There are several ways to develop a niche. It can be subject matter specific, (drone law, equine law, 3d printer law, gun trusts); it could be population specific, (ethnic populations, LGBT populations, age specific groups); finally, it could be service specific (home visit, mobile practice, geared to assist the blind, hearing impaired, children with disabilities).
First, start with subject matter, populations, services that you are passionate about. What lights your fire? What current topics do you find interesting? Are there laws recently passed or adjudications which you find particularly interesting and provocative?
Second, read everything you can find concerning your passion which as the potential to impact individuals, businesses, governmental agencies or populations economically or in other significant ways. For instance, non-military drones are being used in farming, surveillance, rescue, delivery and by municipalities. This holiday season, it is estimated that drones will outpace other electronic gadgets for gifts. Very little has been written about their regulation, applications for commercial or private use and all of that regulation is currently evolving. Plus, there are laws being studied to control their use for hunting, in agriculture, restricted use where privacy concerns may be an issue. If you wished to pursue developing a niche in “drone law”, there are unlimited opportunities to stay abreast of developments in this area of law. In addition, you might want to contact legislators to find out about proposed legislation or regulations which are being proposed. You be the “go to person” and contact for the legislator to make suggestions how the law might impact certain individuals or businesses. This puts you at the origins of the laws which may impact others.
Third, write about it. In the example above define the audience you are trying to reach. Which population has the greatest likelihood of seeking your expertise and be willing and able to pay for it? This is what is commonly referred to as a “micro-niche”. Again, in the example above, you might want to seek out clients who are interested in agricultural applications and their particular concerns. If your goal is to be the expert in the use of drones in agriculture, then write an article in ag related periodicals or blog with focus on ag related use of drones. Keep your article short, 500-1000 words and publish it in publications or blogs which your target audience is likely to read.
Fourth, when given the opportunity to litigate a case related to the subject matter you write about, offer to take it on for a reduced fee or pro bono to establish yourself as an advocate or to help define this new area of law. This will give you a platform to use to build your reputation as an expert in this new and developing area of law.
Fifth, make a concerted effort to stay on top of developments in that specialty and offer your services to speak first, before local groups and continue to expand to regional groups and finally, as you gain recognition, national groups which will find the material to be relevant to their particular area of interest.
If you do these things, you will soon find that you are spending time representing clients in cases related to the area of law that you selected. As the expert in this area of law, you can command retainers where you set the standard as you will have little or no competition as this area of law . As your practice topic matures, you will continue to command higher rates than your competitors due to the depth of your experience and acknowledged expertise. Don’t be another “also ran” when practicing law. Develop your own area of legal specialization and take the competition out of the picture. At the same time, you will be doing something that truly interests you, is cutting edge and continues to keep you fresh and enthused about your practice.