Rainmaking Recommendation #231: How to Become an Authority: Expertise

In Rainmaking Recommendation #230, I discussed why you need to become an authority in your practice area and niche. 

As mentioned in the last post, I really like Ian Brodie’s definition of authority:

Authority = Expertise* + Influence


If you have been reading these Rainmaking Recommendations for any length of time, you know that I keep saying, “You cannot be all things to all people.” The day of the general legal practitioner is long gone.  It is in your best interest as an attorney to become the most knowledgeable lawyer in a specific practice area and/or a particular niche. 

To become an expert*, you need to learn everything you can about your practice area.  You have to take the time to read, research and absorb the materials that make you a subject-matter expert.  However, if you want to take this to the next level, then not only do you need to become a subject matter expert, but you also need to become an industry/niche specialist*. 

When you learn everything you can about your target markets, you can become an advisor to those you would like to have as clients. What clients seek right now is not just an attorney who can help them with their current legal issues but also help them avoid future problems.  They want trusted advisors, and the only way to become a trusted advisor is to keep a watchful eye on what is going on in that client’s industry at all times. 

One way to become knowledgeable is to create Google Alerts on the industry and people you want to know.  It would be best if you studied everything you can about that industry or niche.

I often tell the story about my father inadvertently becoming the “Delta Divorce Attorney.” In the early 1980s, someone referred to a matrimonial case involving a Delta Airline Executive who worked at Newark Airport.  The executive was so impressed and grateful with my father’s work that he began to recommend all of the workers and executives from Delta Airlines in Newark to my dad.  Had I been his Rainmaking Trainer and Coach (and I was only in middle school at the time), I would have suggested that he become known as “The Aviation Divorce Attorney.” He could have studied everything there is to know about the Aviation industry.  For example – how pilots’ and flight attendants’ schedules may affect custody arrangements or how the pension plan worked for alimony purposes. And by learning all that he can about the aviation industry, he would have positioned himself to become known as the aviation divorce law’s authority. 

Not only am I always learning about marketing, advertising, and business development, but I am also trying to keep up with the latest news about the legal industry.  I read everything (well, part of the reason is that I am an information junkie) about legal marketing, legal tech, changes in the laws, SCOTUS blogs, and all things attorney ethics.  This allows me to advise my clients on the rainmaking subject for which I am known and other subjects that may affect their practice and business development. 


If you have been working in a particular niche or industry, you know who the movers and shakers are.  Follow and connect with them on social media.  Learn from them.  In many instances, these people will be able to help you, particularly if they are not competitive with what you do.  And if they are “competitors,” many will still connect with you. 


Join the industry’s association.  Almost every niche and industry has an association to which you can belong. Not only could you learn from being a member, but you can also provide the association with pertinent information that affects their businesses and lives.   

This brings us to another way to become an expert:


Studies have shown that when you teach what you learn, you assimilate it into your brain.  Begin teaching what you know to your chosen industry/niche.  You can do this by writing articles, blogs. Or, you can create videos, provide webinars (and in-person seminars when the world reopens fully). 

When you become so knowledgeable about the subject matter you practice and the industry/niche in which you wish to specialize*, then you can become an influencer.  But, this is the subject of our next Rainmaking Recommendation.

*In many states, the ethics rules prohibit using the terms expert, expertise, specialize, or specialist unless you are certified in a specific field of practice by an ABA recognized certification course or a licensed patent attorney. 

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