11 May Micropractice and the confidence to narrow niche
Staking out a narrow niche often takes either guts or a real focus on what’s most important to you.
Since my recent article on micro-practice, I’ve spoken to a number of law practice principals about how difficult risk-averse solicitors find it to narrow-niche: to differentiate, narrow their positioning and offer a range of services that is smaller than their capabilities: to (potentially) take themselves out of the running for a broader range of potential work.
- but what if some people don’t like my message?
- but I need this bread and butter work?
- but I don’t make enough money out of ‘X’ to just do that
I have gone through the rational responses and arguments on this before – the need to stand out and differentiate, more discerning and sophisticated clients, discerning referrals, pricing premiums, more efficient marketing, the mechanics of digital marketing etc blah blah blah blah blah.
I’m confident the business arguments stack up well and that all the trends – in legal practice and elsewhere – suggest that profitable success in the future will come from successful differentiation.
But (even with solicitors) rational arguments and market evidence are rarely enough compared to the power of emotions and entrenched behaviours. Solicitors are trained to focus on risks – and many have a habit to focus on risks over opportunities in their practice strategies. Deeper differentiation feels like taking a risk – and therefore produces anxiety – and therefore needs a bit of courage to take the plunge.
So when and why do solicitors take that plunge? Why do they risk it when it seems so scary?
I have no research to back this up, but in addition to any acceptance of the business arguments for differentiation, there are two drivers that I find common in those taking the plunge to a narrow niche or clearer differentiation.
- the desire to do more interesting, more challenging, more rewarding work – to realise your personal potential
- the desire for peer recognition, to be seen as a name, a leader, an expert, a ‘go-to’ person
These are personal rather than business factors, and therefore seem more critical in the decisions of micro-practitioners than in larger firms, but they are certainly very powerful. These are the emotional triggers which make deeper differentiation appealing and attractive, so solicitors can then convince themselves that it can work.
The work has to be interesting and rewarding doesn’t it? You spend 40-60 hours a week on the work, maybe more time than you spend either sleeping or with your family. Shouldn’t you make the choices that ensure that work is engaging, intrinsically rewarding, a more positive experience?
And the desire for recognition and esteem is a basic human need. You don’t have to be an egomaniac to value recognition from your peers.
Anyone who has ever studied Abraham Maslow will recognise that the 2 motivators above fit in with Maslow’s highest human needs – esteem and self-actualisation. When you have as much money as you need to live comfortably, these are the things that become more important.
So, are you ready to take the plunge and narrow niche?