Blog/Podcast: Want to Switch to a Different Practice Area? 4 Ways to Make It Happen
For all the different areas of law out there, it’s rare for a lawyer to practice in more than one or two in the course of their career. It’s even rarer to switch from one end of the legal spectrum to another. But that’s exactly what attorney Morghan Richardson did when she moved from corporate law to family law. She joined the Law Firm Marketing Catalyst podcast to share her advice for making a legal career change and offered four strategies for making a switch.
- Talk with different practice groups and network.
Morghan successfully made a shift from federal litigation to family law, a practice area that appealed to her because it would allow her to be more interactive with her clients. It wasn’t an easy change, however, and many people told her she couldn’t switch practice areas. But Morghan was determined and she started talking with different practice groups, both inside and outside her firm, to learn what her colleagues were working on. She recommends talking to as many lawyers as possible and asking them what they do every day, even if it feels like a basic question. She found the majority of attorneys are happy to talk about what they do.
Morghan also took every family law CLE she could find so she could learn about her new practice area and network with lawyers. Making these connections isn’t as intimidating or difficult as it may seem, and it can help you land in the right practice.
- Handle a few pro bono matters.
There is no substitute for experience. By taking on a handful of pro bono cases, you can determine if the practice area truly interests you. This is generally a no-risk test run that can tell you if it will be a good fit. Too, if you decide to make the leap, you already have a few matters under your belt and can feel more confident in your expertise.
Working on pro bono matters will also naturally place you around other lawyers in the same practice area. This creates another opportunity to pick their brains and get a sense of what it’s really like to work in the practice full-time.
- Take advantage of social media.
If you need to market yourself in a new practice area, social media is a great place to start. There’s no cost to open accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, so there’s little harm in trying them out to see if they work for you. And if you’re looking for new clients, social media can help you expand your presence and make those necessary connections.
We’re in an era where everyone has a personal brand and much of that branding is done online. Social media is a powerful tool to create credibility and brand yourself as a figure of authority in your new practice area. Plus, being active on social media can help move your website up in Google rankings, putting your name directly in front of potential clients. For something that costs little to nothing, social media can have a huge impact.
- Embrace technology.
Once you’ve moved into a new practice area, technology can help you find your footing and stay organized. Morghan suggests the practice management software Clio, which has a shared calendar, matter number management and billing, among other tools. It’s cloud based, so anyone at the firm can see what’s happening in any given case from their desktop, phone or even from an iPad in the courtroom.
Morghan also uses Lexicata, a client management program that allows her to intake new clients digitally. Clients are sent an email with a link to a retainer agreement, which they can sign on their smartphone. They can also fill out intake forms online at their convenience, which saves paper and time for both the client and the firm. Embracing these kinds of technologies can set you apart from the competition, which is vital when entering a new practice.
Follow Your Passion
If you want to change your legal focus, don’t be afraid to follow what you’re passionate about. It doesn’t matter if you start something new without knowing exactly what you’re doing, as long as you stick with it. Eventually, you’ll become proficient. By passing the bar exam, you’ve proven to yourself that you can put your mind to anything and achieve it—why deny yourself a career that will make you happy, after all the effort you’ve gone through to become a lawyer?