Become a Brand, Not A Commodity: How to Stand Out in an Increasingly Competitive Legal Marketplace

This article is a modified excerpt from our 2017 Special Report: Become a Brand, Not a Commodity: How to Stand Out in an Increasingly Competitive Legal Marketplace

For centuries, attorneys have enjoyed a prominent role in society. Recognized for their intelligence, discernment, and education, attorneys commanded respect – and were able to enjoy a high standard of living in recognition of their contribution to a healthy and just society.

Today, the legal profession is changing rapidly. High levels of competition combined with rapid changes in technology have created unprecedented market conditions. Not only are there more practicing attorneys in the United States than ever before, but the emergence of “DIY” legal services such as LegalZoom and RocketLawyer have created extremely low-cost (or even free) legal solutions for many consumers.

In addition, services such as Avvo Advisor make it possible for consumers to instantly connect with a lawyer on the phone and pay as little as $39 for a 15-minute conversation. Think Uber – but instead of a car and driver, the app connects consumers with a lawyer.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s another major shift on the horizon – the emergence of artificial intelligence as a threat not only to low-skill jobs, but also to highly-educated professionals such as accountants, doctors, and yes, even lawyers. (Harvard Business Review recently published an article on the subject: Technology Will Replace Many Doctors, Lawyers, and Other Professionals. It’s obviously speculative at this point- but still worth monitoring.)

These changes have been years or even decades in the making, but the pace of change is only increasing. Combine these forces with the skyrocketing cost of law school, staggering amounts of student loan debt, and the oversupply of lawyers in many markets, and there’s plenty of cause for alarm.

Now here’s the thing: most of these forces are beyond your control. There’s not much you can do to stop change from arriving. What you can control is your response. And believe it or not, there’s an opportunity presenting itself in the midst of this rapid evolution. Most lawyers react to these market forces by panicking, lowering their rates, chasing any potential client with a pulse, and essentially becoming commodities.

That’s the opposite of what you should be doing – namely, building a brand for yourself as an expert in your practice area and finding ways to create value for your clients above and beyond what they’ll find elsewhere. If you allow yourself to become a commodity, you’re at the mercy of market forces – and as we discussed above, that’s not a safe place to be right now. Instead, your goal should be to build a brand for yourself that sets you apart from the other lawyers and legal providers that are crowding the market.

This requires a different mindset, and the first step is to accept the reality that a significant percentage of potential clients out there, perhaps even the majority, are always going to choose the cheapest solution – DIY online solutions if possible, and if forced to hire a “real” attorney, the absolute cheapest guy in town.

Don’t chase those clients.

It’s a race you can’t win. There will always be someone willing to work for less. And if you attempt to play this game, you’ll end up over-worked and miserable because you’re not making enough money to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, let alone hire the staff you need to create a thriving and sustainable practice. around.

Instead, commit to building a brand and a reputation that positions you as the “go-to” guy or gal in your market. When you establish your brand as a leading expert, when you find a way to provide unique value to your clientele, price becomes much less important because you’re not a replaceable commodity anymore. You’ll earn more referrals and clients will begin to seek you out, rather than the other way around.

For more information, including critical action steps you can take immediately, click here for free & instant access to the full Special Report.

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Daniel Decker

Daniel Decker is a co-founder and Partner at Spotlight Branding. In addition to helping lawyers stand out from the crowd, he spends his time writing, dreaming up new marketing strategies, and coming up with catchy subject lines. In his spare time, Daniel enjoys playing sports, guitar, politics, and Minnesota sports.

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