Location, location, location: It’s everything in real estate, but can it be a sustainable niche in law?
In other words, is it a lucrative long-term move to stake your brand identity on being “Tennessee’s premier corporate practice” or “Tallahassee’s go-to trial boutique”?
Legal brands that are successful in location-based marketing do so not by being friendly neighborhood lawyers, but by staking a claim that they are the absolute best solution in dangerous terrain. They have the talent and resources to own the jurisdiction like no one else, and they have clear and convincing evidence of their success.
In short, they are a variety of the Category Killers described in Adam Smith, Esq. “Can you fight them on their own turf? Why would you want to try?”
When marketing a niche law firm or practice group, three branding fundamentals apply: The claim must be relevant, authentic and ownable.
Relevant. Your geography niche must be relevant to the client – that is, the client must feel a compelling reason to choose lawyers based on geography alone. “We are smart lawyers based in Cincinnati” does not suffice here – instead, you need to lean into the pain.
What about the legal framework of your city, state or region is uniquely arduous? Do your courts have local rules that tend to trap newcomers? Do your state agencies have peculiar processes or administrative red tape? Are you in a Judicial Hellhole?
In short, why does your niche matter? State it plainly – and carry it through your website and marketing communications. Focus your content on practical tips and cautionary tales for working in your region; this will be valuable for the humans looking to hire help in your area, and this will be valuable for the search engines crawling for answers.
Authentic. Given this relevant pain, what makes you a qualified solution? What makes you the best resource in the jurisdiction?
Think about the evidence that can make your case. Think quantitatively: number of cases won or tried, deal value of real estate projects completed, number of former court clerks on staff, et cetera. (This must focus on the work you do for clients and the solutions you provide for them – while they are nice, your years in business or numbers of locations are not that convincing.)
Think qualitatively, too. Write case studies that illustrate how you navigate your regional foibles. Collect testimonials from happy clients. Round up favorable press coverage. Tout the (respectable) awards – but be cautious; if you’re ranked “Tier 2” in the jurisdiction you are claiming to dominate, it’s best to leave that one off.
That brings us to…
Ownable. The geographic niche only works if you are, indeed, Tallahassee’s go-to trial boutique. There’s only room for one.
It’s time for a ruthless inventory of the market. Who could potentially challenge your claim, and how can you counter their arguments? Can you counter their arguments?
Moreover, are you prepared to invest in this niche long-term with strategic hires, potential mergers, and infrastructure? And do you have the discipline to commit to this strategy – at the exclusion of other distractions?
Above all, remember that even location-based positioning must emphasize your acumen far more than your address. In The Altman Weil 2019 Chief Legal Officer Survey, respondents were asked “In the last 12 months, have you shifted a portfolio of work worth $50,000 or more from one law firm to another” for a variety of reasons.
“Inability to handle our geographic scope” came in second to last with 10.9 percent – trailing lower fees, conflicts, partner relocation and more.
The No. 1 answer, with 42 percent – nearly half – of respondents: Legal expertise.