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The Invisible Lawyer: Shed the Status

By Candis Roussel

It’s the old “tree falling in the forest” conundrum. If a lawyer develops expertise, but no one knows about it … are they even an expert?

“Becoming an expert” is a great differentiation strategy, but the challenge is making your expertise visible to new clients. Since clients are rarely equipped to judge expertise, your differentiator — that “something” that makes your business meaningfully different from your competitors — may go unnoticed by the people who matter most.

Which begs the question: Does invisible expertise even exist?

If you’re committed to making your legal expertise visible, you won’t have to worry about answering that question.

Differentiation Strategy: Five Steps to Making Your Expertise Visible

The key to overcoming the problem of expertise invisibility? Defining your expertise as a credible and known differentiator and making your target clients aware of it. Here’s a five-step strategy.

Step 1: Determine what you want to be known for. Find a focus that is narrow enough to establish your expertise, but broad enough to appeal to a sizable audience of prospective clients. One way to do this is to find two areas that come together to create a specialty. For instance, let’s say you’re in labor law. You can look ahead and identify an opportunity for representing workers displaced by automation. By combining automation and labor law, you can break out as an expert in an emerging area.

Step 2: Do your research. Look at trends and analysis reports to determine how future business, technology and economic predictions may affect the law. Next, research your target audience so you’ll know how to best reach them when you’re showcasing your legal expertise. And don’t worry — all the researching will pay off. By taking the time to research your target client group, your firm is likely to grow faster.

Step 3: Develop your differentiators and focus. Your differentiators explain what sets you apart from the competition. For it to be a successful differentiator, you need to be able to answer yes to these three questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it relevant?
  3. Is it provable?

Once your differentiators pass this test, they can be used to develop a clear focus on your strengths. The combination of your differentiators and your focus will then inform your positioning statement — which should concisely explain what you do, who you do it for and why clients should choose you.

Step 4: Build your story. In order to have a story to tell your target audience, first you need to build a strategy that will help make your expertise visible to the world. Start with your website, then expand to other places where prospective clients can learn about you. Whether publications, webinars, workshops or speaking engagements — the list of opportunities is extensive.

Step 5: Tell the world. If building your story is the step where you make the plan, this is the step where you implement it. Make sure you track your efforts along the way so you can analyze impact and find out which channels and types of content work best for reaching your target audience.

Along the way, remember there’s more to being an expert than having extensive knowledge. True experts are also teachers. You have to be able to impart your knowledge in a way that breaks down complexity and resonates with your audience.

And now, with these steps in mind, it’s time to shed your identity as the invisible lawyer and start truly showcasing your legal expertise.


As part of our research, we’ve identified five levels of expertise. Ask yourself: Which level are you currently? Where do you hope to end up?

Level 1 – The Resident Expert: While you are recognized as an expert by clients, you are not yet well known outside of your immediate business circle.

Level 2 – The Local Hero: Your reputation is heating up and beginning to attract new business on the strength of your expertise.

Level 3 – The Rising Star: You are recognized as an emerging market leader, and are attracting better business at higher fees.

Level 4 – The Industry Rock Star: You are a nationally recognized name within your industry, attracting top clients and fees.

Level 5 – The Global Superstar: You are an elite lawyer with a stellar reputation. Major national and international clients seek you out. 

Candis Roussel is Account Director at Hinge Marketing, where she leads a team of researchers, marketing strategists, brand designers, writers and integrated marketing experts. Candis has held senior marketing roles in agency, law firm, corporate and nonprofit settings. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University and a devoted Tigers fan. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @HingeMarketing. 

Read: “Three Ways to Attract Clients by Demonstrating Expertise” by Lee Frederiksen

Illustration © Graphic courtesy of Hinge Marketing.

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Categories: Business Development, Daily Dispatch, Law Firm Marketing
Originally published August 31, 2017
Last updated October 16, 2018
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