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Legal Marketing

A Profitable Niche Practice in Four Easy Steps

By Robert Theofanis

Ever heard the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none”? No lawyer wants to hear that today. Why? Because you get credibility from being an expert not a generalist. Credibility equals clients. Clients equal profitability, even more credibility — and even more clients.

It’s easier to differentiate yourself with a niche practice, too, because there’s far less competition.

Four Steps to Focus in on Your Target

Yes, developing a new niche practice will take research and diligence, but don’t let the learning curve deter you. Becoming an expert doesn’t need to take 10,000 hours if the topic is sufficiently narrow. It would take years to become an expert on the entire bankruptcy code. But if we’re talking about one esoteric provision within the bankruptcy code, a junior attorney could become extremely knowledgeable on that topic after pointed, in-depth research.

First things first, though. Let’s look at the opportunities within your current practice.

Step 1:  Map Your Current Practice Area

For this step, you’re going to create a map of all the participants in your current practice. Use your current practice area because that’s where you have the most knowledge. You will leverage that knowledge in step 2. But, right now, let’s start with the primary participants in your practice area. For me, that’s workers’ compensation. The three main participants are injured workers, employers and the Appeals Board.

So my map would start out like this:

Injured WorkersEmployersAppeals Board

Next, list the vendors and organizations that support or provide assistance to each of these main participants. Using injured workers, my map would begin like this:

Injured Workers
Injured workers' attorneysDoctors who treat on a lien basisPro Se officers at Appeals Board

Repeat the process for each new participant you just added. Under injured workers’ attorneys, for example, I’d list the types of vendors those law firms use: court reporters, case management software vendors, marketing companies, copy services, interpreter services, structured settlement companies, and so on.

Injured Workers
Injured workers' attorneysDoctors who treat on a lien basisPro Se officers at Appeals Board
Court reporters
Case management software vendors
Marketing companies
Interpreter services

Take some time on this — at least 15 to 20 minutes. You should end up with dozens of participants on your map.

Step 2: Identify Their Problems

Now that we have identified the universe of participants in your practice area, you’re going to use your inside knowledge to turn up some nuggets. One of these nuggets will end up as the basis for your niche practice area.

For each of the participants, you listed in step 1, ask yourself these questions:

  • What mistakes are they making?
  • What problems are they actively trying to mitigate?
  • What problems are they going to have but have not identified?
  • Are there opportunities for cost savings they haven’t identified?

Don’t be shy here. Any issue, no matter how small, should be listed. You’ll narrow them down in step 3.

Step 3: Create a High-Value Solution 

Now, for each nugget you identified in step 2, come up with a solution to the problem or mistake. Each solution should utilize legal knowledge and expertise you currently have, or could easily acquire.

Be sure your solutions are high value — that is, that they deliver a tangible (preferably monetary) benefit to the client. It’ll be much easier to sign up a client if your solution will create $2,000 in cost savings versus a 20 percent reduction in employment practices risk.

Step 4: Turn Your Solution Into a ‘Product’ 

In step 3, you came up with a list of solutions to real problems. But solutions are really just ideas. And clients don’t buy ideas; clients buy products. Now you need to package your solution into a product. Your product can be anything: a seminar or CLE, a custom document template, or traditional services.

This step should be done with marketing in mind — and that includes how you will price your product. Selling an expensive package right off the bat is probably going to be tough. You will likely need to warm your prospective clients up to the idea of retaining you. Ideally, you will have both a low-cost or free option and a high-end option. Your free option might be an on-site seminar for a prospective client. Afterward, you may parlay that into a paying gig to implement your solution.

Don’t be afraid of providing details to prospects when pitching the idea. Most people are too busy with their own responsibilities to voluntarily take on more, and most won’t have the expertise to implement the solution without you. Obviously, there are exceptions. If your solution is straightforward and could be easily implemented by the prospective client’s in-house legal team, you might be a bit more circumspect.

Finally, always focus on the value your niche practice provides. Sell the outcome, not the process, and you’ll be much more successful.

Image ©Paul Skorupskas/unsplashcom

Categories: Business Development, Law Firm Marketing, You At Work
Originally published June 14, 2022
Last updated July 4, 2022
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robert-theofanis-500x500 Robert Theofanis

Robert Theofanis is an estate planning attorney in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Follow along as he grows his practice at Bobogado.

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