Productizing Your Practice: How To Make Your Legal Services More Tangible and Profitable

Reprinted from:

February 2005

Most lawyers think of themselves only as practitioners providing a professional service—and with not enough hours in the day to do even that! But I have found in my work both as a lawyer and as a consultant to other attorneys that there is a way to leverage what you're already doing to grow your practice and increase your revenue. It's called "productizing your practice."

Simply defined, "productizing" means creating tangible items or products based on the service that you are already providing and using them to help the whole practice grow—products then serve a double function. They promote your core practice and they take on a life of their own by providing additional satisfaction and/or revenue.

Why should a lawyer create products?

  1. Products are great marketing tools. In today's competitive legal environment, you may need all of the marketing help that you can get, and creating and selling products helps you do that by promoting you and your services.

  2. Products increase your credibility and solidify your position as an expert. In my own case, when I started consulting, my vision was to have a national presence within five years. I wanted to be able to compete with the major consulting firms such as Hildebrandt, Arthur Andersen Consulting and Price Waterhouse. I reached my goal. My products— my books and audio products—have allowed "David" to compete with "Goliath."

  3. By creating products, you expand your clients' knowledge and promote the concept of teamwork. When clients read your books or articles, listen to your tapes, or attend your seminars, they are exposed to more ideas and, as a result, they have more questions. And the more questions they have, the more they will come to you to seek the answers.

  4. Selling products can increase your revenue. The phrase "passive income" comes alive when orders for your products are waiting for you when you arrive for work in the morning. But in addition to the product sales themselves, the process can also bring more legal work to you.

  5. With products, you create a tangible legacy for your family and children. Products can be seen and touched; there's something more there than just the intangible result of doing good work for a client.

But Aren't Products a Distraction?

No doubt about it, creating products can take time away from a lawyer's primary activity. But so does every other form of marketing and business development. The question is whether the activity will produce positive results. There are many examples—mine included—of lawyers who have successfully increased their legal practice and ancillary project revenues. Who knows? If you're really successful, practicing law might become the "second business."

Types of Products

The range of products is only limited by your imagination, although the bulk of the items produced by attorneys tend to fall into only a few categories. Examples of specific products that are being successfully produced by lawyers around the country right now include: articles in publications, newsletters (both hard-copy and electronic), books and audio products. Let's look at each in turn.

Articles: Getting articles published is a great way to get yourself known, and it's fairly easy to do. The approach is basic.

Brainstorm with yourself and come up with a legal issue that people are concerned about and that you have expertise in (or can find out about). Then determine which publications would be interested in this subject. Finally, contact them and offer to write an article that their readers will want to read.

Trade, business and consumer publications are constantly looking for new articles to fill their pages. Consumer publications will pay you for an article while many trade publications will not. But don't let that stop you. Even those who want your article for free will frequently barter for ad space or other services. If you have a book or other product that is what you advertise. Or, if you don't yet have other products to promote, you can barter for an ad highlighting your service. Either way, you come out ahead.

But the benefits don't end there since you can now recycle your own writings. Take that article (you are the copyright holder) and publish it in your own newsletter (a new product). Or reproduce the final published "clipping" for your press kit or client mailings (with appropriate reproduction acknowledgment).

Newsletters: Printed newsletters can be simple one-page, two-sided, black-andwhite versions; or they can be far more complex and costly. They can also be electronic, which is the simplest and least expensive of all kinds to create and distribute.

Keep in mind that newsletters should do more than puff up the ego of the firm owner. There should be real information or news about substantive legal issues that could affect clients.

Newsletters are usually distributed free to a list of clients or prospects, although if the information is unique or extremely valuable, you might be able to charge for it. One example of such a subscription newsletter was created by Thomas Hudson, a former partner in the Maryland law firm of Venable, Baetjer and Howard, LLP. Targeting legal compliance experts in the automobile industry, he started producing the monthly "CARLAW" report. Today, Mr. Hudson is the editor-in-chief of the publication, and he is better known and more successful because of it.

Books: A book with your name on it as the author is the ultimate in credibility and one of the easiest products to sell on its own merits. There is more than one way to create a book. You can take your new idea to a book publisher who will either love it or send you on your way to try again with the next publisher. Keep in mind that some publishers—especially the large ones—only deal with literary agents as intermediaries. In that case, you simply take one step back and send your proposal out to prospective agents who will then go to the publishers.

A second option is that you can "self-publish" your book. Although publishing industry insiders often look down on self-publishing, I don't. I've sold enough of my own books that I can now proudly say that I am a published writer and a publisher.

Audio Products: You can have stand-alone audiotapes, CD, or MP3 download that focus on a specific topic(s), or you can have a periodic series, such as my "Law Practice Management Review: The Audio Magazine for Busy Attorneys." This audio magazine series is one-hour, published monthly and focuses on interviews with people from all over the country about issues of managing a law practice.

The audience for your tapes can be other lawyers or clients. Whether you can charge for the tapes depends on their perceived uniqueness or value.

How to Create Products

All you need to create a product is the desire. Here too, you can leverage your efforts by creating one product from the effort in creating another product. For example, an interview from an audiotape can be edited to provide an article for a magazine.

Most of the products I've mentioned can be created entirely by you. Obviously that takes more time, more energy on your part and some money (both directly and indirectly in time taken away from other activities).

Or you can hire independent contractors to help you. Did you know that many well-known books are written by "ghost writers?" You can create the concept, do most of the work, and then hire people to do those things that either you don't want to do because you don't have the time or the interest, or you can't do. I'm not a graphic designer, so I hire one when it's necessary. A public relations firm or ad agency can provide marketing expertise. And so on.


When you create products, you are really marketing "you." By reaching your target clients with your products, you are increasing your credibility and your own revenue. Think of each product as a new division of your overall business.

Products and services help support each other, and the ultimate benefit is that you are creating a tangible testament to your skill and all the hard work that you've expended over the years of your career.

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