Jan 6, 2011
Niche Slapped: How I Chose a Niche Area of Law to Practice
Adventures of a Gen Y Solo Practitioner
Niche Slapped: How I Chose a Niche Area of Law to Practice
Unless you live under a rock, you most likely have been Niche Slapped. When an influential individual in the law convincingly points out to you (whether directly, in a magazine article, or on Twitter) that you will never make a dime until you define a narrow-as-possible-niche in which to practice law, you have been Niche Slapped. Don’t feel bad, it happens to the best of us.
Now, if you are anything like me, once you are Niche Slapped you kick and scream and make argument after argument about how you can be successful without having to create a niche practice. This is what “certain professionals” would call the Denial Phase. After the Denial Phase, is a lovely little doozey called the Frantic Phase. During the Frantic Phase you write list after list and read blog after blog (and book after book) and Google law firm after law firm in a frantic attempt to figure out which niche is right for you. For the lucky few, the Frantic Phase is followed by what Oprah refers to as the “Aha! Moment,” where you suddenly discover your niche and all is right in the world. Unfortunately, for many of us, the Aha! Moment does not come soon enough or never comes at all.
I had the pleasure of being Niche Slapped by Chuck Newton. Chuck is an attorney from Texas, which, from a New Yorker’s perspective, means that he doesn’t beat around the bush. So it wasn’t fun to find out that I had no choice but to develop a niche area of law, and quick. And then when I sent Chuck my “brilliant” niche ideas, he shot them all down (okay, not all, just most). Luckily, Chuck is also the Original Niche Brainstormer and has featured many creative, new niches on his blog. He’ll tell you like it is but then he’s also more than willing to help.
Pakistani Convenience Store Operators or How I Figured Out My Niche
So, after coming to terms with the reality of needing a niche, (if you’re still not convinced, read this) and spending ample time reading up on emerging niches, my Aha! Moment came.
When my practice was only two weeks old, I read a blog article by Debra Bruce, a Texas lawyer-coach (Texans get the whole niche thing). In the article, Debra discussed a method of narrowing your niche for practicing attorneys. She recommended looking at one’s current clients and finding the commonalities between them to define a niche. The example Debra gave was of a litigation attorney who had several clients who happened to be Pakistani Convenience Store Operators. So the attorney had the option of narrowing his niche to ‘Pakistani Convenience Store Operator Litigator’ by creating a page on his website specifically for Pakistani Convenience Store Operators, marketing specifically to networking groups that Pakistani Convenience Store Operators frequent, etc.
At the time, I had only acquired three clients but they all had a few things in common: they had all hired me to handle business law issues, they were all entrepreneurs or wannabe entrepreneurs and all of them were under 32. With some additional research, the practice area emerged: I am the Generation Y Entrepreneur Lawyer!
This method worked great for me because I already had a few clients. For the new attorney that has no clients yet, there is another method.
The Double-Narrow Rule or What If You Don’t Have Clients Yet?
The Double-Narrow Rule (which I just made up, but think it will work well) requires that you narrow a practice area at least twice to define a suitable niche. Maybe you had plans to practice Trusts & Estates or Family Law. Well, who isn’t practicing one of those areas these days? Try to narrow the area of law into a smaller piece of the practice area pie. Then once you have narrowed it, do it again. Let’s try it!
So you want to practice Family Law? Great, you’ll only have 20 million other lawyers in your jurisdiction as competition. That’ll make it easy to garner attention of prospective clients; or not! Let’s narrow Family Law into an area within Family Law, say Child Support. Okay, now you’re a Child Support lawyer, way better than Family Law but let’s get even narrower (remember to narrow at least twice!). How about handling child support cases for father’s only? Now you have an awesome little niche catering to dear old Dads that are getting screwed in the child support department. No shortage of those, right? Plus, they’ll love that your firm is catering specifically to their legal problem.
But, dare I say, we can get even narrower then that (this is the Triple-Narrow Rule; only for the brave). How about handling child support cases for fathers in the military?! Try Googling Child Support Lawyer for Military Fathers. I bet there are not nearly as many lawyers focusing on that narrow area of law in your jurisdiction as Family Law. Now you can market your practice in a really tailored way and you have the opportunity to become the expert of a niche: Child Support Law for Military Fathers. That is much easier than trying to become the expert in all of Family Law, right?
How Defining a Niche Has Helped My Practice
My first few weeks of soloing were daunting and I had no idea where my next clients would come from or how to reach them. When I began to market myself as “Innovative Legal Counsel for Generation Y Entrepreneurs” my practice exploded in a way I never would have imagined. I was able to publish articles tailored to my ideal clients on websites like Under30CEO.com and TheCashFlow.com. I also started receiving attention from some of the more well-known young entrepreneurs and have been asked to do presentations and webinars. I am now a trusted resource for young entrepreneurs because my services are made specifically for them. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have put a lot of effort into marketing my practice but establishing the niche has made my marketing efforts much more effective.
Other great articles on niche practice: The Big Question: Should You Create a Niche Practice – Part I and Part II.
So what practice areas are you considering? Share them in the comments and I will brainstorm with you to narrow them into a niche.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.