Got an Itch to Create a Niche?
By N. Andrew Rotenstreich
N. Andrew Rotenstreich is a partner in the Telecommunications Practice Group at Haskell Slaughter Young & Rediker, LLC, in its Birmingham, Alabama, office. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
A niche practice is a legal practice focused on a distinct segment of the business market. You may not think of yourself as a specialist or intend to develop a niche practice, but your clients and referrals may pull you in a particular direction that can give you and/or your firm more recognition and make your business more profitable.
Some of the benefits of practicing law in a niche market are consistent work, high-level client contact, and the ability to focus on a particular area of the law (i.e., more in depth knowledge of the legal issues of that practice area). As an attorney, having a niche practice can provide good job security where there is little competition for the work.
Realizing the potential for a niche practice is very important. When I first started working in my niche practice area, few people understood there was a legal need in this area (including me). I was fortunate to realize such a potential, and then spent time learning the issues in this area of the law before others realized the niche existed. The most rewarding aspect of creating a niche practice is the knowledge that you are the “go-to” person in that industry for legal issues in your particular geographic area (i.e., city, state, or region).
The first step in developing a niche practice is to claim a certain area of the law by positioning or “marketing” yourself therein. The area you stake out can be based on your personal background, previous work experience, general legal interest, or relevant training. Experience in your chosen field helps of course, but you can also develop a niche practice in an area in which you have no prior knowledge or experience. In fact, everything I learned about my niche industry has been from “on the job training.” I had no previous experience in the field.
To educate and market yourself, you should seek to work with individuals in the industry (and not necessarily with attorneys), join and get active in trade associations, and research industry issues. The most challenging aspect of developing a niche practice is learning the industry “lingo” and issues that affect businesses in that industry. Study the legal issues involved with the particular industry (e.g., regulatory issues, legislative issues, contract issues, real estate). Once you become familiar with these issues, you can begin to research ways to address them and “offer” those services to businesses in the industry.
Marketing a niche practice requires the same marketing tools and techniques as any other business marketing strategy. Niche marketing is just more industry specific. Your involvement in industry trade associations will become an effective marketing tool. Writing articles for trade publications and volunteering to participate on industry panels are other good marketing tools. These publications and panels are always looking for authors and volunteers. You should market yourself at all times in all industries in which your niche practice is focused.
It goes without saying that the fewer number of attorneys practicing in a particular legal arena, the less competition for that work. So while you do not have to be the first attorney in your geographic area to develop a legal practice in a particular niche market, you must distinguish yourself as being competent in that industry. You can obtain a great amount of trust from clients in any industry by learning and understanding the issues that face these businesses. This is a major selling point to potential clients, as those representatives want to know that you understand their issues.
Once you’ve established yourself in your niche market, you should continue to work hard to maintain those client relationships. At this point, you have a relationship with the client that you should nurture, and your goal is to be the “go-to” lawyer for that client on any issue. If an issue arises wherein you do not feel that you could provide the best service or value to the client, then find and work with an attorney who can provide such service; but stay involved with the client. In my experience, clients want to know that you care about them and their businesses, not just about making a quick buck on a billable hour.
- The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing Your Practice, Second Ed. 2004. PC # 5110500. Law Practice Management Section.
- Marketing Success Stories: Conversations with Leading Lawyers, Second Ed. 2004. PC # 5110511. Law Practice Management Section.
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