Every so often, we run into a college acquaintance or receive a phone call from a family member or friend of a friend who has a legal question. When this happens, younger attorneys are usually readily able to identify issues that fall within their practice areas. However, we often brace ourselves for the inevitable disclaimer that “I don’t specialize in that area of the law,” or, “Let me put you in touch with someone who works in that field.” As we all know, networking and business relationships define your personal business development; thus, redirecting or turning away potential business because of your lack of familiarity with another practice area may hinder the growth of your book of business.

Whether you are an associate, corporate counsel, work for a governmental agency or have your own law practice, it is crucial to be generally knowledgeable in multiple areas of the law. In law school, our professors urged us to focus on a specific subject-matter area of law and to gain as much expertise as possible. However, having at least a rudimentary understanding of other areas of practice is essential. Think of it as having a two-minute drill or an elevator spiel ready to go for those times you bump into that casual potential client. Knowing more than just one particular specialty helps not only to reassure the potential client that you can fully serve their needs, but it also showcases the talent and practices available at your respective firm, corporation or business. This professional growth also makes you more marketable as you transition through different phases of your career.

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