Whether in private practice or a corporate legal department, having a niche legal practice is critical to a lawyer’s success and opportunities today. A specialty also translates to more control over your career and the number of options available to you: whether you want to change firms, move in-house, or pursue an alternative legal practice of some sort. Our December blog discussed this prevailing trend and the importance of having a niche, along with some of the reasons why specialization has replaced the traditional wisdom of being a generalist who can handle almost any type of legal matter. This month we explore how to choose a niche and develop one a bit further.
One of our Texas legal recruiters recently attended an event at the University of Texas Law School entitled “Passion Forward.” It was a full two-day event that was well attended by law students and attorneys at various stages in their careers. The seminar offered participants the opportunity to identify their passions and ways to use them to create their own brand and distinguish themselves among a crowded field. What struck us as unique, valuable and FUN was the notion that any passion can be leveraged to positively impact an attorney’s ability to generate business – not just a passion that related directly to the law – but any outside interest or hobby.
An authentic passion can connect you to a group of people who share that interest, and those people can and often do turn into clients or employers, quite naturally and easily. One speaker (a large firm attorney) shared that her interest of running and working out allowed her to meet and become friends with the CEO of a significant company. When that company became embroiled in a “bet the company” litigation matter, he chose her to represent them because he knew the case would require the perseverance and dedication that he had seen this lawyer demonstrate in their workout sessions. He also knew that he would enjoy working with her due to her sense of humor, and he had confidence in her abilities because he had first-hand knowledge of how smart she was. This new case propelled this attorney to partnership at her firm the following year, and led to even more business due to this client’s referrals.
A niche also gives you a great tool to use with social media. We all know that social media impacts buying decisions (statistics indicate that an increasing number of clients use social media to choose a lawyer), but many of us are unsure of how to use social media to our advantage. With a niche law practice based on your personal interests, you can use social media to join groups and connect online with others who share that passion, interact with them, and contribute to online discussions to showcase your expertise and originality. And, best of all, it doesn’t feel like “work” – you are simply and genuinely following your authentic interests.
A great example is an attorney we recently met while conducting a search for an in-house counsel with a company in the aviation industry. This attorney had developed a love of flying in college, which she continued as a hobby throughout law school. She landed a job at a big firm handling aviation law in New York City and impressed clients with her in-depth knowledge of airports, airplanes, and airline logistics, which allowed her to add much more value to the lawsuits she handled for aviation companies than even the best litigation generalist. After living through 9/11 in New York City, she was hired to assist with the voluminous airline security regulations and began writing about them in aviation publications. She also joined online groups and discussion forums. When she decided to make a lifestyle change and relocate from New York City, she had her pick of in-house legal jobs in the aviation industry. Her passion became her legal niche, and she is thriving in her chosen area of practice.
This concept applies not just to lawyers but to others in legal-related industries, such as compliance professionals, paralegals, and even legal recruiters. With a specific area of expertise, one can provide more value to clients and distinguish yourself in an increasingly complex and competitive world. Momentum Search Partners has several niche recruiting practices based on the interests of our various recruiters, including energy, healthcare, intellectual property, and the financial services industry.