Vol. 82, No. 5, May 2009
Madison’s Neider & Boucher S.C., a business law practice, pursues a niche strategy for its business model. Joe Boucher and Charles Neider started their niche practice in 1995. Whereas key large-firm competitors have many offices and offer a complete array of legal services to multiple target markets including large and small clients, public and private businesses, nonprofits, governments, and individuals, Neider & Boucher focuses on a narrower target audience – small and mid-sized area businesses – and offers a more limited scope of legal services.
Neider & Boucher provides most of the services its clients need, such as business formation and dissolution, dispute resolution, and tax and estate planning. But, the firm doesn’t offer the complete, one-stop “shop” that larger practices offer. Because it serves a smaller target market, the firm lacks scale to provide infrequently used services such as filing bankruptcy petitions, obtaining patents, and defending white-collar crimes. Neider & Boucher formed working relationships with other firms to supply these services.
Clients are drawn to niche companies because of their “boutique” nature, signifying they’re best at what they do. Neider & Boucher’s narrower focus also lowers overhead costs, allowing partners to be far more directly involved in client work. “We appeal especially to start-ups,” Boucher says, “as we’ve walked in their shoes.” Although significantly smaller than its strongest competitors, the firm was chief counsel to about one-third of the Wisconsin start-ups eligible for investor tax credits in 2005.
Niche strategies can be risky because niches may become less financially attractive or even unviable as an industry changes. If Internet-based legal software and filings create disruptive innovation in legal services, will small companies do their own law work? On the other hand, niche firms, because they are more nimble, often exploit advances in technology faster than larger firms burdened with expensive legacy systems.