Independent Thinking: Breaking Out- Expanding Into a New Practice Area

August 28, 2012

Small Law: Independent Thinking

This is the first in a three-part blog series focused on the steps to follow when expanding into a new practice area.

Expanding your legal practice into a new practice area can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it is important that you arm yourself with as much insight as possible before you begin. Over the next few weeks this series will drill down into the steps required to expand your practice effectively.

Today, we identify your target client and services.  In parts two and three we find prospects that resemble your target client, and implement strategies to engage your prospects and start them down the path to becoming clients


Your Ideal Client?

First, you’ll need to figure out who needs your services, and whether you will accept all clients or target specific segments (i.e. will you offer uncontested divorces to all comers but only handle contested divorces for two-income professional families).

To begin, define what your ideal client looks like

In the case of individuals, you can target a specific demographic

  • Household composition
  • Income level
  • Stage of life/age

Or, for business clients this type of information is referred to as “firmographics”

  •  Firm
  • Number of employees
  • Revenue
  • years in business

Your Offer

Then, from the client’s perspective, list all of the services offered in your target practice area and group them into functional categories.

For example, contract renewal is offered in business law.  Think about your client’s evolution and high-level needs at each stage: pre-formation, formation, employment, client engagement and management.

You may have duplicate services across functional categories, (contract review, for example,  crosses numerous functional areas). The result will be a client-focused services roadmap that will inform identification of your target market and your service-evolution plan, that will be covered in more detail in part two of this series.

Your Available Client

Next, because the practice of law has a jurisdictional component and you likely operate under geographic constraints, you’ll need to review your ideal client against your available client.  You may want to target two-income professional families, but if your market area is composed of single-income households with a median income of $45,000, you’ll need to rethink that strategy.

Numerous sources, such as federal and state governments, business incubators, chambers of commerce, and industry groups, provide information that can help you.

Your Competition

Don’t forget about your competition.  Competition comes from many sources including other attorneys, prepaid legal service plans, and legal clinics.  Your competition impacts your ability to attract and retain clients, and your marketing and pricing strategies.  Although it is not impossible to immediately charge premium rates in a crowded market, you may be able to to build up to higher rates over time.  The key is to understand the composition of your prospect pool and competition in your market area, and how they impact the availability of, and your ability to attract, your ideal client.

Taking these items together—services by client functional area, availability of qualified clients, and the level of competition—gives you the information necessary to find your clients (the topic of the next post) and to develop strategies to engage with them (covered in the last post of this series) which will enable you to successfully expand into your new practice area.