Diversifying into additional practice areas is one way to expand and, hopefully, bring in new income streams. But how do you know what area of the law to get into? And how do lawyers get into a new practice without the requisite experience?

One approach is to consider areas that are either underserved or in high demand. Across many service industries, the Baby Boomer generation is driving demand and will continue to for years to come as the youngest Boomers approach retirement age. That means elder law will be a high demand area, as will estate planning and probate law.

But don’t just look at big-picture, nationwide demand; consider what is happening in your region. If your practice serves clients in or near an urban center, there may be a need for immigration lawyers. If you live in a state with a fair amount of manufacturing or industry, workers’ compensation lawyers may be in high demand. Search for lawyers with these practice areas online to gauge the competition and see what services exist in your community already.

In addition to researching the need for certain legal specialties, consider your own skills and background. Let your natural inclinations and talents inform your decision. If you know you have an affinity for numbers, you might excel at a specialty that requires a certain level of math skills — such as tax or intellectual property law. If you switched careers or were in a different area of law before you struck out on your own, the skills you used for that line of work may transfer to a new area of practice. For example, attorneys who have experience defending insurance companies have gained special insight that is valuable in representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases. Professionals who have worked in government can transfer their knowledge and original interest in civics to municipal law. Also, take in to account things you don’t like or skills you lack. Don’t enjoy working with emotionally stressed clients? Then you probably wouldn’t like practicing family or criminal law.

In addition to self-reflection and market research, networking can be a helpful learning tool. Attorneys and other professionals know the landscape of a particular area of practice in your community and can share experiences to help you avoid pitfalls.  Talk to colleagues and ask for referrals to other lawyers who practice in your area of interest. Attend conferences and networking events, including those that target other professionals, such as realtors if you are thinking about expanding into real estate law or accountants if you are considering tax law.

Once you have settled on how you want to expand your practice, you can start retooling your marketing efforts to spread the word and attract a clientele for your new specialty. Look for those strategies and tips in a follow-up post that will look at the best ways to promote a new practice area.

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