Adding new practice areas to grow your law firm and meet client demands may be rewarding, yet it takes determination and the ability to overcome the barricades to success.
There are numerous challenges to taking on new legal practice areas in an already busy profession and knowing where to start can be half the battle.
What to expect when adjusting to new legal practice areas
Adding a new area of practice requires stepping into lots of unfamiliar terrains. Not only may you have to learn an entirely new body of law, but you may also have to familiarize yourself with a different court system, or even a different legal culture.
Practice notes from Practical Law provide a 35,000-foot level treatment of subjects
Becoming proficient in new law practice areas requires studying the terminology and the legal aspects of a new specialty. The time spent learning may reduce billable hours, creating an opportunity cost for participating in continuing education.
Finding accurate resources
Experts in legal specialties use the most current and vetted resources to support their legal casework. Relying on outdated resources may lead to incomplete legal documents that contain errors. Trusting the wrong resources for a practice area may be detrimental to your legal career and result in reputation damage, litigation, or malpractice claims.
Let’s explore some ways to mitigate the problems caused by these challenges.
Four ways to reduce the challenges of expanding into new practice areas
Four ways to mitigate the risks of learning new facets of law include considering overlapping areas of law that have some similarities, working with a mentor, going back to school, and doing pro bono work for non-profits.
If you often refer your clients to ano
1. Consider areas of law that overlap your specialty
ther attorney for help in specialty areas where you have less expertise, you are giving away valuable business. Document the referrals and categorize them to gauge your losses. There may be an excellent opportunity to meet their additional legal needs in-house.
For example, family law and estate planning often overlap. Consider a client of a family law practice who is going through a divorce and wants to amend their estate planning documents, which originally left most assets to their spouse. Instead of losing business by referring your client to an estate attorney, you can quickly get up to speed on estate law to handle these matters yourself, using the right tools.
Other examples with overlapping opportunities are contract law, corporate law, and real estate law. Additionally, a specialist in worker’s compensation claims may add disability claims and appeals as a natural extension of their legal practice.
2. Find a mentor
You do not have to go it alone. Working with a mentor allows you to tap into the knowledge of someone with valuable insights that are gained only through experience. It could be a colleague, a superior, a friend from law school, or a peer from a legal networking event. Ask if they would be willing to share their knowledge and offer compensation for their help.
3. Become a student
There’s no way around it. Adding new practice areas to your current legal offerings will require some studying and may hearken back to the rigors of law school. But it doesn’t have to be as demanding and time-consuming as you remember.
Thanks to technological advances, legal resource tools are now available that explain issues clearly and offer accurate, up-to-date resources that can save you valuable time and quickly get you up to speed. The result is happy clients who trust your expertise and an increase in revenue for your practice.
Experience is the best teacher. There is no better way to learn than on the job. So why not provide pro bono work to help local non-profits and, in turn, gain valuable experience while networking with potential new clients at the same time. If you have an interest in a particular practice area, doing pro bono work can give you a chance to second-chair cases so you can support the lead attorney and learn more about what the work involves.
Giving has proven health benefits in that it may lower blood pressure and reduce stress. But make no mistake, these are real legal matters with a real-world impact on the clients’ lives. The social connection from helping others may also improve your mental health.
This strategy allows you to help those in need and hone your skills. It’s a win-win.
These four solutions allow you to expand into new areas and be seen as an innovator. Learn more about what makes a modern, forward-thinking law firm in our latest webcast,
Learning something new is exciting
By expanding into new areas of law, you will be able to demonstrate your commitment to your clients by providing the answers they need, no matter the question. This is how firms can truly become lifelong partners to their clients, by being willing and able to provide the help that they need, even when it falls outside the scope of their typical practice.
Are you ready to say yes to unexpected client requests?