Specialization in Legal Practice: The Power of Niche Knowledge

Specialization in Legal Practice: The Power of Niche Knowledge

If Lawyers can practice any field of law, why specialize?

A person on Reddit recently asked:

“How can an attorney specialize in only one type of law like personal injury and refuse other work? I mean they are licensed by the state. What’s the point of specialization in legal practice? I understand they can suggest you use someone else, but it doesn’t seem right.”

Look, we get it. It seems odd that if a person goes to law school and passes their state’s Bar exam, they should just practice ALL law. From a business perspective alone, aren’t they turning away clients? Why would you want to give business to your “competitors”?

Like most things in life, it really isn’t that simple… and honestly, you wouldn’t want it to be. 

TL;DR:  By specializing in a particular area of law, lawyers can do the following for their clients:

  • Provide customized expert advice 
  • Efficient service
  • Maximize the odds of a favorable outcome

Specialized lawyers provide a level of expertise that surpasses that of a general practitioner (GP). This expertise often comes from years of handling similar cases, staying updated on the latest legal developments in their field, and building a network of relevant experts and contacts to help with any case they handle.

Understanding lawyer specialization in legal practice

Close-up photo of a flame paint job on the gas tank of a Harley Davidson Motorcycle

Think of a lawyer as a specialty mechanic. Say you have a Harley-Davidson. You want a mechanic experienced in working on motorcycles, and specifically Harley-Davidsons. Sure a John Deere mechanic has experience working on farm equipment, but that doesn’t mean you would want him working on your Harley, right? 

On the same note, would you really want a lawyer who specializes in corporate law responsible for your complicated injury case?

Let’s take it one step further. Hypothetically, if you have a medical need – say a broken bone – and need to have it set, sure a Neurosurgeon could help you, but wouldn’t you rather see an Ortho Doctor?

The point is that specializing allows a lawyer to get really good in one or two fields. There are great GPs out there who may be able to give you great advice on real estate matters or estate planning. If you have a serious personal injury case, however, your needs will likely be best served by a personal injury specialist who is almost certainly better equipped to handle your case.

Real-life impact: specialization in action

Image of examples of multiple Real Estate Law documents and a pen

Storytime! We once had a client who was referred to us after getting an initial consultation from her “family lawyer” who was a GP – handling mostly estate matters. She was happy to be working with us but admitted she felt like her family lawyer had kind of passed the buck in referring her to us.  

Now, let’s be clear. Her original lawyer’s inclination to refer her to us isn’t because they were trying to “pass the buck,” quite the opposite, actually. 

When lawyers refer cases outside of their specialty, it’s a sign of professionalism and client care. They recognize their limitations and prioritize the client’s best interest by directing them to someone more knowledgeable in that particular area. 

In fact, according to most state bar associations’ rules of professional conduct, lawyers should not handle cases in areas where they are not competent (Rule 1.1 Competence, American Bar Association model rules of professional conduct). 

Personal Injury Attorneys, The Biker Lawyers Dan Matzdorff and Pete Leehey consult with a client

What does this mean? While lawyers are licensed to practice any area of law, ethical standards encourage them to take on cases only within their areas of expertise or competence.

So what happened with our initially hesitant client? We won her case and she was awarded quite a bit more than she was expecting. Her family lawyer later told her he would have never guessed her claim had value in the ballpark of the verdict we obtained, and that this was one of many reasons he had referred her to The Biker Lawyers.

The moral of the story

It’s in the client’s best interest to work with a lawyer who specializes in the relevant area of law. Just as patients seek out medical specialists for specific health issues, clients benefit from legal specialists who have a deeper understanding of the nuances in their specific legal area. 

If you go with a GP to handle your personal injury case, their lack of specialized experience may cause them to miss something that could have completely altered the direction of your case.

Got questions? We’ve got answers: Your legal specialization FAQs, simplified

Image of two young lawyers, fresh out of law school with piles of legal books in front of them and documents behind them symbolizing how much there is to know when it comes to general law

Let’s recap and cover a few other questions you might have about legal specialization. In this article, we’ve answered the anonymous Redditer’s question and explored the significant advantages of lawyer specialization in the legal field. Just like a mechanic expert in Harley-Davidson motorcycles, specialized lawyers offer in-depth knowledge and expertise in their specific area of law.

Ultimately, specialization leads to more efficient and effective legal service, ensuring clients receive customized advice and a higher likelihood of favorable outcomes.

That said, there are still a few questions about legal specialization that we wanted to make sure we covered.

How do you know if you need Specialized Legal Advice?

You don’t know unless you ask! If you think you may need legal help, give a lawyer a call and ask for a free consultation. If you’re injured in Iowa or Minnesota, give us a call and talk to a personal injury specialist. We’ll be happy to give you a free case evaluation!

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Why do lawyers stick to one kind of law instead of doing it all?

It’s like being really good at one sport instead of okay at many. Lawyers who focus on one area, like personal injury, get really sharp in that field. They know all the ins and outs, keep up with new rules, and have the right contacts. This means they can help you way better than someone who tries to cover everything.

If a lawyer is great at one thing, can they still handle cases in other areas of law?

Sure, they can, but it’s like asking the star catcher for the high school baseball team to play point guard for the basketball team. They might know the basics, but they won’t be as slick as someone who plays basketball all the time. Lawyers usually stick to what they know best and will often pass a case to another lawyer who’s a pro in that specific area if it’s not their thing.

How do I know if I need a lawyer who specializes in something?

Think of it like needing a specific tool for a job. If your legal issue is pretty straightforward, a general lawyer might do just fine. But if it’s something tricky or unusual – like a complex injury case – you’ll want a lawyer who knows that stuff inside out. Best bet? Just chat with a lawyer and they’ll tell you if you need a specialist.

What should I look for when picking a lawyer who’s an expert in one area?

It’s a bit like choosing a mechanic for your dream bike. You want someone who’s not only worked on lots of bikes like yours but also knows all the tricks of the trade. Check out their experience in your specific legal area, see what other clients have said about them, and make sure you feel comfortable talking to them.

Cedar Rapids Iowa based Personal Injury Attorney Pete Leehey meets a client outside a courthouse.

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