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The Dangers of Being a Generalist

One big mistake I see lawyers making in their marketing and advertising is trying to be all things to all people. They market a broad range of services in order to cast the widest possible net for new cases and clients. As result, their websites and advertising copy are jam packed with too many practice areas and sub practice areas.

This is a mistake.

Why? Because you can’t afford to send a message out into the market that you are a generalist. You may not think so, but that’s exactly what we say when we advertise more than a small handful of practice areas that we are trying to attract. People aren’t looking for generalists; they’re looking for specialists.

Why Do We Do It?

So why do we do it? Well, in my experience there are several reasons:

    1. FOMO: Essentially, this is done due to a Fear of Missing Out. We worry that if we eliminate a practice area, we will miss out on that big case in that area that will make us a lot of money at some time in the future.
    2. FOMO Part 2: The other kind of FOMO is caused by that case that may have come in several years ago in that practice area, one in which you made a big fee, and you’re hoping to get another one again.
    3. Uncertainty as to what practice areas are really bringing in the money and which aren’t.
    4. You are in a small, legal market with few, if any, competitors, and feel that you have to be broad-based in your practice in order to stay in business.
    5. Your web site and digital marketing vendor said that you had to.
    6. You are trying to attract cases you can refer out for a fee.

Why Shouldn’t We Do It

Here are some of the problems with casting too wide a net.

First, people are looking for a lawyer to solve their one issue. Naturally, they want someone who really knows what they’re doing and has a lot of experience. When they are looking at attorney websites they will therefore be more likely to choose the lawyer who only does a handful of practice areas because that makes them appear to be specialists. They’re not going to want a generalist for their case. We’ve all heard the saying, a jack of all trades and master of none. Is that how you want to be perceived by potential clients?

Second, you can’t be an expert in everything. Being a generalist can spread you too thin, making you more prone to mistakes and, God forbid, malpractice. Concentrating on a few practice areas will make it much easier for you to stay up on the law and more likely to identify some of the nuances that some cases can present.

Third, being an expert in a few (or fewer) things will make you stand out. You will appear to be a subject matter expert. As a result, people will talk about you, your reputation will grow, and you’ll get more referrals.

Fourth, and just as important when it comes to digital marketing, you will appear to be authoritative to Google. The fewer practice areas you have, the easier it will be to produce more content for them. Google will see all of that content in that narrow range of practice areas and be more likely to conclude that your site is authoritative. Once that happens, they will serve you up more in the search results.

Finally, as a practical matter, it’s just more expensive to advertise many different practice areas effectively. Just as it takes more time and energy to create loads of content for a great many practice areas, it costs more money for print advertising in all of them. By concentrating your time and marketing spend on the handful of practice areas that bring in the most money, you will see higher profits and return on investment.

The Bottom Line

In summary, while limiting your practice areas might seem counterintuitive (and even scary) at first, it’s a powerful strategy that, when executed well, leads to a more successful, fulfilling, and profitable legal practice. The key is to understand that by specializing, you’re not limiting your opportunities; instead, you’re enhancing your ability to attract, engage, and retain clients who are the best fit for your firm.

Need More?

Not sure whether your website is trying to do too much, or is too broad and its practice spectrum? Don’t know where to begin in narrowing things down? Then click on this link to schedule a quick call to discuss your situation and how my comprehensive review of your site can get you started in the right direction.

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Steve Richardson

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