Expanding into a New Practice Area

A new practice area can bring in additional clients, increase business from current clients, and diversify your firm to make it more financially stable. But stepping into a new practice area requires careful planning and marketing to ensure that your new venture is a business builder, not a waste of time and energy.

Reasons to Expand

Sometimes, a new practice area is thrust on you. During the economic downturn that started around 2008, plenty of real estate lawyers started doing foreclosure defense. Now that the tide of foreclosure has ebbed, those same lawyers are looking to transition to something else. If you have the type of practice that can rise and fall with the economy – like business transactional work or bankruptcy – adding another complementary practice area can make you less vulnerable when the economy shifts.

A new practice area can also give you additional opportunities to serve the clients you already have. Selling new services to existing clients is usually more cost-effective than finding new clients. A divorce firm might start offering estate planning services. A business lawyer might begin handling employment or trademark matters.

And a new practice area might help you achieve other goals, like expanding your practice or transitioning to another legal specialty that you find more interesting and enjoyable.

Choosing a New Practice Area

A new practice area must be economically viable, and your lawyers must have sufficient expertise to represent clients competently.

On the economic side, evaluate how much business you can expect to bring in through this new practice area. Start by talking to your existing clients. Are their additional legal services that they need, but can’t currently get from your firm? What about the community at large? Is there a glut of lawyers in the practice area you’re considering, or is there a need for more?

Then consider the cost of expansion, in both time and money. To become competent in your new practice area, you may need to complete additional education, hire another lawyer or establish an “of counsel” relationship with an experienced attorney. You also need to consider what it will cost to effectively market the new practice area. This could mean anything from newsletters and phone calls to a complete website design and rebranding because “divorcelawyers.com” doesn’t effectively sell your new personal injury practice.

If the projected benefits outweigh the costs, the new practice area is probably a good bet. If not, consider whether there are ways to get more business in the practice areas you currently have, or whether there is another practice area that would give you a better cost-benefit analysis.

Launching the New Practice Area

Before you launch your new practice area, be sure you have the tools and resources you need to effectively represent clients. If necessary, notify your malpractice carrier. Then develop a marketing plan to get the word out.

For current and former clients, informal conversations and an email announcing the new practice area may work well. The new practice area should be added to your website, and you may want to feature it prominently on your home page. Update your information in legal directories and social media accounts, and consider mailing out formal announcements.

It will take time to establish yourself in the new practice area, which means you shouldn’t abandon your marketing efforts in the areas where you already practice. Evaluate your marketing plan regularly to make sure you are using the best and most effective ways to promote your firm.