Whether you have a rural or metro practice, most attorneys are looking to expand. In a prior Lawyerist post, I talked about how offering a unique service that you’re passionate about can help you identify a niche area to add to your law practice. Now that you’ve identified a niche area, the next step is to become the expert.
1. Take advantage of opportunities to learn.
When most people think of expanding into an area of law, they think about attending CLEs. CLEs are great, but you’re learning from the experts and you aren’t going to be any more of an expert on the subject than anyone else in the room. You need to do more. If you’re a law student reading this, you’re in a unique position to spend time becoming an expert. You already have to do student notes and 3L papers. Take every opportunity now to learn your area of passion when you don’t have the time constraints that keeping up a practice requires. For example, I wrote a student note on non-tax issues in international estate planning. That gave me the excuse to dive into the material. As a bonus, it ended up getting published. The fact that I’m a published author gives me credibilty. I also wrote on international tax issues for a required 3L paper. Even though it was never published, I have a handy resource to refresh my memory when those issues come up in my practice.
If you’re out of law school, start a blog, for nothing else, to give yourself a reason to study your interest area. If you don’t want to spend the time keeping up a blog requires, offer to write an article in attorney trade magazines. Many state bar publications or section publications are looking for authors. Better yet, find out how to become a CLE presenter.
2. Plug in with other experts.
Even though you might be an expert, you’ll need to have a network of colleagues that you can go to when you run across an issue that stumps you and to keep you aware of changes in your niche area. If you’re truly an expert, your normal solo mentor down the street won’t be able to help you. You need to look nationally and perhaps even internationally for collegues that you can bounce ideas off of. In my case, being a member of the ABA’s international section keeps me plugged in with international estate planners from around the world and through that membership, I’ve learned about IRS reporting requirements that could affect my transnational clients.
If you look beyond just taking a CLE and find ways to plug in with other experts, you will have the background to offer services in your niche area.