling enough to sustain your efforts. Work-life balance is an illusory goal for those who don’t feel sufficiently rewarded by their careers. Specializing in a narrow area isn’t a panacea for lawyers struggling to find work they enjoy. There’s a wild theory out there that some humans are “multi-potentialites”. You know, even Jay Harrington didn’t develop a specialty from whatever law he practiced at Skadden — he started a digital marketing agency for professional services firms.

Developing your career is some of the most involved, complex personal work you’ll ever do. We’re complex creatures in a complex economy. Yesterday’s clear-cut career paths are overgrown, and they were never as likely to lead you to fulfillment as clearing your own. And all the tools you need are in our Career Research & Development Workbook Series, introduced here. We’ve published all 5 (free!) workbooks into a single, packaged version you can download here (still free!). Or just navigate through the workbooks through the individual posts below:

  1. STRENGTHS [Workbook 1]. SWOT inside and outside to uncover your technical and core strategy, leadership, and communication strengths and opportunities that are worth your time and effort to explore.
  2. VALUES [Workbook 2]. Revisit your values, beliefs, assumptions and unconscious biases and their impact on your most important decisions.
  3. BRAND [Workbook 3]. Rebrand yourself so that your project a strong, professional presence and people remember you exactly as you want them to.
  4. PURPOSE [Workbook 4]. Repurpose your passion into a driver of your success and happiness.
  5. PATH [Workbook 5]Chart your course forward with clear goals, a step-by-step action plan, and insight for implementation accountability.


RELATED READING: Future Careers: Key Soft Skills, Specializing & Generalizing in the Legal Profession (Mass LOMAP Blog)

CATEGORIES: Law Firm Marketing | Law Office Management & Operations | Planning
TAGS: career planning | Law Practice Startup | quality of life

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