Whether in private practice or a corporate legal department, having a niche legal practice is critical to a lawyer’s success and opportunities today. A specialty also translates to more control over your career and the number of options available to you: whether you want to change firms, move in-house, or pursue an alternative legal practice of some sort.
In the past, we’ve discussed this prevailing trend and the importance of having a niche, along with some of the reasons why specialization has replaced the traditional wisdom of being a generalist who can handle almost any type of legal matter. In this article, we’d like to explore how to choose a niche and develop one a bit further: By connecting your passion with a purpose and using it to power your profession.
Passion Vs Purpose
One of our Texas legal recruiters recently attended an event at the University of Texas Law School entitled “Passion Forward.” It was a full two-day event that was well attended by law students and attorneys at various stages in their careers. The seminar offered participants the opportunity to identify their passions and ways to use them to create their own brand and distinguish themselves among a crowded field. What struck us as unique, valuable, and FUN was the notion that any passion can be leveraged to positively impact an attorney’s ability to generate business — not just a passion that related directly to the law – but any outside interest or hobby.
However, passion isn’t the only element to consider when looking to specialize your legal career to fit a particular niche. You should also find a way of connecting passion with purpose, of joining what you want to do with something significant. Sometimes new attorneys struggle to understand the distinction between the two ideas, and it’s no wonder since motivational gurus have muddied the distinction between passion and purpose at work over the years. In this section, we’ll detail the differences between these two concepts and explain why they matter.
Passion is for you and purpose is for others
Following your passion involves going after the things that seize your interest, that occupy your thoughts, that fire your affections. Passion involves inherently subjective thoughts and feelings, and what occupies you may not intersect with anyone else. Purpose is entirely different. Your sense of purpose will necessarily involve what you believe to be significant, and for any effort to be truly meaningful, it will have to extend beyond your own interests and preferences.
Passion is about emotions, while purpose is the reason behind your emotions
When you bring your passion to work, you engage your emotions and feelings. Again, this involves leveraging your internal impressions and subjective sentiments. However, no one who is well adjusted enough to maintain a career finds himself or herself entirely motivated by emotion. People need reasons to properly guide their emotions, and these are what purpose provides.
Passion is your “what” and purpose is your “why”
This point is directly related to the previous one. Passion gets you out of the bed in the morning, makes you seek out certifications and professional honors, and keeps you working at your desk late into the night. But the reason why you put your passion into gear in these particular ways is your purpose. Think of it as a definition that provides context for why you do what you do.
Passions are multiple and purpose is singular
Your passion can center around multiple things — even multiple professional elements related to a single job. Think of them like the members of an orchestra, each one with a specific sound to make. Your purpose, though, is the conductor. It commands every passion and direct them all to work together in beautiful harmony.
Discovering Your Passion and Purpose
It’s one thing to talk about combining passion with purpose, but how do you discover what they are in the first place? How can you know what truly sparks your desire or is just a passing fad? And what steps should you take to find a truly worthy purpose?
Motivational sages and highly paid consultants alike have spent countless hours attempting to answer these questions. But we’d like to propose some questions of our own that will help you discover how to work with passion and purpose.
- What do you love?
- What are you good at?
- What does the world need?
- What can provide you with income?
When the answers to these four questions overlap, you’ll know you’ve found your passion and your purpose.
How Purpose, Passion, and Performance Are Related
You’ve doubtlessly heard the term “vicious circle” to describe a feedback loop in which various factors negatively interact to create an increasingly worse outcome. “Virtuous circles” also exist, and they feature mutually reinforcing elements that consistently improve over time. This is how the interplay between purpose, passion, and professional performance work.
Consider how an authentic passion can connect you to a group of people who share that interest, and those people can and often do turn into clients or employers, quite naturally and easily. One speaker (a large firm attorney) shared that her interest of running and working out allowed her to meet and become friends with the CEO of a significant company. When that company became embroiled in a “bet the company” litigation matter, he chose her to represent them because he knew the case would require the perseverance and dedication that he had seen this lawyer demonstrate in their workout sessions. He also knew that he would enjoy working with her due to her sense of humor, and he had confidence in her abilities because he had first-hand knowledge of how smart she was. This new case propelled this attorney to partnership at her firm the following year and led to even more business due to this client’s referrals.
Similarly, having a purpose often places you in a natural professional niche, and a niche also gives you a great tool to use with social media. We all know that social media impacts buying decisions (statistics indicate that an increasing number of clients use social media to choose a lawyer), but many of us are unsure of how to use social media to our advantage. With a niche law practice based on your personal interests, you can use social media to join groups and connect online with others who share that passion, interact with them, and contribute to online discussions to showcase your expertise and originality. And, best of all, it doesn’t feel like “work” – you are simply and genuinely following your authentic interests.
Finally, the interplay between passion and purpose typically boosts performance. As one old saying goes, skilled workers will stand before kings. A great example is an attorney we recently met while conducting a search for an in-house counsel with a company in the aviation industry. This attorney had developed a love of flying in college, which she continued as a hobby throughout law school. She landed a job at a big firm handling aviation law in New York City and impressed clients with her in-depth knowledge of airports, airplanes, and airline logistics, which allowed her to add much more value to the lawsuits she handled for aviation companies than even the best litigation generalist. After living through 9/11 in New York City, she was hired to assist with the voluminous airline security regulations and began writing about them in aviation publications. She also joined online groups and discussion forums. When she decided to make a lifestyle change and relocate from New York City, she had her pick of in-house legal jobs in the aviation industry. Her passion became her legal niche, and she is thriving in her chosen area of practice.
How to Connect Your Passion with Purpose
We’ve already discussed the various questions you should ask to determine what your passions are and what your purpose should be. Here are additional steps that you can take to ensure that the two connect:
- Examine your life, where you currently stand, and how satisfying you find your position
- Determine your core values and whether you’re currently living according to them
- Begin to live with conviction and integrate those values into your day-to-day life
- Redirect your passion so that it meets your core values
- Embrace new opportunities that encapsulate both your passion and your purpose
The Benefits of Connecting Your Profession with Your Purpose
Connecting passion and purpose not only powers your profession, but it also gives you something to live for while benefiting your clients and the wider world. This concept applies not just to lawyers but to others in legal-related industries, such as compliance professionals, paralegals, and even legal recruiters. With a specific area of expertise that you care about and the purpose to guide it, one can provide more value to clients and distinguish yourself in an increasingly complex and competitive world. Momentum Search Partners has several niche recruiting practices based on the interests of our various recruiters, including energy, healthcare, intellectual property, and the financial services industry.