There Is No Competition. That’s Right. No Competition

When I saw Carolyn Elefant’s new post, it reminded me how much she and I share a brain ;-)  I resurrected this post because it couldn’t be more timely in this current legal environment: 

There Is No Competition.  That’s Right. No Competition.

That woke you up, right?  Well, a good friend of mine and I had this discussion recently and we realized we share a brain on this topic.  We have never believed in external competition.  We have always believed in internal competition, competing with just ourselves to be better than we were the day, month, year, decade, before.  Yet, ironically, in doing so this triggers others to compete with us as we excel.  In essence, we become the ‘enemy.’ (see below)

This philosophy has propelled me throughout my life because it is not about winning at the expense of another (yet, when someone wins, in a strictly competitive world another loses) but simply to better my experiences, to rise to the next level of skill and success.

This ‘no competition’ attitude is key to successfully marketing your solo practice.  Let me explain.

  • Observe then Ignore the competition – That’s right, observe then ignore them.  There are no shortage of clients, just lack of attraction tools which makes you feel like there are no clients.  Trust me, they are out there.

Conventional wisdom says that to beat your competition you need to one-up them.  Fox_with_animal_in_mouth_web1

This sort of one-upping Cold war mentality is a dead-end.  It’s an expensive, defensive, and paranoid way of building your (solo practice).  Defensive, paranoid (law firms) can’t think ahead, they can only think behind.  They don’t lead, they follow. (Getting Real by 37 Signals)

However, do have an enemy. That’s sounds just the opposite of what I said above.  But it isn’t.  Sometimes the best way to know how to construct your legal services business is to know what it shouldn’t be.  Figure out what type of legal practice is opposite of what you want to create and you’ll discover where you need to go.  Instead of fearing ‘the enemy’ use it as a muse, a motivator.

One huge benefit of identifying an ‘enemy’ is the ability to fashion a very clear marketing message.  If your ‘enemy’ is a huge, over-priced, ivory tower, partner heavy Big Law firm or a high volume, churn and burn client mill (even another solo) then position yourself as the opposite.  Clients are very good at drawing comparisons and it enables them to understand your position in relationship to others.  Not only will they understand quickly how you have differentiated your services, they will have a definite opinion about which type of service they prefer.

But DO NOT get obsessed with the ‘enemy’.  If you over analyze and stay focused on what they are doing, you will start to limit your own thinking.  Look, analyze and then move on to your own vision of the perfect solo practice and cultivate your own ideas.  The ‘enemy’ is just a foundation from which to start your development.

Don’t follow the leader.

Marketer’s (and all human beings) are well trained to follow the leader.  The natural instinct is to figure out what’s working for the competition and then try to outdo it – to be cheaper than your competitor who competes on price, or faster than your competitor who competes on speed.  The problem is that once a consumer has bought someone else’s story and believes that lie, persuading the consumer to switch is the same as persuading him to admit he was wrong.  And people hate admitting that they are wrong.

Instead, you must tell a different story and persuade listeners that your story is more important than the story they currently believe.  If your competition is faster, you must be cheaper.  If they sell the story of health, you must sell the story of convenience.  Not just the positioning x/y axis sort of “We are cheaper” claim, but a real story that is completely different from the story that’s already being told.  – Seth Godin, author/entrepreneur (from Be a Better Liar)

And to complicate this post yet further, you don’t have to fabricate a story.

You need to care about it

When you write a book, you need to have more than an interesting story.  You need to have a desire to tell the story.  You need to be profoundly invested in some way.  If you’re going to live with something for two, three years, the rest of your life, you need to care about it. – Malcolm Gladwell, author (from a Few thin Slices of Malcolm Gladwell)

And when you decide to build your own solo practice you are making a long term commitment. Caring about your story comes from being genuine, authentic…being who you are, making your own unique footprint.  If you except this can you now understand why there IS no competition?

What do you think?

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4 comments on “There Is No Competition. That’s Right. No Competition

  • I can speak from experience on this one. When I left my old firm, I got somewhat overly focused on the clients I left behind and what was happening at the old firm and not focusing on how to get clients. This cannot be productive. The competition has to be internal, benchmarks have to be internal or they can never be met.

  • Susan,
    This is one of your favorite posts of mine – it plays in my brain all the time so I didn’t have to re-read it. But I am glad that you resurrected it for those who haven’t seen it.


  • As always a thought provoking post. Having seen many of my clients disappear over the years do to downturns and consolidation, I firmly believe that you need to present a consistent story that you believe. Clients may come and go but you are still there and need to feel good about how you practice law and present yourself. There is plenty of competition for good client’s but if you try and be the other guy rather than yourself you will fail.

  • I’m glad this mantra, so to speak, is starting to penetrate. It is so critical for the solo who may feel a sense of overwhelm to absorb this thought. They often hear them repeating this refrain: “I can’t possibly compete.” Well, if ‘there is no competition’ they don’t have to spend energy being fearful they can’t compete!

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