Some argue that professional service firms cannot differentiate themselves effectively. It is difficult, of course, when firms try to do so on their web site, or in brochures or ads by saying in effect that “We are smarter, more experienced, do a better job, tougher litigators, etc., etc.” Heaven knows firms have tried, and there are hundreds of law firms out there that are all saying the same thing.

According to long time author, blogger and consultant, Bruce Marcus there are several reasons that statements like that are problematic:

  • The evidence of such claims is intangible
  • Their “outrageous and self-serving,” and
  • Violate the canons of ethics in most, if not all, states.

In an his article on the myths of differentiation within professional services firms that appears at, Bruce contends that although differentiation is problematic, firms can project their “firm’s distinctive qualities” by positioning and demonstrating those traits. He states:

“Valid positioning begins with a perception of what the firm’s marketplace sees as a major problem, need, or opportunity, and then crafting messages that demonstrate your firm’s ability to respond to that need – to bring to bear the expertise and experience appropriate to serving that market.”

He is talking in classical marketing terms, and is correct. The only problem is that I think there is a much simpler way to differentiate your firm. Position yourself to do the things other firms don’t (and clients want), and demonstrate those traits in all the firm’s dealings with all clients. And, per chance you may ask, what are those differences?:

  • Treat clients with respect,
  • Return phone calls within an hour (or have someone do so on your behalf),
  • Give clients an accurate idea of what the matter entails, the process involved and the costs,
  • Know the clients business (inside and out), 
  • Be responsive to client requests (for anything),
  • Meet all deadlines,
  • Don’t over promise and under deliver,
  • Seek client feedback,
  • Don’t surprise the client (about anything),
  • Communicate constantly,
  • Keep client informed as to their matter, and
  • And so on….and so on.

These are service issues that consistently give clients headaches and lead to grievances (and the firing of law firms), because too few firms provide this type of service. So, you can differentiate your firm by providing the service that other firms don’t.  Don’t just talk about doing it, but demonstrate it and word of mouth will take care of the rest.