Build a Niche Practice with Focus on Foreign Clients
Many lawyers have no doubt heard about the relatively new concept of building niche law practices as a means of remaining competitive and successful within the ever-changing legal field. Developing a niche practice can be an excellent way to increase profitability and visibility for lawyers and their firms.
So what does it mean to develop a niche practice? In the American Bar Association’s online magazine GP Solo, one contributor described a niche law practice in the following way: “Put simply, a niche practice is a focused practice. Niche practitioners don’t try to be all things to all people. Instead, they focus their time, energy, and marketing efforts on a discrete segment of the legal market.”
A niche practice can specialize in a definitive and narrow area of the law and focus on attracting foreign-speaking clients within that niche. Before embarking on a niche practice for foreign-born clients, however (or any niche practice for that matter), it is important to begin with a comprehensive assessment of the lawyer or law firm’s strengths, weaknesses, and ability to readily attract the kind of foreign born clients it seeks to retain. For example, the following factors should be considered:
• Do any of the firm’s attorneys speak a foreign language and to what degree of fluency do they speak that language?
• Do any of the firm’s attorneys or staff have any personal, ethnic, or religious ties to a segment of the targeted population upon which to potentially generate leads/clients?
• Should the firm decide to pursue targeting clients of a particular ethnic background, are some of the attorneys and staff willing to learn the applicable foreign language to a reasonable degree of fluency in order to competently serve such clients?
• Are there segments of the local population who are being underserved with regard to their legal needs, possibly because of language barriers?
• Are there any current or previous clients who might also be served with the development of a niche practice? If so, could these clients provide invaluable referrals to help grow the new practice?
• What cultural barriers might impede the ability to attract new clients? For example, is the clientele’s culture litigious or non-litigious?
• What method do the prospective clients use to resolve conflict, and how can the firm tailor its services to their conflict resolution tactics? For example, if the prospective foreign-born clients are reluctant to turn to litigation to resolve disputes, could the firm market itself to handle mediation and arbitration cases?
• Where do the prospective foreign-born clients go to obtain legal counsel currently? Are they more prone to hiring a lawyer with whom they have developed a personal relationship, or can these potential clients be obtained through social media and/or online marketing?
• Are there segments of the local population that are currently underserved legally as a result of existing language barriers between them and traditional law firms?
• What type of fee structure is most attractive to these potential clients and is the firm willing and able to alter its existing fee structure in any way? For example, if flat fees are more appealing to the prospective clients than an hourly rate, is the firm willing to accommodate its niche clients accordingly?
• Other than foreign language education, what types of professional development and/or continuing legal education courses would the firm’s attorneys need to complete in order to competently serve these prospective clients?
• Is the niche practice a natural offshoot of the firm’s existing practice, or does it involve an entirely new area of law?
Based on the answers to the above questions, the law firm can then decide whether or not it is currently able to meet the legal needs of the prospective foreign-born clients and what, if any, additional preparations must be made in order to do so competently and effectively.