Is It Time to Pivot Your Practice?

Many of today’s most recent Internet successes – like Uber or AirBnB started out differently from what they’ve become. Uber’s original intent was to operate an on-demand limousine service for business travelers, but today, has morphed into a ride sharing platform used by consumers. Air BnB began as a way to help budget-conscious travelers find a room with an air mattress  but today hosts luxury listings and private accommodations.

Just like these companies, many lawyers start out with the intent of taking their firm in one direction only to realize that their original plan wasn’t working. Take my own situation, for example.  After two years at government and three years at a law firm, I launched my firm hoping to lure established energy companies to my practice by competing on price. Surprise, surprise – turned out that utilities and large developers which could pass costs on to ratepayers or bury them in financing documents didn’t much care about price anyway, and preferred to hire the then-$600/hour attorneys over a $125/hour newbie.

But when I saw that business wasn’t coming my way, I didn’t throw in the towel. Instead, I looked for clients who might be a better fit for my services.  Turned out that a market was just emerging in the form of small renewable energy companies employing new technologies and who needed affordable lawyers.  I soon discovered that these clients needed something else as well: a lawyer who could help navigate issues of first impression and assess risks so that the project could move forward even in the face of regulatory uncertainty and do so cost effectively.  Those abilities and not just low cost rates have since become my super-power and companies seek me out specifically for those competencies.

Is your firm moving in the direction that you had intended when you started? Will sticking it out get you through or is it time for you to take a pivot in your practice. Maybe it’s adding  a new niche  in a new, uncharted  practice area, or developing a new business model.

Many lawyers are reluctant to abandon their original course, believing that quitting or pivoting is a sign of failure.  But as others have said, if you want to increase your success rate, you need to double your failure rate. Pivoting from plans that don’t work will lead you much more quickly to a path that does.

Have you pivoted your practice? How did that work out for you? Please share your comments below.


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