99 Problems, But a Niche Ain’t One: Why Niche Practice Works So Well for Law Firms

It’s really hard to sell everything, unless you’re Walmart.  And, when you’re Walmart, your whole thesis is that you sell everything cheaper than everyone else.  Of course, that’s not a particularly great way to run a law firm.  As a lawyer, you want to differentiate yourself based on your practice areas and expertise.

It’s difficult to try to sell multiple practice areas, though — especially when they’re not easy to knit together into one narrative.  Let’s say you practice divorce, criminal law and worker’s compensation.  What’s the defining thread among all those things?  And, how do you construct a website that doesn’t look like shepherd’s pie?  It’s hard to be pithy and to the point, in an environment with impatient consumers who require that, when it takes you some time to explain what to do.

The remedy, which is utterly frightening for many lawyers, is to sell one thing.  The standard operating procedure for law firms, is to take as many shots at selling as many things as possible, because that’s the best way to increase your chances of actually getting conversions.  That strategy might work in the NFL Draft; but, it doesn’t work for a law firm.  That’s in large part because law firms are almost always built on referral marketing.  And, for referral marketing, you need a compelling pitch.  Your referral sources can’t say ‘You should check out my friend’s law firm.  They’re awesome.  They do literally everything.’  It’s far more compelling to have someone say, ‘Oh, you need to go see my friend Sheena.  She’s the best divorce lawyer I know.’

It turns out that scarcity is the play.  And, you can also extend that notion to leverage areas where there is a coverage gap.  Instead of setting up just another family law firm, try something you like that no one else has tried yet.  Invent a new practice area out of a specific unmet marketplace need, and exploit it.  This is moneyball for legal.  The reason most lawyers (especially those starting practices) don’t do this is because they’re super scared of the initial build.  Yes, it does take a while longer to grow a niche practice in which you do one thing differently; but, if you can master that brand/branding, and you’re the only person who does it, then you’ll eventually start to rake in the cash — especially if it’s a national practice area.  Yes, the snuggie is stupid, but if you’re the one dude who started making snuggies, then you probably did alright for yourself.  See also: Thneeds.

Creating and investing in a niche practice takes courage.  However, the reward for long-term thinking is often what the award for long-term thinking usually is.  Consider your benefits about to be reaped.