The inspiration to write this came from an email I received from a reader seeking clarification on a previous article titled “The Gains of Specialization.” The perceived confusion arose on the ideal time to specialize in the Legal Industry. While I had earlier on encouraged the need to carve a niche and I am not in any way reneging on that call, rather I am putting a caveat to that call, please note that sometimes the location of practice and the niche of mentors in the Industry are capable of influencing one’s niche while equally determining the appropriate time to do so. Accordingly, I’m sharing some guide on some factors to consider before specializing or carving a niche in the Legal Industry:
Firstly, you need to consider the profitability of the niche, I understand that there are some interesting and fascinating areas of law which in reality are not profitable. Creating a niche around these areas is a suicide mission. I am not trying to create panic of any sort, it’s the truth, in as much as we have interest, we must realize that Law is a career, a business, an occupation and we MUST make profit from same. I will encourage you to do some research and if you’ve done any research, please do some more research, do a ‘mini-survey’, talk to people, do whatever (legitimate) you need to, in other to determine whether a niche is profitable before making it your niche.
Secondly, the sustainability of the niche, is the niche sustainable? Such that regardless of the changing circumstances or policies, you’re sure you will still have briefs. Is it a niche whose survival is dependent on some fluctuating element? Is it a passing trend? These are questions that calls for answer. Now, imagine that all you do as a lawyer is to incorporate companies and register business names and you’ve made it your niche (although, I find it difficult to believe that a lawyer would confine himself or herself to incorporation of companies and registration of business names alone), with the introduction of Section 40 (1) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 your niche is gone. So, let’s create and carve a sustainable niche.
The third consideration, is the competitiveness of the niche, are there other key industry players actively involved? Ordinarily a competitive niche is a profitable niche. And the reason is simple, you will not find so many people on a niche if it’s not profitable. While, the competitiveness is a good sign of profitability, one needs to beware of stiff competition, when the competition is so stiff that the probability of breaking into the niche is near impossible, I think its high time to look elsewhere.
Fourthly is the marketability of the niche, I know I referred to profitability of the niche few lines above, hence I am sure that I am not repeating myself. The issue of marketability is different from profitability; marketability considers how large the market where you will profit from is, among others. Is it a market where your relatives, close allies go to; such that you can easily reach them and then go ahead to make some decent profit? Please remember that your first set of client are usually family members and friends.
And lastly, the geographical restraint of the niche, an example is apt here, entertainment law is quite big in a city like Lagos which houses several entertainers, so its relatively easier for a lawyer in Lagos to carve a niche in entertainment law compare to another colleague in the city of Osogbo in Osun State. I understand that technology has done a lot in bridging gaps that hitherto existed in communication and client acquisition, but we still cannot take away the ‘home advantage’ and that’s what geographical restraint presupposes.
I hope you will be able to do a self and career assessment with the tips above, before carving a niche. I hope so.
We are not done on the issue of carving a niche and specialization. It is a topic worth discussing in different light and from different perspective, particularly as the world and indeed the legal Industry has gone beyond the era of General Practice. The competition is high, the stakes are higher and the only way to even the stake is to carve a niche albeit wisely.
‘Tosin is a lawyer, content creator and blogger, she is passionate about law and its numerous instruments. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org