Since the passing of the Legal Services Act 2007, it has often been claimed law firms need to ‘get big, get niche or get out’. But, says Paul Bennett, small firms can be niche in multiple complementary areas

Since the passing of the Legal Services Act 2007, it has often been claimed law firms need to ‘get big, get niche or get out’. A flurry of merger activity and insolvencies seems to support the theory that general-practice firms will struggle.

Puzzle box toy

My belief, based on my own experience as both a (niche) sole practitioner and a partner in commercial and employment law firm, is that firms can be, and often should be, niche in multiple complementary areas.

Overview

Firstly, solicitors provide legal services to clients who have a need. The client’s perspective is often key to our commercial success. Therefore, helping prospective clients understand what you do is key. If more potential clients understand your services then, logically, more clients will use your firm.

Secondly, being niche means you do more work of a similar nature and therefore you become more effective at it.

Gordon Turner, of Gordon Turner Employment Lawyers, recently told me: ‘I have got my systems for compromise agreements down to a fine art, and by doing hundreds each year, I am able to offer a quick service and make money from them.’

Thirdly, firms and other professionals (including insolvency practitioners, accountants, and business advisers) can refer with confidence to specialists.

Tony Roe of Tony Roe Solicitors told me recently: ‘As a specialist family lawyer, other firms who do not undertake family work can refer to me with confidence, as their clients are safe from being poached. I am not a rival, but a trusted fellow professional.’

My own firm promotes our partnership law work in the same way. Our clients are typically solicitors and GPs. These clients demand expertise and excellence, and we can showcase this easier on a niche website than on the firm’s general website.

Practical tips

  • Market around the niche rather than the general firm. A simple message often helps attract prospective clients.
  • Write articles or blogs about your niche to showcase your expertise.
  • Consider whether you should promote your firm as having multiple niches rather than teams - is this message easier for clients to understand?
  • If you do not compete with other lawyers, can they refer their clients to you?
  • Are you able to standardise documents to reduce the costs of doing the work and increase the profitability?

Finding your niche need not mean one service, but it should mean real expertise. Clients are paying law firms for excellence, and being niche gives confidence to prospective clients.

Small firms have the edge - it’s easier for them to showcase their expertise. Take advantage of this edge.