Volume 20, Number 1
NICHE PRACTICES: MARKETING ON STEROIDS
By David Leffler
Developing a niche in your law practice is a way of turbocharging your marketing efforts. The time and money you spend on marketing will go a lot further and be a lot more effective. Here's how this process worked for me.
Back in 1990 after my law partnership dissolved, I started my own law practice and, of course, was looking around for ways to generate business. Someone had told me about American Woman's Economic Development Corporation (www.awed.org), a nonprofit in New York City that trains and counsels women business owners. This seemed to be a likely place for me to find clients for my business law practice, so I looked into doing some volunteer work for the organization.
They were happy to have me, and I spent the following years there conducting one-on-one counseling sessions and teaching a business law course. Although my law practice developed, I discovered that most of the women who came to me via AWED had minimal legal needs and wouldn't provide me with a significant amount of work.
I continued with my volunteer work anyway because I was so impressed by the women's courage and determination. AWED was making a real contribution to society-giving women the tools to become self-sufficient by creating their own businesses-and I wanted to be a part of that.
Last year I was invited to join AWED's board of directors-an experience that has been valuable for both my professional development and general prestige. It also provides me with a further opportunity to parti-cipate in building an organization in which I believe. My volunteer work at AWED developed my sensitivity to issues that are particular to women business owners. As the years passed, I did develop a significant client base of women business owners-whose business size and sophistication, I am pleased to report, also increased to levels where they now constitute major, valued clients for my law practice. The fit is a natural for me. I use a personal approach and am careful not to intimidate clients but to put them at ease. The women themselves report that my sincere support of and belief in what they are doing is a welcome change from the doubts and challenges they all too often receive elsewhere.
My experience serves as a good blueprint for anyone wishing to concentrate on a particular practice area. First, identify the area you want to develop-be sure it's one that will give you real enjoyment and satisfaction. As I mentioned above, my women entrepreneur clients pick up on my genuine commitment to seeing them succeed. This makes for a good attorney-client relationship-and helps me develop more business.
Next, be sure that you have or can develop the expertise to provide the services needed in the area. My many years of business law experience made my target market a good choice for me. Finally, develop some kind of plan to reach your target market. This is where the economies of developing a niche practice as opposed to a general practice really become evident.
Advertising in a publication that specializes in your target market is more effective than advertising in a general circulation newspaper or magazine. Speaking in front of a group of people from this market is more effective than speaking to a general interest audience. Networking in a specialized market is more effective than widespread networking as a general practitioner, or even as "a litigator" or "a real estate attorney." The more narrow your niche, the more effective your marketing will become (so long as you target a large enough market).
While you are developing your niche you can continue to accept clients from a broader market. Even today my practice is hardly limited to women business owners. They are a subset of my larger target market of small- to medium-sized businesses. Whether your niche market occupies some, most, or all of your law practice will of course depend on your personal predilections and the success you have in developing your niche. Start now, and good luck.