Expert, or servant?

Have you ever tasted competence? Tastes good, right?

This is something David C. Baker, a host of one of my favourite podcasts (Two Bobs) loves to say when talking about the benefits of specialisation and expertise. 

So many lawyers and professionals avoid specialising because it could mean they miss out on work (or because they are scared of being bored like I was when I dabbled in generalism). The thing with specialisation though, is that it creates deep competence... and competence feels (and tastes!) good.

And as a professional, isn't that the goal? To be tested, to know you can do it anyway, and to feel sure you can deliver your expertise? 

What tends to happen, and what David and his co-host Blair Enns speak a lot about, is how specialisation opens up a completely new realm of possibilities. We think we are limiting ourselves, but in fact we find through our deeper competence more avenues to put it to the test. 

 This brings me to the title of this short post...

As a legal or professional business are you really selling service, or expertise? I’ve come to realise we sell expertise. We are the best agency for professional firms like law firms who want to grow the long term value of their brands and reputations. Sure, we provide services, but in the end clients pay for our experience. They pay for the almost 20 years I have been advising firms of all sizes, our ability to problem solve and identify opportunities, and my team's creative flair and skill in delivering great design and content. This is expertise, not service.

Think about this in a different context. Is a cardiologist a service provider, or an expert? If you need a heart transplant do you use a cardiologist, or a GP? They are clearly experts, we would never refer to them as "just" a service provider. You go to them when you have a specific problem and trust their expertise. And these professionals are smart, they call themselves specialists! And in doing so they get to charge whatever they want, differentiate themselves and dominate a market not through “service” but through expertise. 

Framing your work as expertise delivery and more than a “service” is powerful for a number of reasons. Firstly, you avoid being seen as only filling a gap. Being commodified is the fastest way to being undervalued. Being seen as only filling a small gap also leads to comparison. The more unique you are, the less competition you have. 

Secondly, and to the point of value, being the expert allows you to charge appropriately because we are more willing to pay an expert than someone who merely fills a gap. If you want to be more profitable, you become an expert.  And thirdly, it gives you the opportunity to continually improve and invest in your expertise. It feels good to be competent, so why wouldn't we want to lean into that?

So the question for your legal or professional business - if you’ve been scared of specialising and standing out as the expert, is it because you are worried about it being limiting, and is that fear more important than the upside potential? Reframing your role as an expert that may be here to serve (but not just serve), can make a huge difference to the value of your business brand and reputation.

We're a branding and marketing firm for legal and professional businesses. If you need help with your legal branding or legal marketing please don't hesitate to book in a complimentary consultation with Mike on the link here.



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