United States: Stake Your Claim: Creating A Niche Legal Practice

Stake Your Claim

Like the business pioneers before them, lawyers can benefit from finding new ground of their own.

If you are particularly interested in this issue's theme, it is likely because you are responsible for helping attorneys with their business development and marketing initiatives. You are continually looking for fresh ideas, best practices and other tips that will give you an edge and propel your ever-busy attorneys to new heights. Given the competition for attorneys' time and attention, wouldn't you love to find a way to help them direct and sustain their business development efforts amidst pressures to bill +1800 hours a year, meet complex client demands, serve on firm committees, and have a bit of personal time? There is a way, and it's by helping busy lawyers focus the time they spend on business development through the art and science of building a niche law practice.

What Is a Niche Practice?

A niche practice comes about from building expertise in a distinct area of law or industry segment. A good definition of the word niche is "a place to stand," and that is a good way to think of a niche law practice. When an attorney chooses to narrow their focus, they is stake out a place of their own to grow into, be known for, and deeply explore and master. The key is to select a niche practice with strong economic potential in an area that is trending upward, then plant a flag and become the leading expert in that field. Done right, a niche practice is a way to capitalize on trends in society or business that affect attorneys' clients and offer the opportunity to grow new business.

The Importance of Trends

Trends are a critical part of the niche practice discussion and key to successfully focusing marketing and business development activities. Throughout history, trends have presented both the greatest opportunities and greatest risk for businesses and professionals. Miss a trend, and it could mean losing market share, or worse. For example:

  • Kodak, once the world's undisputed leader in photographic technology, missed the digital trend and filed for bankruptcy
  • The music industry has been gutted by the trend toward digitization that it first ignored and then resisted.
  • Believe it or not, Blockbuster, the once ubiquitous video store chain, had the opportunity to buy Netflix 16 years ago. But it stuck with brick and mortar, due dates, and late fees instead!

On the flip side, anticipating a trend and getting in front of competitors can produce untold rewards. For example:

  • At a time when few had heard of microcomputers, Bill Gates and Paul Allen formed Microsoft in an effort to bring a computer to every desktop and every home.
  • A pioneer of the gig economy, Uber has redefined transportation. Tap a button, get a ride.

Spotting and acting on emerging trends is how successful companies have always captured market share and spurred innovation. Lawyers could take a page from their book. Gone are the days when law firms could rest on the laurels of past success and give little thought to market position and business development. Today, innovative lawyers and law firms are emulating forward-looking businesses — responding quickly to emerging technologies and markets, and positioning themselves as the go-to choice when a nascent industry takes off. Take Cozen O'Connor's COpilot site, for example, which provides tools and insights for entrepreneurs and emerging companies.

Legal Marketers as Trend Spotters

Legal marketers are perfectly positioned to spot trends and conduct the analysis to suggest new niche practices. Believe it or not, we have a leg up on our lawyers in this area, simply because we are not lawyers! We are marketers. We are interested in social media and new technologies. We are engaged in client and industry research, and we think about things like buying behavior and motivation. By thinking about the big picture and the areas of law our firms practice, we can bring concrete and actionable trend analyses to our attorneys.

Like most things in life, spotting trends comes more naturally with practice. To improve your trend spotting skills, make a habit of checking the BrainReserve website by Faith Popcorn (yes, that is her real name!). Studying Popcorn's "17 Trends" list, for example, and contemplating how any one of those trends could impact a particular practice of law can get the creative juices flowing.

Test Your Skills

Here is an exercise to test your ability to generate a new niche law practice. Pair one of the trends in the left column with a practice in the right column and create a niche practice. Keep in mind that a niche practice can be targeted toward an industry, a segment of the population or even a location.

Trends Practices
(Eve)olution* Insurance Recovery
Online Everything Real Estate
Wearable Tech Tax, Trusts & Estates
Drones Privacy
Climate Change Intellectual Property
Sharing Economy Class Action
Aging America Labor & Employment

* According to Faith Popcorn, the way women think and behave is impacting business, causing a marketing shift away from a hierarchical model to a relational one.

Here's an example to get you going:

Aging America + Tax, Trusts & Estates = niche practice tailored to baby boomers in need of business succession planning services.

Choosing a niche is by no means a new concept – lawyers have been doing it for a long time. You no doubt have examples in your own firm, but here are a few interesting practices we found:

  • Canna Law Group, launched in 2010, is a team of business attorneys focused on corporate, compliance, intellectual property and consumer product issues impacting the cannabis industry.
  • LeClairRyan's Annapolis-based drone practice is headed by a former flight instructor and a former American Airlines pilot.
  • BakerHostetler was a pioneer in the area of data privacy and has bolstered that practice with the well-read Data Privacy Monitor blog. Today, the firm's privacy attorneys often focus on niche areas, such as one partner who focuses on privacy and data protection issues within cloud computing.

Minting Niche Practice Lawyers

In our experience, lawyers who are poised for partnership and newly elected partners are ideal candidates for choosing and developing a niche. Hungry to develop a book of business, they are often open to new ideas, are looking for a place to stand and call their own, and are likely comfortable with the online world, which is the ideal place to project niche expertise.

The trick is to be a student of trends and astute about analyzing what trends are poised to create a groundswell, thereby causing changes in business, regulation, consumer behavior and demand. The many successful rainmakers we have known over the years all have one thing in common: an interest in and aptitude for seeing the next big thing — in their clients' industries, the political climate or in consumer preferences. And, they haven't been afraid to reinvent themselves time and again.

In a marketplace where choices are plentiful, lawyers and law firms must tune in to trends or risk going the way Blockbuster.

Originally appeared in The Legal Marketing Association (LMA)'s Strategies Magazine.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions