The Merits of Specialization
I was recently at lunch with one of the leading specialist litigation partners in Canada. While this partner continued to maintain a general litigation practice, she was best known for two very niche areas of litigation and was routinely sought out by clients across Canada for her expertise.
One of the interesting points she raised was on the value of specialization early in her career that led to her overall success in practice. In choosing to specialize her practice early in her career, I noted three aspects of her practice which greatly enhanced her ability to grow her practice in a competitive market:
- Clear Narrative/Brand
Having a specialized practice area allows you to more quickly establish your identity in the market. Moreover, specialization will often make it easier for you to gain recognition in the market in your area of expertise – not only through rankings, but also amongst your peers and the business community more generally, which may lead to greater opportunities
- More Focused Networking
Specialized practice areas also allow a more focused approach to identifying marketing opportunities related to your practice; invariably, there will be industry conferences and speaking opportunities related to your specialization. Perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, the more specialized your practice area, the greater the opportunity to showcase your skill set, as there will often be less competition in your area of expertise, while still an equal demand for specialized knowledge to be shared through conferences and presentations in the market.
- Enhanced Referrals
Finally, the merits of a specialized practice can open the door to greater referral opportunities from a wide range of contacts in the market. Clients talk – the more specialized the skill set, the greater your reach. The more narrow the issue, the wider the net a client will cast to find a ‘best in class’ option.
Similarly, maintaining good relationships within the legal community may create referral opportunities from other firms who may not possess your specialized area of knowledge, or even where they do, may find themselves in a conflict, opening the door to additional work in your area of specialization.
In the end, each lawyer will need to assess the merits of specialization for their practice goals. While there may be a temptation to maintain as broad practice to permit the widest range of potential referrals and opportunities in the market, perhaps the points above may encourage you to consider whether specialization may more actively benefit your practice development and focus to your career.
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