Solo attorney, Joleena Louis, discusses how she learned a new practice area, adoption, to compliment her matrimonial solo law practice.
One of the most common bits of advice I received when starting my practice was to focus on a specific practice area.
This makes sense for many reasons, including it being easier to become proficient at one thing as opposed to being mediocre at many. However, as a cash strapped solo you will inevitably take or at least consider taking a case in an area you are not fully familiar with.
Very early in my practice I received a lot of inquiries about adoption. It was not an area I was familiar with and I had no one in my network that could take the referral. After turning away a few potential clients I decided that I should do some research to determine if this was something I could do.
Here’s how I began learning a new practice area.
I reached out to attorneys with the experience.
The first thing I did was try to talk to an attorney who had experience in adoption. While adoption is a complementary practice to matrimonial law, it is still an entirely different ballgame, especially if one has never done it.
I eventually found someone in my office suite who is used to the practice and she was kind enough to explain the process and lead me to some resources.
I researched the practice area.
Next, I read everything I could find on the subject and watched a few CLE videos. While researching, I also made it a point to meet adoption attorneys and social workers to get more information
Good old fashioned research never goes out of style, especially when you are trying to learn a practice area. In fact, trying to gather as much information as possible really can save you from potential malpractice.
I made my abilities clear with clients.
While I go through the learning process, I find it is also important to be completely honest with my first few adoption clients about my limited experience.
I thought this would be a problem, but I was generally trusted.
I compensated by offering a lower rate and not billing for time I spent learning the ropes.
I personally think it’s important to my brand to only invest the time and energy in areas that that compliment my primary practice area. Not only does it make it easier to cross sell my services, I also look more credible to potential clients. Being familiar with Family and Surrogate’s courts made it so much easier to navigate the forms and processes since they were not that different than what I’m used to.
In deciding to take a case outside of your practice area, competence is key. You don’t have to be an expert but you do have to be able to provide competent representation. Being upfront about your experience, having a more experienced attorney to go to with questions, and learning as much as you can about the new area of law will put you on the right track.