Do you ever feel that you’re just one lawyer in a large sea of others? New lawyers often begin their practices wondering how to distinguish themselves from the hundreds or thousands of other lawyers occupying the same niche. And lawyers who’ve been in practice for some time may have the same nagging question. Though the question may fade, it frequently re-emerges when a lawyer is preparing to grow her practice or is considering some shift in substantive areas.
Differentiation from other lawyers and law firms is useful in marketing and business development conversations. So, how can you differentiate yourself?
While the options are potentially limitless, three examples may help you to create your own ideas.
- Blog. My background is in patent litigation, and when in practice I often referred to the Patently-O Blog by Dennis Crouch. Patently-O is know for, among other things, its full coverage of every patent case decided by the Federal Circuit. It became the go-to reference for what’s going on in patent law, and I’d venture to guess that an amazingly high number of patent lawyers and “civilians” who are interested in patent law read the blog on a near-daily basis. I was astonished when I learned that Dennis started the blog less than a year after being admitted to practice. He’s since moved on to academia, a move that was quite likely assisted by his blogging efforts as well as his other credentials.It may be a bit of overstatement to say, “blog it and they will come,” but it isn’t a bad starting point since blogging provides a platform through which a lawyer may share resources, analysis, and enough personal content to become known to readers. Blogging is a good way to build your repurtation as an expert in your field. It’s also a good way to begin to form relationships with other bloggers and, perhaps, with your readers. I would not recommend relying on a blog as your primary avenue for bringing in new business, but it’s a good complement for many lawyers.
- Create a unique experience for your clients. What can you offer clients that other lawyers don’t? The opportunities vary widely by practice area, but any value-added service is a good step toward differentiation. Be attentive to the habit that may set you apart from others, including quick responses to telephone calls and emails, offering regluar case updates, and providing educational resources on topics such as how to prepare to give deposition/trial testimony or what to consider when getting ready to make estate plans.Another idea: introduce your client to every member of your legal team who will be involved with the representation. Even something as quick as an introductory letter identifying other lawyers, paralegals, and office assistants that is signed by each can offer a client comfort when contacting your office. Consider, of course, what is appropriate for your practice: what will impress a family law client may be radically different from what will impress the CEO or general counsel of a multi-million dollar corporation.Beyond adding value for your clients, look for ways to create value for them. If your clients’ children often accompany them for visits to your office, have some books and toys in a kid-friendly corner. If you become aware of a new issue or development that your clients need to understand better, create a presentation or an article that you can use to educate them. What can you bring to an engagement that others can’t or don’t?
- Become active and visible in the community. Volunteering, serving on boards, or working with non-profits in other capacities is a good way to become known. It provides a context for conversations that often makes it more comfortable for reluctant networkers, and it may present you the opportunity to offer guidance and suggestions that serve as a taste of the service you offer clients. Moreover, you may have opportunities to speak or write through these channels, both of which will serve to raise your profile.
Be clear about what makes you different. If you want to differentiate yourself from other practitioners, it’s imperative to connect with an internal compass that will point to what does indeed make you different. If you don’t know what that is, you won’t be able to convince anyone else.