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Should You Specialize?

I, personally, do not recommend you consider “specialization” until you have been in practice for six months to one year. I believe you need this time for two reasons:

  1. To find out the areas of law for which there is a need for lawyers in your area.
  2. To get a feel for different areas of law to determine the area or areas you enjoy practicing.

On the other hand, successful new lawyers starting a practice tell me they get a faster start in their practice by partially limiting their area of practice from the very beginning. They report they get more immediated referrals from older lawyers and from other professionals by stating they “specialize” or “concentrate” or “limit their practice to” or “emphasize” a specific area of law. (The exact wording you can use will depend on the rules in your state.)

The new lawyers tell me they ask other lawyers in the community where there is a need for lawyers in terms of the area(s) of law involved. The new lawyers then tell the practicing lawyers they are willing to do those areas. The new lawyers then begin getting referrals immediately in the chosen areas of law. As time goes on the new lawyers also get cases and clients in other areas of law in order to broaden their experience.

A possible solution would be to announce to professionals that you have a “specialty” (again, your state rules will dicate what you can say), but to accept work in as many areas as possible to get a taste of other areas of law.

After your practice gets going, I suggest you have two specialty areas plus general practice, or two specialty areas. Clients will feel more comfortable feeling that you “specialize” in their problem area. On the other hand, it is dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket. Areas of law practice could get eradicated by a single court decision or legislative act. You don’t want to find yourself a “specialist” in a nonexistent area of law practice without a fall-back area of law practice. You also wish to be in a good position whether the
economy is up or down.

From the book “How to Start and Build a Law Practice”