One of a kind: Lawyers share the secret to niche practice


by CAROL LUNDBERG | Thursday, January 20, 2011

Michael J. Zwick remembers the day in 2003 he knew he had to make a choice to either abandon his growing solo practice, or join the growing practice of one of his largest clients, Assets International LLC, as a partner.

The client had a unique niche: finding heirs and beneficiaries and connecting them with their money.

Zwick and founder Neal Duchin were friends, so Zwick was happy to pick up a contract here and there.

“But it just snowballed,” he said.

In two years, Zwick reached a tipping point, where he was working what he calls a “crazy amount of hours.”

He was engaged to the woman who later became his wife, and she asked, “‘Is this what it is going to be like, where you’re working at the office until 10 at night every night?’”

Zwick had to decide what kind of life he would want to have with her, and with the family they both wanted.

“At that time, I was making a lot more money at Assets International than I was in my firm, but I had concerns about whether it was sustainable,” Zwick said. “I took a leap of faith.”

Duchin, and operations director Avram Goldstein, also had full-time jobs outside of Assets International, but in just two years, “We thought that if we dedicated our full-time attention, we could make something of it,” Zwick said.
And they have.

“We’ve grown every year,” he said. “We just closed out 2010, with $1.9 million in revenues, which is a 36 percent increase over the year before.”
It’s the only firm of its kind in Michigan, Zwick said, and possibly only one of a handful in the country.

Zwick does the legal end, such as compliance, probate and administrative work. And he became a licensed private investigator.

In firms like Assets International, Zwick said one of the challenges is knowing when it’s time to grow and knowing when the tiny niche is perhaps too small.
“We could certainly be bigger. But bigger isn’t more efficient,” he said. “We definitely believe that you shouldn’t try things that you don’t know how to do. But we are at a crossroads now, ready to look at what else we can do with our skill set.”

He expects that early this year, the firm will identify those things and plan for growth.