Being considered a thought leader by someone is wonderful. It most likely means that they value your opinion on a particular subject. However, the title is both ambiguous and relative and one of the many marketing terms that provides no value on its own.
Many lawyers use the fact that another attorney has a larger audience as a reason to hold them up as a thought leader. Do they really know more than you or do they just have the attention of more people?
If they do know more than you about an area of the law, is that a fixed position? We should all be perpetual learners and most areas of law change. How long would it take you to catch up? How long will it take for someone’s thought leadership to become outdated? Do you need to know more than anyone else on the planet to be a thought leader? How many people are allowed into the thought leader club?
More importantly, are you using this as an excuse to limit yourself? To your clients, you are their thought leader. You are a thought leader to the group of people you show up to serve.
In law school, I wanted to be taught by great thinkers and great teachers. While I was working in a corporate legal department, one of my colleagues that went to a prestigious law school shared that some of his professors were much more concerned about appearing on television than teaching. In fact, he referred to them as “yellow notes” professors because it had been so long since they had updated their notes for class that the paper had yellowed. (OK, that might date me a bit. If I ever reference a fax machine, please email me and tell me to stop.) Thought leaders? Probably. Great teachers? Not so much. The network wanted a thought leader. The student wanted a teacher.
Not only are you probably more of a thought leader than you think, it might not be what your clients (or you) even want. Let the thought leaders do their thing. You go solve problems for the people you care about.