P R O B A T E   &   P R O P E R T Y
November/December 2003
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Practice Pointers-Probate

Practice Pointers offers suggestions for improving estate planning and probate practice. The editors of Probate & Property welcome suggestions and contributions from readers.

Practice Pointers - Probate Editor: Diane Hubbard Kennedy, 4911 E. 56th Street, Indianapolis, IN 64220, d_kennedy@iquest.net

Finding Your Niche

“Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”

—Tallulah Bankhead

And no one can be exactly like you either. One of my favorite business books is Getting Business to Come to You by Paul and Sarah Edwards and Laura Clampitt Douglas. Although much of it does not apply to the practice of law—wouldn’t it be great to post client testimonials in your reception area?—the part about finding your niche makes lots of sense. The easiest part should be determining the geographic area you intend to serve or are serving. Without regard to strictures on admission to practice in various states, you might focus your practice on national issues by serving as co-counsel to other lawyers. You might restrict your practice to a city, county, or state. If you have been in practice for long, you probably have found a geographic niche without really thinking about it.

More challenging is to find what makes you unique. What do you have to offer that other attorneys in your area do not? Perhaps you have financial planning abilities that others lack. Maybe it’s experience as an Internal Revenue Service agent or Justice Department attorney. One lawyer I know does nothing but Medicaid qualification. Tax or probate litigation could easily be a niche. If your geographic area is sufficiently populous, you might concentrate on plaintiff’s probate malpractice work.

Although many of us may be competent in the areas of planning, taxation, or litigation, we may not feel that we are the top planning, taxation, or litigation expert in our geographic area. That does not mean that we do not have unique talents, but they just may not be obvious. Your technical expertise is only one of the components in finding your niche.

Another, perhaps more subtle area, is your compelling desire. Just what do you want to accomplish with your life (or at least your career in law)? I suggest that you take several weeks or even months to ponder this question. For me, at least, the answer came in small pieces over a substantial period of time. In finding your “passion,” you may well discover the particular talent that makes you a unique lawyer.

Finally, you can look externally to determine specific opportunities that may be developing in the estate planning and probate practice. This external focus often arises as a result of a particular case. You may find that you are the first one in town to run into HIPPA issues, for instance. You may have to handle the estate of a practicing lawyer. Maybe a number of clients start asking about vacation real estate in another state. (I recommend being admitted to practice in that state.)

Once you ascertain your niche, you should develop a phrase that conveys your niche. This phrase can then be added to your letterhead, business card, and brochures. Specific attention must be paid to Rule 7.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, which relates to publicity and advertising, but a good slogan can convey your niche and helpdistinguish you from all of theother estate planning and probate lawyers