I just sat in another great talk around how to grow a niche market in a mid-sized law firm at the Legal Marketing Association Annual conference 2019.

 What could have been slightly dry was the best talk I attended at the LMA, with Ioana Good, (Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed) and Kathryn Whitaker (Burr & Forman) elucidating how they launched successful medicinal marijuana advisory practices within their respective businesses

In one case study, it revolved around how one firm grew its alternative medicines practice in Florida following a change in legislation in 2017 around the use of public 'opportunity zones' in Florida. It came from an agriculture client who was interested in transferring land from growing strawberries to growing marijuana as he knew it was pretty profitable etc. One savvy attorney who specialised in land use spotted an opportunity and the law firm took hold of it!

The fascinating parts were how they came to identify the sector (by chance!), the research they put into it and how they overcame the doubters internally and externally. The research phase uncovered some of the potential speed bumps - conservative employees/brand image, uphill battle, new market, lack of market expertise etc. but the real challenge was educating their target audience and other stakeholders through targeted content. 

They approach the task using the below 'Common framework' which can be used at any law firm.

  1. Identify sector
  2. Research
  3. Target clients
  4. Educate
  5. Participate 
  6. Position
  7. Perform
  8. Sustain + Grow
  9. Repeat!

The key to this firm moving into the new niche was redefining how people saw marijuana, the potential threats posed by it and educating people as to the benefits of it (medicinal, economic, development of low-income areas etc.). This clever marketing strategy - leveraging newsletters, focus groups, targeted 'evergreen' content, nurturing the media etc. to slowly change perceptions - not only allowed the firm to grow a new line of business but those lawyers who launched the news sector reaped the benefits in cross-selling: e.g. clients seek advice on medicinal marijuana growing also need help with employment law, supply-chain management etc. so the firm benefits exponentially. 

It’s a really nice example of targeted content being created proactively to influence a target audience, something along the lines of the above process we share with everyone we meet. 

Another key takeaway was the message that you have to be where your audience are: online! Kathryn Whitaker cited some research they commissioned which had indicated that from December 2017, the general public in Florida were searching online for content and answers related to marijuana and its potential benefits. So, they got their attorneys to create helpful, snackable content which spoke to these issues.  

We use the handy diagram above to show how firms which can engage with their clients earlier in the research phase are infinitely better positioned to win the business at a later date, as they are clearly the experts. This is all around "Shifting Left."

The key message here was that education and content not only helped them create a niche, but they defined it in their own more favourable terms. The business is reaping the rewards of all of this targeted content.

  • Being the "go-to" expert opens the door for future cross-selling opportunities at the firm. So define your niche and position yourself as an expert. 
  • Targeted, client-focused content from the attorneys, along with cleverly engaging the wider media, helped change opinions. 
  • 'Shifting left' helped both Kathryn and Ioana's teams to engage with potential customers earlier in that research phase and position themselves as the 'go-to' experts.