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Niche Law Practice and the Business Model

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Niche law practices are nothing new. This blog contains dozens of posts  that either describe an interesting and emerging niche practice or profile lawyers with unique niches. My blog doesn’t hold a monopoly on niche law either; for years, my blogging colleague Chuck Newtown  tracked interesting niches, and there’s even a recent book, One of a Kind Lawyer  by Jay Harrington on this topic.

The success of niche law practices depends on lots of factors – ability to market a practice, the lawyer’s familiarity with the subject matter and of course, most important of all, a demand for the niche by paying clients.  But there’s another factor that’s vital to the success of a niche that is rarely discussed – but one that I touched on briefly here : the business model for the niche.

When I accidentally launched my niche in ocean renewable energy back in the early ‘90s (accidental in the sense that I had just opened my firm and no mainstream energy companies would hire me), I was able to generate enough business from individual clients during my first few years of practice. But over time, I saw that my model was not sustainable: as the technology gained visibility, many large firms started trying to enter the space and did so by providing free service to fledgling companies. Although I still had a few paying clients, I couldn’t afford to work for free. But then, somewhat fortuitously, I attended a conference where I met a communications professional focused on the energy industry and a lobbyist working with an ocean energy client. After talking, we recognized that a trade association could help advance the industry – and so, we created one. Over the next nine years, the trade association grew to 55 members, and instead of representing individual companies, I worked on their collective behalf as general and regulatory counsel through the trade association.  Although the association merged with another trade association three years ago and I’ve moved on to other niche practice areas, I learned that there’s more than one way to succeed at a niche than through the traditional one lawyer, one client model.

Since then, I’ve studied how other niches have succeeded through creation of their own unique business model. There’s Ted Frank, who created a nonprofit to advance his shareholder litigation niche, Brad Clark, who created a techno-powered subsidiary to focus on Kentucky expungements or Open Legal, which is a nonprofit law firm focused on the low-income niche.  What’s more, because niche practices typically involve expansion into unchartered areas that other lawyers aren’t handling, they are well-suited for experimentation with new business models.

Niche and the business model is just one of the unique topics that will be covered in my upcoming program,: SPOTLIGHT , an online course and mastermind group for creating a captivating niche practice that will make your practice shine – and make it rain too! The full course syllabus is available here and if you register before July 15, you can take advantage of the special $299 price.

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