There is a very good article on practice group management by Patrick McKenna of the The Edge Group that was reported on Adam Smith, Esq.. Bruce reports how the train has left the station when it comes to practice groups, and apparently there is no turning back.
McKenna addresses the many advantages of practice group management and points out that the biggest benefits that come from well structured and run practice groups are more and better clients. He used an example of a real estate practice group, but did not emphasize that it is an industry (rather than a subject we took in law school). However, he did indicate that practice groups should be structured across traditional practice areas to meet the needs of a client and industry segment. This brings me to the point of why I too favor practice groups, but have seen too many large firms continue to form their groups based on legal disciplines. Your practice groups should be multi-disciplinary in nature. For example, in the health care area, a group should consist of lawyers with expertise in administrative law, employment, environmental, business entities, contracts, real estate, tax, estate planning, litigation, and so forth. In other words, structure your practice groups to meet the needs of a client segment whatever your firm’s size.
Small firms can do the same thing whether they have five or fifteen or more attorneys. If the firm is not structured to serve the multiple needs of a client or industry segment, it may want to consider adding to or changing the make-up of its practices. Or team up with other firms to serve a market segment. It doesn’t matter whether you call it a practice group for internal purposes, but certainly you should develop teams and let the external world know what you can do to meet the legal needs of that client and industry segment.
It’s smart marketing because it will set you apart and identify your niche(s) (the rifle approach to marketing) vs. leaving your firm as just another general firm (the shotgun approach) that fails to set itself apart. In short, stop promoting yourself by subjects you learned in law school. Rather, let clients know you have practice teams that understand and can serve a broad section of their legal needs and those of their industry.