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October/November 2008 Issue | Volume 34 Number 7| Page 9

Law Firm Strategy

Avoiding Commodity Status

Every entrepreneur dreams of developing a business that has no competition. As a lawyer, there is one area in which you can begin to establish a monopoly: a uniquely defined area of expertise. Why go to the trouble? Because the more interchangeable you are with other lawyers, the more vulnerable you are to providing services for discounted fees. If you have no recognized special quality and occupy no distinctive niche, you are a commodity and may expect to be priced accordingly.

So, what can you do better than your competition? And how can you determine when you have a monopoly? Today Google provides the proof. In the world of Google, you need to get your link on the first page in a list of search results, which means in the first 10 hits. Your -ultimate goal is to be the top listing. It is very difficult to achieve this—yet many lawyers still manage to do it.

For example, if you Google “vaccine lawyer,” in most instances your first hit will be Kevin P. Conway and his Boston-based law firm specializing in vaccine injury cases. For Kevin there is little competition. He has positioned himself and his firm to be synonymous with the term “vaccine lawyer.” Or, if you Google “water and land-use law” today, attorney James M. Olson, having been recently cited in a prominent article in Business Week, comes to the forefront. But select “water law expert” and you find entirely different attorneys. Just keep in mind that you can change a few words to redefine the focus and be seen as the go-to expert in a different niche.

So, what makes you special? Is there any reason someone would find you on Google? If not, why not?

About the Author

Patrick J. McKenna is a principal with Edge International, consults with law firms on competitive strategy, and can be reached at (780) 428-1052.