As a solo or small law firm practitioner, identifying and targeting a specific legal niche with your marketing materials and website content can be an incredible boon to your business—and a great opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competition. If you’re marketing yourself as a legal generalist, it’s easy to get lost in the noise, but having a narrowly defined target market for your firm can drive greater client acquisition and establish you as a leader in a particular space.
With the benefits of a niche practice being well established, how do you determine which niche is right for you once you’ve decided to specialize?
Here’s how to start:
1. Establish a legal niche that matters
A niche practice isn’t only rewarding financially—it can be personally rewarding as well. When determining the niche you wish to service, it’s important to take into account work you legitimately enjoy doing. In order to stay motivated, author Daniel Pink suggests finding a niche that is intrinsically rewarding. In other words, it’s best to find motivation that comes from within rather than from external sources (like a big bag of money).
Finding a niche that provides you with purpose and meaning will go a lot further than simply choosing one based on profitability (though, it’s great if you can combine the two). Take stock of the kind of law you enjoy practicing, the clients you love servicing, and what truly gives you meaning at the end of the day, and choose a focus based on those factors. The monetary rewards will follow.
2. Get focused
In his post “Practice Like a Generalist, Market Like a Specialist,” Stephen Fairley covers four points to factor into your process when selecting a specialization:
- Focus on a specific industry. Pick two or three specific industries, like banking, intellectual property for software development, commercial real estate litigation, etc.
- Focus by size of revenue. For example, you could focus your practice on high net worth individuals (at least $1 million in net assets) or target businesses with $5 million to $50 million in revenues.
- Focus on the services you offer. Perhaps you want to focus your law firm’s services on complex litigation, celebrity or high profile divorces, white collar crimes, or Spanish speaking clients.
- Focus by combining all three above. The most powerful way to specialize your law practice is to combine all of the above: Niche yourself by industry, size of revenue, and by the specific services that you offer.
3. See what’s trending
What legal niche services are clients in your market looking for? What trends are emerging that you might be able to capitalize on? Consider, as an example, that widespread domestic and commercial drone use was a sci-fi fantasy as recently as five years ago. A wealth of legal issues have come along with this development. Technology is opening up new avenues for attorneys to explore at a faster rate than ever—as long as they know where to look.
So how do you know where to find these trends? To start, stay on top of legal blogs to get an idea of emerging opportunities or practice areas.
Beyond that, Google Trends is an excellent tool for getting a granular look at what potential clients are searching for and potential demand for your services at a global, national, or municipal level (for example: ‘IP lawyers’ are in demand in Oregon and Texas, per the graph below).
You can even compare niche practice areas by search volume to see what’s trending upwards, and what’s on the decline with this tool.
Finally, you may also want to look at general trends (like rises in drone use) and map them back to potential practice areas.
In a great post from Knapp Marketing, the authors recommend listing trends in one column and existing practice areas in another, then mixing and matching until finding one that, first, appeals to you, and second, seems financially viable.
4. Test your niche
Once you think you’ve identified your legal niche (or niches), you should be testing to see if there is some pick up on your idea. Set up a quick PPC campaign, do some social media marketing, and write a few blog posts around niche topics to see if they get any traction. But don’t go overboard – for example: rather than redesigning your entire website, consider putting together some one-off landing pages focusing on your newfound areas of expertise. Network with people surrounding your chosen niche and do whatever you can to get a few clients in the door.
Not getting the reaction you expected? Consider that these may be niche areas because there isn’t enough business to wholly support them—then go back to the drawing board and start again. By continuing to research, refine, and optimize your approach, you’ll find your newfound niche success in no time.
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