Building a Litigation Practice
Many new lawyers think litigation will be like a televised courtroom drama. They quickly learn otherwise. Litigation means a lot of research and writing, strict adherence to deadlines and court rules, and a high tolerance for conflict. Litigators must learn to think on their feet. They do a lot of analysis and strategizing. Once in a while, they may even try a case.
Litigation is unpredictable. You never know when opposing counsel will file an emergency motion that keeps you up all night. You can’t predict how judges will rule. A quiet case can suddenly get very active, and the one that’s been keeping you busy for months can suddenly settle. Sometimes, the workload truly is feast or famine.
Finding Your Niche
Since any type of dispute can lead to a lawsuit, litigation spans a very broad swath of the law –including personal injury, products liability, medical malpractice, labor and employment law, environmental law and real estate law. Many litigators focus on either plaintiff’s or defense work, but not both, to avoid conflicts and make the practice easier to market.
Within these practice areas, consider honing in on a specific niche. The niche might be an area you have developed expertise in, an aspect of law that interests you, or something that dovetails with a hobby. Narrowing your focus makes it easier to market your litigation practice and establish a name for yourself. Examples of niches include:
- Representing people injured in motorcycle accidents
- Representing veterans in discrimination cases involving disabilities
- Trademark infringement litigation
- Representing people with traumatic brain injuries in personal injury and medical malpractice cases
- Representing franchisees in disputes with their franchisors
Infrastructure: Resources and Staff
Litigators need access to legal research materials, usually through an online legal research provider with strong search capabilities. Treatises, practice guides and local court rules should also be part of a litigator’s library.
Legal assistants and paralegals are critical to many litigators’ practices, handling such things as correspondence, document assembly, filing and service, and preparation of exhibits. A good legal assistant knows the nuts and bolts of getting things done and can free lawyers to focus on practicing law.
Depending on the practice area, litigators may need to develop relationships with outside experts such as doctors, accountants and engineers. These experts can be invaluable in helping to establish a client’s case or discredit the opposition.
Marketing for Litigators
The marketing strategy for a litigation practice varies wildly depending on the practice area and whether you’re on the plaintiff’s or defense side.
A plaintiff-oriented practice means marketing to consumers. High profile personal injury lawyers run TV commercials and advertise on billboards, but expensive paid advertising is not the only way to build a consumer-oriented practice. Some firms focus on building their internet search rankings, or they scan police reports and send mailings to people who have been injured in accidents (making sure to comply with all applicable ethics rules). Still others build relationships with chiropractors and doctors who may refer their patients. Speaking engagements and community involvement can also help a lawyer reach more consumer clients.
A defense-oriented practice will have business or insurance company clients, and that means your marketing should convince in-house counsel and corporate executives that you can competently and successfully handle their matters. Instead of having a website geared toward search engine rankings, it may be important to publish articles on the website and on LinkedIn that showcase your knowledge. Consider becoming active in industry trade groups, speaking to industry groups and writing for trade publications.
A business litigation practice may not focus on either plaintiffs or defendants, and the clients could be either small businesses or major corporations. Identifying a specific industry or type of case to focus on can greatly help you market yourself. Many of the same marketing strategies that apply to a defense-oriented practice can also work for business litigators. Business litigators should also develop connections with transactional lawyers and seek to establish mutual referrals.