To maintain a thriving practice, lawyers must constantly find ways to grow and expand their client base. In an effort to cast a wider net, especially when work is slow, many expand their list of practice areas.
But in today’s world, many people want to work with a specialist, and these clients expect their legal counsel to know more and more about an increasingly narrow area of law. One of the main ways to consistently bring in new business is to use a niche approach to organizing your marketing efforts and making effective use of your most valuable resource: your nonbillable time.
Search engines and social media platforms such as LinkedIn give prospective clients the ability to vet the experience of prospective firms and lawyers, so demonstrating specific legal knowledge matters more and more.
Some compelling reasons to consider forming a niche:
- Less competition. By narrowing your focus, you’ll be chasing work in a much smaller field. The more sophisticated your niche, the fewer lawyers you will have as competitors. For example, you may handle estate law for a broad range of clients, but you can market your practice to a specific segment where you have experience, such as positioning yourself as an estate lawyer who works with high net worth individuals with large land holdings in South Texas. To do something like this, you could write a column for a trade association publication or serve as a speaker at its monthly luncheons. You could also reach out to journalists in the region who focus on ranching and agriculture and offer to serve as a source when they are covering significant trends.
- Focused marketing efforts. Once you determine the kind of work you want to target, take a systematic look at how to reach more of those kinds of clients. Say you are an eminent domain lawyer and want more projects from large retailers. Develop a couple of summaries on specific topics—maybe water issues or economic development in Texas—and pitch them to trade publications and conferences where the industry’s players meet nationally or locally. Your goal is to be busy doing legal work while still regularly setting aside a predetermined amount of time for activities aimed at getting new business. Make sure those efforts are targeted rather than scattershot.
- You’ll develop a reputation. Maybe you’re part of a firm that handles a broad range of tax matters—planning, due diligence on transactions, and controversies—but you worked for many years at the IRS on sensitive and high-profile cases. On a daily basis, you may do it all. But highlight your deep knowledge of the agency’s procedures and your contacts there, and you will attract clients facing high-stakes confidentiality and controversy cases. Positioning yourself as somebody knowledgeable and skilled in this space means writing regular, timely client alerts on significant changes to IRS guidelines and landing spots on panels at events that in-house tax types frequently attend. Show them you understand specifically what keeps them awake at night. And remember, when companies are faced with such critical matters, they will be willing to pay more for experience.
- You’ll be memorable. If you are a criminal defense attorney, you probably take cases running the gamut of offenses. You’re likely to rely heavily on referrals. A niche marketing strategy can be particularly effective for your practice. If, for example, you have significant experience representing defendants in domestic violence cases, speak and write in channels that reach family lawyers who handle civil matters in your jurisdiction.
Make sure your website places an emphasis on your area of focus and has a section devoted to FAQs and your regularly updated blog. Include key words and phrases to drive traffic to your biography or firm description. When people remember you for a particular type of skill, they will send you referrals.
While your days in the office may contain a range of matters, what you market should be narrow, distinctive, and aimed at a specific audience. It will take a long-range approach and consistent effort, but carving out a reputation in a focus area will win you work.
Sue Lyon-Boggs is based in Fort Worth. She coaches individual lawyers and provides law firms with business development training to drive higher revenue. She can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @suelyonboggs.