A few months ago my very knowledgable and responsive insurance broker, Michael Carroll, owner of The Carroll Insurance Group, LLC interviewed me. As my insurance broker Michael knows the details of my practice area since it is relevant to which insurance we choose to best protect ourselves. In consideration of my practice being quite specific, Michael felt it was warranted to have an interview to best communicate what I see as the advantages of being niche. I’ve decided to share the interview here since I believe most any business could benefit from niching themselves, especially in the world of startups.
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(Interview starts at 6:15 of the video)
INTERVIEW Outtakes. Not a direct transcript but you’ll get the gist:
MC: “So let’s start with the idea that when you graduate from law school you have a Juris Doctor – J.D.. With that J.D. you can practice in any area of law you desire. Most attorneys take a job out of law school and that job dictates the area they practice in, other attorneys work for smaller firms where they do everything that walks in the door – ‘door law.’ Jason you have picked an interesting niche. Would you please share a bit about it.”
JHR: Thank you Michael, pleasure to be with you. I actually have two niches, one niche is the practice area specific and the other is directed toward a specific industry or market. I am an intellectual property attorney and within IP my main focus is on trademarks, although we do handle patents, copyrights, and related matters. I also am the “Attorney for Coaches.” I focus on working with owners of coaching businesses, just in the way that you are the insurance agent for attorneys.
I believe by picking a niche you can really turn your practice into a business.
MC: “Excellent Jason! Now, let’s get into why did you choose your niche? What exactly do you mean by niche?”
I actually went into law school with the goal of becoming a patent attorney. I was in college studying for my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, while home for a break and working at my father’s retail store I met a customer. The customer said, “your father told me you are an engineering student, you should think of going to law school and becoming a patent attorney it is interesting work, easy and well paying.” So I said, “sounds like a good idea,” and went home and signed up for an LSAT review course. I always enjoyed learning how things worked, taking my toys and other household items apart as a child to figure them out, which was probably primarily the reason I went into engineering.
I worked for a small firm right out of law school, we mostly practiced in the area of trademark and copyrights and I really enjoyed the trademark aspect. When I opened my practice in 2009 I decided that I wanted to enjoy what I did, so I focused on the area I enjoyed most. At the time I actually did not think about the benefits of picking a niche on the business of my firm. In growing my firm, studying about business, and as I transition from a practice to a business I realize more and more that having a niche makes good business sense.
MC: “Jason as you know I have a number of friends that are coaches and I have done a lot of work with GKIC, could you go into detail about how you came to focus on the coaching industry.”
JHR: Well after years of working for others, I decided to open my own practice, as I mentioned before. I wanted to be free to choose to work on the matters I truly enjoyed and with clients I enjoyed working with. I went from being an employee, to a business owner. Once you become a business owner you take on several new responsibilities that an employee does not have to worry about. I had to be the receptionist, secretary, paralegal, associate, a managing partner, CFO, accountant and a CEO. In law school they do not teach you the business of running a law firm; they teach you to be another cog in the wheel at big law. A law firm is a business and to be able to most effectively and efficiently serve your clients you need to run it like a business.
A few years ago I came across RJon Robins’ “How to Manage a Small Law Firm”. Something kept piquing my interest with RJon and his team and I finally went to an event. Before working with RJon and his team I had met coaches while networking and I did not get it, but my life and mindset have no doubt improved since I took the step of attending an event. Having now worked with a coach/advisor, and more importantly feeling the results, I now understand the true value and success possible with coaching.
About a year after working with RJon, he shared a realization that he had as both a coach and a lawyer, in that there is a desperate need for lawyers that understand the unique challenges and opportunities of the coaching industry. Based on my background of IP, working with smaller businesses and the fact that I understand what coaches do, it was a perfect fit. RJon created a side program for about 10 of us and he taught us all about the coaching industry; who the big players are, the business model, and many of the issues coaches face. RJon even had us do market research by attending live coaching events and speak to coaches. Some of my first coach clients I met at events while doing market research. It was great, I was the only lawyer in a room full of potential clients. That is the power of picking a niche.
When you attend one of HTMSLF’s seminars you are the only insurance agent in a room full of clients. If done correctly that turns into great ROI.
MC: “You mentioned that by picking a niche it has made your business life easier; if you could, go into detail about the benefits of niching your practice.”
JHR: Having a niche makes it easier to market and run your firm.
Marketing – Targeted marketing. One message, you become the Trademark guy, the Attorney for Coaches, etc. Rather than JohnSmithLaw.com, you can get attorneyforccoaches.com, a domain that tells your potential client exactly what you do.
Not only does it let you condense your focus into one message, but it also lets you direct your message to the proper recipient. Actually focusing in on an industry or a market is much easier than focusing on an area of law. I focus on representing owners of coaching businesses, so I go to events where I am the only attorney in the room with a 200-700 potential clients. For example, if you are a tax attorney you can focus on representing steel mills or ecommerce providers and then go to their industry events. Also, when you are networking, non-lawyers will not just remember you as another lawyer, you will be the “patent lawyer” or the “landlord lawyer.”
Systems – You do not need to reinvent the wheel on each new case. Yes, there may be differences, but in general it will be the same steps, forms, etc. I believe in an earlier show you had Chris Anderson on and he discussed systems in a law firm; the systems being made of your policies and procedures. Choosing a niche assists in creating those policies, procedures, and systems. Then you get to continually refine those systems, because each case tests the system.
MC: “Excellent again Jason! By picking a niche do you feel you are missing out on other work?”
JHR: Substantively, picking a niche allows you to focus all your CLEs, reading, and research in one area. You become the go-to guy or gal in a specific area. Whenever other attorneys hear about a related issue their first thought is to refer the matter to you. Conversely, I get to refer my clients to other attorneys that have a niche practice in an area the client needs (ex. tax, employment law, etc). Again that goes back to the marketing, if you send someone a referral they usually want to send you one back. One of the reasons I was drawn to working with you was that you niched your insurance business; Insuring lawyers. You wrote the book on it. You know the main issues a law firm faces because you have done your homework, you have represented other law firms, you stay on top of the insurance policies relevant to a law firm.
I know some attorneys feel they get bored or like the diversity, and it is ok to do other things. You can always do other work if you really want, just because you pick a niche does not mean that you are stuck in that niche forever or that that is the only work you may do. You just use that niche to market your business and set up the systems and procedures in your business.
Additionally, I think niching yourself (and I stay away from saying “expert” because I know most bars do not allow that) allows you to command a premium because you are seen as a the “go-to”in the area. My mentor and coach used to say you should get paid the most for the things that come to you easiest. From my experience when a client comes to me with a trademark they would like to use or register I can spot most of the issues fairly quickly because I have over a decade of experience in that particular area.
MC: “Jason, WOW this is incredible information and if I am a lawyer watching us or listening to us by now I would be getting excited about making a decision to niche my practice. If an attorney listening to you has a client that may need your services how can they make a referral.
JHR: The office number is (888) 666-0062, my email is [email protected], or they can check out my sites JHRLegal.com and AttorneyForCoaches.com. Thank you for having me.
A note to remember an insurance policy is a fancy word for an insurance contract, it is a contract and heavily drafted in the favor of the insurance company. Having a good broker that understand the policies and gets to know your business is an asset.
Michael has videos that discuss a number issues any business owner, not just attorneys, should be aware of in purchasing insurance go visit it here: https://insuringlawyer.com/tv/
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.
Law Office of Jason H. Rosenblum, PLLC © 2016 All rights reserved.