The legal space is getting pretty crowded these days. Chances are if you have a law practice, there are several firms in your area that offer similar services to what you provide. This makes coming up with unique marketing ideas and attracting new clients an extremely challenging process. Even if you know your office is better than the rest of the local competition, you can still can lose out on new clients just by getting lost in the shuffle of highly-competitive online search results.
So what can attorneys do to stand out from their peers? Well instead of trying to find ways to reach a broader audience, many of today’s businesses have decided to niche down and target a very specific type of client. Should more law firms be taking this approach and looking to provide specialized legal services? We’ll discuss in this edition of Let’s Debate Legal Marketing.
Why Law Firms Should Consider Going Niche
For attorneys, niching down generally means narrowing what their practice does to one or two unique types of law. This is often a type of law that no one else or very few other attorneys practice, and a type of law that they can in essence become the face of for the people in their area. For example, a personal injury lawyer struggling to consistently bring in new clients, might consider specializing in construction site related injuries. Below we lay out some of the positives that can come out of making such a move.
Consumers often pay more for specialized care
If you needed a wedding cake, would you want to go to a bakery that occasionally makes wedding cakes, or a business that charges a little more, but exclusively makes wedding cakes. While some may opt to go with the cheaper bakery option and hope for the best, most will want to put their faith in the specialty company. Sure it costs a little more, but a wedding cake is a big deal, and you want the making of your cake to be in expert hands.
Most people view hiring a lawyer the same way. While some will want to go with the cheapest option, many will pay more to work with an attorney that specializes in handling their exact issue, because they consider their legal problems to be too important to mess around with.
“Clients are looking for specialized expertise, and they’ll pay more for it,” said marketing consultant Jay Harrington in a recent Answering Legal blog post. “By focusing on a specific industry with a particular practice specialty, lawyers can position themselves to be the go-to solution for clients looking for answers. Otherwise, they’re just one of many left to compete on price.”
You’ll become more memorable
Being different is one of the best ways to get into people’s heads. General practice lawyers typically have to work really hard to make a lasting impression on a client. Even when they have a one of a kind marketing campaign, they may still struggle to get more than a few people to remember the name of their firm. But, if the type of law you practice is one of a kind, you’ll be much more likely to grab consumers’ attention.
“Be known for something specific so that you are easy to remember and people come to you for that specific thing,” attorney Joleena Louis told us in her June “Let’s Talk Legal Marketing” feature. “One of the things I focus on is divorce for business owners. A referral source can know ten different divorce attorneys, but if the referral involves a business they are going to think of me first.”
Louis raises a great point, as practicing a unique type of law will not only make you more memorable to potential clients, but to referral sources as well. Once other lawyers or people in your community begin associating you with a particular legal issue, it should only be a matter of time before they start sending clients your direction. You’ll quickly see the benefits of always being the first person that comes to mind when the type of law you specialize in comes up in conversation.
Marketing becomes simpler
For attorneys practicing more common types of law, creating advertisements that don’t resemble something that’s been done a million times before can be challenging. And when firms offer legal services for several different types of fields, the process becomes even more complicated, as your marketing efforts often have to become more comprehensive.
“It’s much easier to stand out with a focused practice than doing everything,” Jodi O’Hara of Web Visibility Advisors explained to us earlier this year. “(With a niche practice) your marketing will be clearer, more visible from a search perspective and the public perception will be that you’re more specialized.”
As O’Hara notes, establishing an online presence for your firm becomes a lot less difficult when you can brand yourself as specific type of attorney, and market to a very specific audience. When you know exactly who the customer you want to reach is, you can cater your advertising and content creation efforts to things you know they will want to see. Having a niche law practice is sort of like owning a clothing store, and knowing that your customers are only looking to buy red sweaters. Instead of having to appeal to an audience with a variety of clothing needs and preferences, you can instead focus in on what makes your collection of red sweaters the very best.
Enjoying your work becomes easier
Choosing a niche for your practice can not only help your firm from a financial and marketing standpoint, but from a quality of life standpoint as well. Lawyers who focus on a wide-range of legal fields will be lucky to find a few cases a year that they are really excited about. Attorneys that choose a type of law that they are really passionate about will be eager to come to work every day.
“Beyond price and attractiveness to clients from a marketing standpoint, your work becomes more interesting when you have a niche,” Harrington said. “When you’re a generalist who takes on whatever comes in the door, every matter is a bit of an adventure (and not in a good way). You’re constantly unsure of yourself. You have to research and double-check everything. To a lawyer with a niche specialty, most of the issues you deal with can be dealt with almost instinctually because you’ve seen them many times before. This frees up mental capacity to tackle the really tough issues, the interesting questions, the cutting-edge stuff.”
Being in your comfort zone everyday is a luxury most general practitioners don’t have. Attorneys practicing a niche they know and love, will almost always feel confident taking on new cases and answering client questions. Working on the same topics over and over again will also mean less surprises, less research, and mostly likely less stress.
Why Lawyers Should Be Careful About Going Niche
There are a lot of appealing reasons for lawyers to specialize their firms, but it may not be the best option for everyone. Here are some cons to consider that may come with starting a niche practice.
Some consumers may think less of you
Being different will no doubt help lawyers stand out from the crowd, but doing so also can leave them more open to criticism. While offering specialized services will make you more attractive to certain clients, other consumers may take it as a sign that your legal knowledge is somewhat limited. Fair or not, this is something lawyers need to be aware of.
“Clients prefer lawyers who are not just hyperspecialized in one niche,” wrote Jaap Bosman in a 2018 article for the ABA Journal. “They want their lawyers to be sparring partners who not only understand the client’s business but also are able to see legal issues in a wider context.”
Some consumers may also be hesitant to hire types of lawyers they have never heard of before. Even if you specialize in handling an exact issue a consumer is experiencing, you may have to work extremely hard just to shake the perception that what you do is a gimmick. It is fair to say that lawyers will have to occasionally swallow a bit of pride to thrive in the niche scene.
Building up online credibility could be challenging
Having a niche in theory should make marketing a lot easier, because you’ll know exactly who your target client is. But, limiting your firm to just a small percentage of the online population can present some issues when it comes to building up credibility.
Before contacting a law office they found online, most modern day consumers will want to do a little research on the firm. They’ll be curious to see what an attorney’s reviews look like, and what kind of social presence they have. For niche firms with relatively limited online audiences, accumulating positive reviews and social media follows may not be so easy.
Even for firms that receive a lot of referrals, it is difficult to find success in the digital age without at least a somewhat respectable online presence. Niche lawyers will need to be prepared to make the most of every online lead they recieve, and convince a significant number of their early clients to share positive endorsements about their firm online.
Finding the right niche isn’t always easy
While finding the perfect niche for your law firm can result in a dream work experience, settling on the wrong niche could create a nightmare one. One thing you’ll want to do before diving into a specialized field is carefully assess how much demand there actually is for a certain type of legal service. You’ll want to do a lot of online research, consult other attorneys, and perhaps send out consumer surveys before even considering making a career switch. Ask questions like “who will benefit from the creation of this firm?” and “why does this firm need to exist?”. If you struggle to come up with clear cut answers to these questions, you may need to head back to the drawing board.
Remember, returning to a more traditional practice after a failed niche experiment may not be that easy. You certainly don’t want to become known for something that will leave you constantly mocked by your peers, like our friend Charlie Kelly from the television series “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”.
We’re not 100 percent sure what bird law entails, but advertising yourself as an expert in it probably won’t be great for your legal reputation or your chances of being hired as a lawyer again.
Another important thing to remember when picking a niche type of law, is that you’re going to be working on the same subject just about every single day, so you better make sure you like it. And not just kind of care about it, but are truly passionate about it. Otherwise life will get pretty dull in a hurry.
Growing a niche business can be a slow process
As we’ve already stated, niche law firms can be heavily reliant upon referral business. With this being the case, unless you already have a number of powerful friends that believe in what you do, new clients may be hard to come by during the early stages of your practice’s development. If you are not a patient person, or are not in a financially stable enough place that affords you to be patient, you may want to think twice about starting a niche practice.
Our Final Thoughts
We’re living in a world that is seemingly becoming more and more niche. With consumers becoming increasingly diverse and their needs and desires becoming increasingly diverse, it is far from surprising that many specialized businesses are thriving. In the legal world, it makes a lot of since for attorneys to embrace niche culture, but only when the right opportunity comes along. If a vision for a specialized law field becomes clear to you, and it’s something you’re really passionate about, and you know there is a sizable group of consumers looking for a specific type of legal help, you may just have yourself a niche worth pursuing.