Find a niche… easier said than done, right?

Usually when I mention finding a niche, most lawyers’ push back. They generally explain how they don’t want to miss this kind of case or that kind of case. Their practice areas list looks like that of a firm of 10 lawyers. How can you possibly market such a list? How can potential clients and referring attorneys remember what you do? Will they think of you when any of those practice areas are mentioned? Probably not!  If your list is a practice group with a long list of sub practice areas… that works. However if your list is: criminal defense, real estate closings and business transactions… that’s another story.

Continue Reading Legal Business Development: Find A Niche

Lately I have been writing about finding a niche and a colleague of mine, Cordell Parvin, shared a story from one of the clients he coaches. He shared how Alison Rowe found her niche… when Cordell asked her what was she passionate about, she asked him not to laugh. Her passion is horses and she wanted to be an "equine lawyer." Well he didn’t laugh, (I imagine he cheered) and encouraged her to follow her passion. 

Here are the steps Alison went through to follow her dream.

1. Met with other lawyers who were already practicing equine law.

2. Subscribed to trade publications.

3. Researched the law.

4. Joined trade organizations.

5. When to events and conferences.

6. Offered to speak and write articles.

Today she has two blogs: The Equine Law Blog and  TxEquineLawyer FAQ’s and promotes herself as a equine lawyer that handles 100% horse related cases.

Now… that is a niche! She had a dream and followed her passion. What could your niche be? The steps are simple… the commitment needs to be unwavering.

Black Pearl: To read Alison’s entire story, go to Cordell’s blog and in the center of the page you will find "The Practical Lawyer" Latest Articles. Get inspired!

Courage. Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone. I tell lawyers all the time… Narrow your focus… find a niche. It allows you to speak directly to your audience in their language and  it positions you as the go to expert in that area. Now, that doesn’t mean it is your only practice area. It will not be the only work that comes your way… it will just be the attraction. 

Have the courage to step out… because this works. I’ve seen it over and over again.  I have had the privilege to work with Michelle Estlund who has the courage to step out… last week she launched her blog… Red Notice Law Journal.

Kevin O’Keefe’s Real Lawyers Have Blogs recognized Michelle’s new blog… 

It’s always neat adding a publication discussing a new subject. With Michelle Estlund’s Red Notice Law Journal we have that. For those of you who don’t know, Red Notices are issued by INTERPOL "To seek the provisional arrest of a wanted person with a view to extradition based on an arrest warrant or court decision." On this blog, she discusses INTERPOL’s infrastructure, tools and practices; politically-based Red Notices; challenging Red Notices; and international extradition.

Does it take courage? Sure it does. Michelle is passionate about this unique area of the law and I am sure that she will have fun writing her blog.  It is just a matter of time until clients will find her.

Black Pearl: Michelle launched her blog on March 31st and on April 4th I googled "Red Notices Interpol" and her blog was already on the first page, as the 6th listing. That is what I call RESULTS! 

Yes, I know…a lawyer. But today let’s think about who you really want to be in 2011? Truly define it. Do you want to focus your practice on a certain niche? Do you want to be “the small-banking go-to lawyer,” the “aviation law expert for the Northwest,” the “Georgia divorce expert?” Where do you want to steer your business and what type of client do you want to attract? It may sound silly, but just writing down the kind of clients you want to walk through your door can help you see opportunity when it presents itself.

Quick example: In October of 2009 I sat at my desk and wrote down a goal. I wanted to get one non-lawyer coaching client in 2010. Then I put the thought away. Fast-forward to January 2010 and an old client happened to call me up and ask for my help in branding his new (non-legal) company. Had I not written down that goal I would have taken the business, been happy to hear from an old friend and moved on. But a light went on and I took him to lunch, pitching my services as a marketing coach. He became my first non-lawyer coaching client. Write it down.
 

Black Pearl: Think outside of the box when re-thinking your strategy. Cordell Parvin recently found 10 core values after reading Zappos’ founder Tony Hsieh’s book "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose."

Bringing your personal brand to the forefront and mixing it with what your target market wants to know makes for a clear, concise blog personality.

This week we asked: Do you have a clear vision for your blog or potential blog?

1. Yes, my vision is clear – 0%

2. Maybe, I have a few ideas – 68%

3. No, I have no idea where to begin – 32%

My Thoughts: It seems that most of you have at least an idea of where you’re headed with your blog and 32% of you don’t know where to begin. I’ll shed a bit of light.

I often speak about staying true to your personal brand, and blogging is one of those areas where it becomes even MORE important. You want readers to get an instant sense of who you are, what you do and what makes you stand out. Once you have that straight, move on to your target audience. A copywriter that I work with says she often pictures writing to a specific person… do the same with your blog. Who are you writing to? Other lawyers? Potential clients? A specialized industry? It will help you become clear on what your blog needs to cover and how you can position your voice and your advice or opinion in the best light.

Finally, think about theme. Find a way to differentiate your blog from others out there that are similar. Mine places it’s focus on simple, straightforward legal marketing and business development advice that can be applied to everyday life and is formatted in a very specific pattern (question, poll, answer and discussion). Are you passionate about a certain topic within the law? Blog about that. Have special insight into city-specific rulings or legislation? Blog about that. Does your legal knowledge translate well into a long-term newsworthy topic (such as local real estate, celebrity divorces, or travel issues)? Turn it into a blog. Just be sure to choose something that interests both you and your target audience and do it in a voice that stays true to your personal brand.

As my colleague Carolyn Elefant of LegalMarketingBlawg.com says:

In addition to staying on top of news streams, put yourself in a client’s shoes.  If you were a prospective client searching for a [bankruptcy or immigration or family or special education or fill-in-the-blank] lawyer, what kinds of questions would you have?  What information would you want to know?  And what would you hope to learn about your lawyer?

Black Pearl: For great examples of interesting and focused blogs look no further than the blogroll at right. Click through and you’ll get a good idea of focus and content. A few of my favorites: DeathPenaltyBlog.com, themaclawyer.com, artlaw.foxrothschild.com, NYBusinessDivorce.com, and cruiselawnews.com.

You can never be all things to all people. It’s important to recognize your target market and make THEM your focus.

This week we asked: My target market:

1. Is abundantly clear – 53%

2. Is somewhat clear – 47%

3. Is not clear to me at all – 0%

My Thoughts: It’s great that over half of you have a clearly defined target market. That’s a huge step in making sense of your personal brand. For the rest of you, take some time to look over your client list… then make a list of the dream clients you want to have. Market to them. In simple terms: market to what you want, not what you have.

Identifying your target market is an extremely important step in not only building your brand, but in all aspects of your marketing and business development. Here’s why: Once you’ve defined your market it makes it easier to speak to them. You can focus on what THEY want, what THEY value, what THEY look for in an attorney. Once you’ve identified those things you are better able to speak to them in their own language. Don’t tell them what you want to say… tell them what they want to know.

Some great advice from my friend Patrick Mead of Carter Newell

Differentiate yourself through specialization and expertise. This takes time–be prepared to invest time in building your own sphere of excellence and then do the same things well over and over and over.

Black Pearl: Defining a target market is a basic principle of smart marketing. Here are two great pieces that focus on non-law firm examples… but do a great job of illustrating its importance. The first discusses the now-famous Apple iPad and its search for a target market; while the second is from Business Week and looks at an equally important group: the clients your firm DOESN’T want.