More than 40 percent of law firms say they’re planning to add one or more practice areas because of the pandemic, and 20 percent have already done so.
But these adapters say they’re taking it slowly, to allow time for retraining, marketing and reallocation of resources.
Those are some of the conclusions from a Martindale-Avvo survey of how law firms are adapting to COVID.
“Not as a knee-jerk reaction, but rather as a prudent measure to adapt to a changing world, many lawyers are looking to diversify their practices if not altogether change focus,” the survey says. “Of the attorneys we surveyed, 42 percent indicated they were considering adding at least one practice area that they weren’t practicing before COVID-19. In fact,21 percent had already added one area or more.”
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The coronavirus has not treated all law firms equally. The rug has been pulled almost completely out from under the feet of some firms. In personal injury and DWI practices, for example, fewer vehicles on the road has meant dramatically fewer cases.
And for legal matters that aren’t time-sensitive, many clients are postponing having the work done.
But not all practices have suffered. Some have soared, according to the Martindale-Avvo survey. These include:
- Bankruptcy law
- Estate planning and succession
- Disability law
- Healthcare law
- Workers’ comp, employment law and unemployment claims
- Insurance claims and defense
- Family law
- Cases alleging an employer or business failed to protect the health and safety of employees or patrons
The decision to diversify your practice and add new areas should not be taken lightly.
“Even if you do add one or refocus your current practice, you’ll need time to retrain and build business, by which point the landscape could have shifted,” the survey says. “So be sure to think both short and long term. Look to the news, reports of emerging legal trends, and the economy in general for guidance on where to refocus.”
Here are three other takeaways from the Martindale-Avvo report:
- Focus on new areas where your existing skills will easily transfer. “For example, perhaps a lawyer who has focused on business formation could pivot to advising companies on finding resources to stay afloat, helping them renegotiate commercial leases, and assisting any in need of dissolution,” according to the report. “Lawyers can even call on their current clients for inspiration. Consider checking in with your clients about the legal challenges they are facing in their personal and professional lives. Maybe touch base with them individually by phone or collectively through a private email survey. Hopefully, some themes will emerge in their responses, giving you clues about how to adapt your practice.”
- Learn the law. Of course, it’s not enough to simply want to branch out into a new area. You have to know what to do when you get there. “Bar associations, practice groups, continuing legal education programs, and even universities can be good sources for learning about new areas of law. Your focus, of course, will be on both the rules and the practical information necessary for your practice.”
- Get help. “If you’re able to successfully market your new venture but lack confidence in your ability to fully serve clients, think about hiring a freelance attorney to assist you. With massive layoffs, many lawyers are looking for gig work to get them by; you might just find someone who has the knowledge and experience you need to help you transition.”
Jay Reeves is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now he writes and speaks at CLEs, keynotes and in-firm presentations on lawyer professionalism and well-being. He runs Your Law Life LLC, a training and consulting company that helps lawyers add purpose, profits and peace of mind to their practices. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441.