Are you happy in your practice area? Maybe you’ve read posts about fast-growing practice areas that would be more to your liking.
Seven Steps to Switch Your Niche
You can switch practice areas. You’re smart. You can do this. It just takes some work.
Do Legal Research
A visit to a law library is an ideal way to start. As a newbie to the topic, computer legal research can present too large a universe. Browse the shelves pertaining to your area of interest.
Pay particular attention to the “cookbooks” CLE organizations publish. These are the books with step-by-step instructions on exactly how to do the thing that lawyers are called upon to do and the forms to make it happen. That could be anything from an immigration petition to a blue sky filing.
As you take notes and perhaps copy pages of particular interest, you will work your way to the narrow topic that interests you most. Have you positively decided on a niche? It might be early in the process, but consider purchasing that expensive book you found most helpful so you can frequently consult it at your convenience.
Do Industry Research
Search the internet for “PracticeArea publications.” That could be big pharma, investment banking, agritech or any other area. You will discover targeted periodicals that discuss the concerns of the industry. As you educate yourself about these issues, consider how you can use that legal brain of yours to help.
Pay attention, too, to the identities of the industry leaders and the article authors. Send a LinkedIn connection request, and include a note mentioning that you read the article they authored or in which they were mentioned.
Investigate Continuing Legal Education and Specialty Bar Groups
Educate yourself by seeking out relevant continuing legal education programs. Many of these will be available on demand. Depending on the practice area, some may be from other states.
Pay attention to who is sponsoring the program and who are the speakers. This can lead you to the website of one or more specialty bar groups. Some of these groups are relatively small. Once you join and start actively participating in their committees, you are likely to find ready acceptance. You can accelerate your integration and ascent by asking for help from a sponsor. That might be one of the speakers at the program you viewed.
The American Bar Association is big. Searching for information on your practice area can invite exploration of multiple sections. For example, an interest in big pharma could lead you to sources about health law, antitrust, mass torts, consumer protection, and science and technology. Spend time drilling down on various websites to pursue the group that best matches your interest. Consider trying to get a few minutes on the phone with someone in a leadership position.
And don’t forget the sections of your local and state bar associations. The interest groups might be more broadly defined than at the ABA. This may make it relatively easy to find the right place to learn and get noticed. If your niche practice area has no home yet, start a committee with yourself as the expert leader.
Go to Industry Conferences
Plan to attend industry conferences. You won’t be the only lawyer attending. A Google search for “Investment Banking Conferences” turned up at least three conferences in my own city, the first only six weeks away. Click through to see the schedule of topics. Just as “administrative law” is an umbrella term for numerous practice specialties, most practice areas comprise multiple niches. When you see a conference that covers topics that interest you and that works logistically, register to attend. Not only will you learn about this industry from the viewpoint of your potential clients, but you can network face-to-face with others who may be able to help you in your transition. That could be a job offer.
Now that you are fluent in the terminology and issues of the practice area, create some Google alerts so you can stay on top of new developments. Radical changes are your friend; both newbies and seasoned professionals are starting from scratch. When you see new legislation or a new case, channel that information to heighten your professional profile.
Step Up Your Social Media
Share your knowledge via social media. What are the relevant hashtags? Search for them to find and follow the thought leaders. Pay attention to who has large followings. Their followers may become your followers.
Requote and share posts. Include any hashtags missed in the original post. Tag thought leaders, perhaps prompting “Your view?” Post your own ideas with those hashtags and tags.
Commit to Long(er) Form Publishing
Speaking of ideas, use your newfound knowledge to create blog posts. Think about who you are pitching this to. The information can be basic, such as “Introduction to PracticeArea Law” or “PracticeArea Law for ADifferentPracticeArea Lawyers.” A benefit to publishing on a website you control is immediacy.
Are you confident you have mastered the nuances of an issue? Perhaps you have great thoughts about how to navigate a particular problem in this practice area. You could write an article for a bar journal or industry publication. As a newcomer, consider interviewing insiders for their views before going public to avoid a counterproductive misstep. There will be a significant lag time before your work gets out, but these media are prestigious.
There is no reason not to create similar pieces for multiple audiences. Rework your writing for immediate and delayed publication, for professional and industry audiences. After publication, insert links in social media posts to gain readers.
Of course, the goal throughout this exercise is to attract clients. As you progress, to some extent there is a “fake it ’til you make it” aspect to it. Meanwhile, you may still be miserable in your job or financial situation. Don’t give up. Success awaits.