Expanding your practice is something every lawyer has either successfully done or wants to do. When you determine a niche area that you are passionate about and that sets you apart and you’ve put in the time to become an expert, you are ready to market yourself. You may not have clients walking in your door every day that need your expertise in your niche area, but your colleagues who don’t have that expertise may.
Here is what I’ve done to market my expertise in my niche area, international estate planning, to other attorneys in an effort to expand my rural practice to global clients.
Share your knowledge
You can put all the keywords on your website that you want, but what you really need is for colleagues think of you when they have an issue that calls for your expertise. The best way to do this is to share your knowledge. One classic way to do that is through presenting a CLE, but there are ways you can share your knowledge on a regular basis. Get plugged into listserves, write for trade publications, and join linkedin groups. The point is to show that you are an expert in a specific area of the law and that your niche area is complicated. In other words, give information to show that your expertise can assist them in helping in addressing their clients’ needs and that you can answer the complicated legal issue in front of them that they’d rather not deal with.
Have a plan
Even before you put yourself out there as an expert to your colleagues, think about some obvious questions they might have. How much do you charge? How do you base your fees? Do you co-council or will you only take traditional referrals? Try to anticipate your colleagues and their clients needs and consider how you can address them.
Don’t be a poacher
You may find that you receive partial referrals. For example, you may practice estate planning, with an emphasis on international issues, or general business law with and expertise of intellectual property. Your general estate planning colleague or general business law colleague may have a plum client that they are retaining while referring niche issues onto you. This can be a great arrangement, but in some cases the client wants you to represent them on their entire matter. Tread cautiously. Having a reputation as a client poacher will kill future referrals. Explain to your client that, while you will be glad to help them with their entire legal matter, your reputation is on the line and would like to discuss altering the arrangement with the referring attorney. Most attorneys I’ve dealt with in this type of situation do not have a problem letting the client go and they appreciate that you’ve treated the referral relationship with respect.
To those of you who are adding your niche area of passion to your practice, what have you done to successfully market yourself to other attorneys? What additional steps can you take to market your expertise to colleagues?