In a survey of 171 divorce attorneys, more than 85 percent of them reported they are in a “highly competitive” business. The remaining 15 percent identify the business as being “competitive.” None of them said the business was not competitive.
According to Ellen Rabasca, an accountant and partner at Geltrude & Company, who directs their divorce practice, “Looking out over the next three years, without question, the ability to bring in new business is critical to a legal practice’s success. According to the divorce lawyers surveyed, topping the list of key success factors is bringing in new clients. What is more telling is that close behind is the ability to bring in new wealthy clients.”
Strongly related to bringing in new wealthy clients is having a substantial professional brand. Nearly four out of five of the divorce lawyers surveyed anticipate taking concerted steps to improve their professional brand in the coming three years. The need for high recognition regularly proves to be central in order to access wealthier clients.
Bringing on talented junior divorce lawyers was identified by almost 20 percent of those surveyed as a viable way to grow their practices over the next three years. “Considering the structural nature of legal work, the ability to leverage talented juniors can be financially rewarding. This, of course, necessitates there will be sufficient business to justify the added expense,” says Rabasca.
Only one in six of the divorce lawyers believe cross-selling additional legal services will be instrumental to their success. There are two reasons for this result. First, most professionals – divorce lawyers, other types of lawyers, accountants, wealth managers, and so forth – are not particularly adept at selling the services of other professionals. This is frequently more so in the case of lawyers.
While the logic for cross-selling additional legal services is quite sound and potentially very rewarding, there are typically operational and individual impediments that negate the opportunities. Second, and closely tied to the first, the upside for cross-selling is habitually limited in most situations. That is, there is often no meaningful financial advantage compared to the possible downside for doing so.
Only three of the divorce lawyers surveyed identified the value of improving their technical skills. This does not mean that these attorneys are not focused on staying state-of-the-art. All it means is that being highly technically competent is not seen by nearly all of them as the way they are going to grow their practices in the near future. Considering that all professional services are – at their core – commodities that are often not truly understood by clients, a divorce attorney working to be more technically adept is only likely to put that professional on the same playing field as the many other capable divorce lawyers.