Don’t Sell To Clients That Don’t Need a Lawyer (New Solo Week – Day Three)

An important part of marketing is picking the right market. You don’t want to sell ice to Eskimos. You don’t want to sell heating units to people living on the equator. You don’t want to sell water to people living in the rain forest. You should sell something people want and/or need.

One of the great advantages you bring to the market is that you have a credential – a law license – that is required if someone is to sell most of the services you might offer. Most people can’t sell legal services and you can. That’s a critical advantage over everyone else in the marketplace. It’s important for you to fully leverage every advantage you’ve earned.

Do two things – (1) sell a service that requires a law license, and (2) sell a service that is perceived as requiring a lawyer. Don’t build a practice around helping with a legal problem that most clients believe doesn’t require an attorney.

I keep running into attorneys trying to build a practice in a market where they aren’t fully leveraging their licenses. For example, child support enforcement is an area where most of the work is done by non-lawyers. Government caseworkers and IV-D agents handle most of these cases. The opposing party is usually pro se. The involvement of non-lawyers and self-represented parties drives down the fees. Don’t go there.

Stay away from areas of the law that are largely handled without attorneys or with the help of non-lawyers. Every state is a bit different. Avoid things like unemployment benefits appeals, social security disability cases and, even, mediation. I’m not saying it’s impossible to make a living handling these cases, I know some very successful lawyers handling social security cases and doing mediation. I am, however, suggesting that these are probably the toughest markets for growing a sustainable practice for someone new to a practice. More and more non-lawyers will step in to these roles and the anti-lawyer bias will provide momentum for these people. Lack of perceived need, low fees, lots of competition and a built-in bias – it’s a lot like selling ice to Eskimos.

We can go round and round about whether these clients would be better off with a lawyer over going pro se or hiring a non-lawyer. I’m not going to disagree with you about the need for lawyers. But, realistically, you don’t want to count on one of these markets as your source of income. If you’re new to practice you need to find a practice area that really requires a law license and put yours to work on behalf of your clients.

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