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Why Turning Away Clients Gets You More Clients

I’m a huge believer in focusing on a single area of practice. I’m convinced that being focused, early, was the principal factor in my initial success.

We all need to be known, liked and trusted. Narrowing the focus of your practice will rocket you forward on the “known” front. It sure did for me.

Last week I was a guest on the premiere episode of The Un-Billable Hour with Rodney Dowell. We started talking about the reluctance of new lawyers to focus on a niche. They get nervous about turning away business, any kind of business, and they take cases that fall outside of their chosen area of focus.

Why do they do it? The money, of course.

I understand being scared about income. It’s tough out there and it’s incredibly tempting to take work outside of your niche when you’re having a slow month.

But, it’s important to let it go. It’s important to stay focused and build your practice by doing the work in the niche you’ve selected.


A bunch of things happen when you stay focused -

First, you have free time to dig deeper into your area of focus. You can spend more time on the matters you have and keep learning. When you learn more you (1) can charge more, (2) you become more efficient, (3) you can delve more deeply into sophisticated issues and cases within your niche by earning the opportunity to take on higher value projects.

Second, you keep building your reputation in the niche. The client’s you’re working with are spreading the word. You’ve got time to meet with referral sources. Everyone comes to know you as the “go to” person for your area of practice.

Third, you get the opportunity, with every case, to meet people that might refer to your practice. Even if you’re taking the cases at a lower fee than you’d like, you’ll be meeting judges, lawyers, clerks, experts and others that will refer business to you. They’ll know what kind of law you practice and they’ll likely remember you.

Finally, every time you turn away business you create a grateful person in your marketplace. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say someone calls you and asks you to handle a traffic ticket case. You respond by telling the caller that you aren’t really expert in that area of law, that you appreciate the call, but that your practice is limited to family law. You, of course, refer them to someone that can help.

The caller now gets that you’re the family law expert. They appreciate that you weren’t willing to take their money to do something you aren’t qualified to do. They appreciate your help in finding the right lawyer. They tell their friends about you because you did something remarkable – you put their interests above your own. You also generate goodwill with the attorney you referred the traffic ticket to. Win-win-win.

Bottom line – turn down the money. That’s how you make more money over the long haul.

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  • Bill

    Additionally, if you take a case outside of your niche, particularly something you’re not well versed in, you’re likely to screw something up (or several things) along the way. Even if you don’t, you probably won’t convey confidence as you would if you knew the area inside and out. Clients pick up on this. If you lose, that lack of confidence will ‘prove’ that ‘they got screwed’. If you win or get them a favorable settlement, they’ll just think you did your job. So there’s a ton of downside and very little upside. Hell hath no fury like a client who thinks they got screwed by their lawyer

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Lee Rosen

Lee Rosen has practiced family law for more than twenty years. With four offices, Rosen Law Firm serves Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rosen served as the Law Practice Management Editor of the ABA Family Advocate for more than a decade and received the ABA James Keane Award for excellence in eLawyering. He served as Chair of the Law Practice Management Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, is a frequent speaker and is often sought out by the media as a source of family law insight and commentary.