Most professionals intuitively know that focusing on a niche is a great way to add value to their client offering and gain a competitive advantage in their given market.  But where many lawyers stop short is in not fully executing a niche strategy by refusing to draw a line in the sand and actually turn away work that falls outside of their niche.  This is because it is scary to walk away from work especially if the market is flat.  However paradoxically you need to become good at saying “NO” to work that is outside of your niche if you want to grow your practice to it’s full potential.

Sometimes the fear comes out of not being clear about your niche.  I would suggest that for a niche to be sustainable and clear it has to tick all three of the following boxes:

  1. Identify the category of practice (e.g. commercial property) or industry focus (e.g. mining) that you naturally gravitate to and others automatically seek your advice and expertise on. It is often hard to see yourself objectively so ask your clients, colleagues and friends what they see you as an expert in;
  2. Choose an area that you are really great at or can become great at due to your personality, natural abilities, contacts and learnt skills.  This is where your skills and expertise meet circumstances and background;
  3. Finally ensure that there is a market for your expertise i.e. clients in your chosen niche are prepared to spend money on your particular niche;

A fourth factor is being in the right firm.  For example if you are in a margin sensitive niche, and your firm has a policy of premium charge out rates, then pursuing this niche or remaining in your current firm may not be sustainable for you.  Your niche needs to be consistent with the overall strategy of the firm you are in.  There is no point forcing it. You are better off finding a firm that better matches your longer term niche than try to change your existing firm. Your niche should always be an extension of your natural abilities, talents and passion!