Is your law firm ready to diversify its legal services? Expanding to a new practice area can be professionally rewarding and financially profitable. But there are a few things you should do if you want to diversify and serve all your clients well.
If you don’t have experience in a practice area, you need to first reach competence or hire a competent associate to fill in the gaps. Here are a few tips:
- Study the basics. Create your own mini-curriculum so that you can learn the practice area you wish to include in your law firm offerings. It will take years before you can master a practice area but if you have a focused study plan, you can gain a basic understanding of the practice area relatively quickly.
- Get a mentor. If you’ve been networking regularly, you should already have a few people in your professional network who are experienced in the practice area you’re studying. Reach out to them and ask them to serve as your mentor. Even if you have to pay them for their time, it’s a good investment as you try to get up to speed in the practice area of your choice.
- Volunteer. As you’re gaining competency in your chosen practice area, consider volunteering your services pro-bono to a charitable organization. This will give you an opportunity to practice your skills and gain valuable experience with clients who badly need your legal expertise.
Once you’ve reached a basic level of competency, you can begin offering your services in that new practice area.
If you’re new to a practice area, you will need to consider that in your fee structure. This doesn’t mean that you charge “bargain” rates but it does mean that you charge fees that are in line with your experience and knowledge. And don’t forget, you’re already bringing lawyer experience and skills that is transferable across practice areas.
If you’ve never worked a case in a particular practice area before, be honest with your clients. Let them know that while you haven’t tried a case in that practice area in the past, you do have a lot of experience as an attorney and you will do your best to represent them competently.
When you first enter into a new practice area, don’t go for the most complex cases first. Start off with simple cases that will help you get experience and that only require the most basic understanding of the practice area. Once you get a few small cases under your belt, you can expand to more difficult and challenging legal issues.
Even if you’re a solo-practitioner, hiring another attorney to work with you when you first expand to a new practice area can help you make the leap. Working with an experienced attorney will allow you to take on both simple and complex cases in the new practice area and you will have someone on hand to answer questions.
If planned carefully, expanding to new practice areas can significantly increase your law firm’s revenue and client base.