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2. Differentiate Yourself from the Competition

You know there are unique things about you and your practice, but clients can’t read your mind. They only know what they see or hear. It’s up to you to educate them. What really differentiates your firm from the sea of other practices?

law firm differentiation

Example #1: Something that’s unique about your firm is the fact that you have office hours on Saturdays. You may not see this as a uniqueness because you work most Saturdays anyway. But look at one of your prospects. She works a 9-to-5, Monday-thru-Friday job and can’t accommodate a lunch-hour consultation. You’re the only firm she knows with office hours on Saturday to accommodate her busy (but very common) schedule. Lo and behold, you have a new client simply because of unique office hours.

What? Other law firms also have office hours on the weekends? The world will never know if they don’t implement an effective marketing strategy. When you’re the first to advertise this feature, clients will see you as pioneering. Once all the other firms snap out of it and start pushing the same feature, they’ll be known as the ones who hopped onto your bandwagon. Perception is a powerful beast.

Example #2: You specialize in divorce law, but you also have a penchant for writing wills. As you’re sorting through a client’s divorce case, you are focused solely on the matter at hand. Perhaps it doesn’t occur to you immediately that your client needs to redo his will now that the divorce is nearly complete. The client walks out of your practice, unaware that you could done him a great service with a new will.

Prospects and clients are not mind readers (arguably with some exceptions). Therefore, most will never know what you’re capable of if you don’t make it known. Your marketing strategy should not only paint you in a favorable light, but also educate and inform prospects and clients on the multitude of services you provide.

Positions for Your Legal Practice

Who are you as an attorney? What’s your identity? What are you (or your firm) known for? Or, better yet, what do you (or your firm) want to be known for? Consider a few examples (and the pros and cons of each) as you consider your own positions:

  • Low-cost Provider: Flies to a honeypot. Perhaps one of the biggest concerns for potential clients is the cost of legal services—understandable since many people consider legal services to be out of their price range (this is why self-service providers like LegalZoom are becoming more popular). Stepping into the spotlight as “the cost-efficient lawyer” may be a great way to expand your services to a larger portion of your market. But be warned—it’s assumed by some lawyers that low-cost clients can often be the most difficult. Whether that’s true or not, you should always look at the upsides and downsides to any position you intend to take.
  • Attorney for Wealthy Individuals: This doesn’t mean that you should put yourself out there with the slogan, “If you’re rich, I’m your lawyer!” It’s about networking with the right people and really understanding what makes them tick and what they use in selecting legal counsel. The super-wealthy won’t pick just any attorney, but what do they consider when making that selection? It takes more than just knowing the law. Think about your prospects’ needs and desires.
  • Celebrity Lawyer: Do you want to represent celebrities? It is a niche area within all areas of the law. While the prospect pool is shallower, the quality (or at least the entertainment value) may increase. Implement the right marketing strategies and celebrity clients may be seeking you out personally. And just imagine what that can do when you start talking about referrals.
  • Senior-Friendly: Every industry at some time experiences tension between generations. Marketing to Baby Boomers is not the same as marketing to Millennials. Seniors are used to hearing a different message, so they may be intimidated by young hot-shot lawyers (although some might be impressed). Marketing your practice specifically to seniors might yield positive results for your practice.
  • The “Aggressive” Lawyer: Do you want to be known as the “aggressive” lawyer? This might draw in prospects who have been wronged in business or contract disputes or for those who have been charged with criminal offenses. Personal injury, divorce, criminal defense – some prospects believe an aggressive attorney increases their odds of winning (true or not, when you’re talking about perception, truth isn’t relevant). Be aware, however, that taking strong positions can work you out of certain markets. The “aggressive” lawyer, for example, won’t be the go-to-lawyer for a couple looking for a peaceful divorce or business partners looking for ways to resolve disputes without killing each other.
  • Detail Oriented: A common buzz term or cliché in many a resume, some prospects might appreciate a lawyer who pays close attention to every minute details. To be a detail-oriented lawyer, be prepared to back it up with substance (maybe your patent portfolio for internet technology is proof enough). Marketing based on words without substance can lead to a different reputation—and not a good one.
  • Specialize/Specialist in an Area of Law: Beware! There is a huge difference between specializing in an area of law and being a specialist in an area of law. While you’re undoubtedly aware of the difference, a reminder won’t hurt: in many states, specialists must be certified by his or her state bar association; in other states, certification is not an option but marketing as a “specialist” or “certified” is still prohibited. If a lawyer claims to be a specialist without certification, that simple claim could result in an ethics violation putting your license to practice law at risk. Review your state’s ethics rules carefully before claiming expertise or specializations.

These are just a few examples of unique qualities that can help boost you to the front of the crowd. Ask yourself what really makes your practice special? In today’s legal marketplace, there are plenty of lawyers (some suggest too many). If you want to stand out, know the answer to this question: “Who are you?”

A Quick Identity Questionnaire

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get the juices flowing:

  1. Why did you become a lawyer?
  2. If you could practice in any area of law, what would it be? Why?
  3. How would you describe yourself as a lawyer?
  4. How would others describe you as a lawyer?
  5. What are you truly passionate about regarding the law? What about outside the law?
  6. Is there a movie or television lawyer that you admire? Why?
  7. Imagine you were just awarded a “lifetime achievement award” by the American Bar Association. When the make the presentation, what do you want them to say about you?