When Steve Jobs returned to Apple after being fired from the company he started, he did a miraculous yet simple thing. He paired down what Apple was doing. Versus having multiple projects going in various directions, he brought everything down to the lowest common denominator.
In a quote that explained Jobs’ thinking, he said this:
“People think focus is saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things we’ve done.”
In employing this approach, Apple once again rose to the top of the level. A company that was on the decline suddenly turned it around. Based on this approach, Jobs is largely viewed as one of the most successful business people in recent memory.
In this vein, how many lawyers, and law firms practice, in various areas of law? How many lawyers practice criminal and family law, for example? Or how many law firms practice personal injury and traffic tickets? In some cases, law firms really hedge their bets and practice in a litany of areas. We’ve all seen the webpages where the lawyer is throwing it all up against the wall in the hopes that something sticks.
At the end of the day, this is not a pathway for success for most lawyers. It’s almost always better to focus on one area of law and refer everything else out to those who do not practice in your area and refer back. By doing this, you actually gain the short and long-run. You become very proficient in the area of law you practice. The potential clients that come and see you can sense it. At the same time, you get referrals from others that don’t practice in the area you focus on. All of a sudden, a failing practice turns into a successful one.
It’s a hard transition for some to make. Some don’t trust it and continue dabbling in a little bit of everything. But except in rare situations, this is not a pathway for success. Lawyers need to pick one practice area and stick with it.