Building a Lucrative Niche Dental Practice with Ashley Smith


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Have you ever considered building a niche law practice? Ashley did just that and has found great success in her niche dental law practice. Ashley’s unique background as a former legal assistant turned attorney and touring musician has given her the confidence and skills to build relationships with clients and create great content for social media.

Ashley’s decision to pivot from litigation to a niche dental practice was driven by the pandemic and a desire to explore other areas of law. She took advantage of a regulatory sandbox in Utah and used social media and referrals to bring in clients. Ashley’s workshops with dental lenders, brokers, and CPAs have also been successful in bringing in clients.

Now, Ashley is looking to expand her dental practice around the country by hiring attorneys in other states to work as of counsel. Her niche dental law practice has been lucrative and has led to many referrals from lenders, brokers, and other professionals in the dental industry. 

If you’re considering building a niche law practice, take a page out of Ashley’s book and use social media and referrals to bring in clients. And don’t forget to create great content that showcases your expertise and builds relationships with clients.

02:17 Working as a paralegal for 10 years before attending law school 

05:28 Pivoting from litigation to a niche dental practice, including the challenges of working during the pandemic

08:15 Bringing in clients through social media and referrals

09:21 Niching into dental law practice

11:24 Utah’s regulatory sandbox, which allows non-lawyer ownership in law firms and sharing of referral fees

18:29 Expanding her practice around the country by working with attorneys in other states

19:15 Struggling with creating content 

Jim’s Hack: Using Pip Deck cards to come up with story structure.

Ashley’ s Tip: Email hack: Check your email 3 times a day for 30 mins each time. 

Tyson’s Tip: for employee budgets – a credit card on steroids.

🎥 Watch the full video on YouTube here.

Connect with Ashley:


Transcript: Building a Lucrative Niche Dental Practice with Ashley Smith

Speaker 1
Run your law firm the right way. This is the maximum lawyer podcast, podcast. Your hosts, Jim hacking and Tyson metrics. Let’s partner up and maximize your firm. Welcome to the show.

Jim Hacking
Welcome back to the maximum lawyer podcast. I am James Oliver hacking the third

Tyson Mutrux
hole that’s going on. I’m Tyson Mediatrix. I like the upbeat pneus that you have today. That’s great.

Jim Hacking
Well, when you’ve been recording all day, and you’re going to continue recording all day, you got to get pumped up and I just went for a nice walk. It’s cold here again, it was warm the other day it just dropped. So although it’s not like where our guest is in Utah, where I just heard they’re still getting pummeled with snow. My friend in Utah tells me that you might be able to ski on the Fourth of July. Yeah,

Tyson Mutrux
it’s looking like it this year. That is absolutely crazy. I had a call with someone yesterday, actually. That’s in Utah. And in the background, there was a snowy mountain. I’m like, Where the hell are you? He’s like, he’s like I’m in Utah. I’m like, Oh my gosh, wow. I was not used to that. That’s That’s crazy. So well, let’s introduce our guest today. It’s Ashley Garvey. Smith. It’s interesting. She has a really interesting story. She was a lily illegal assistant for 10 years before attending law school. I mean, how often do you see that that’s pretty incredible. In short, as a litigation attorney for several years, but discovered particularly during the pandemic, she adds in her bio that litigation was not her preferred practice area and 2020 actually took advantage of a unique opportunity led by the Utah Supreme Court called a regulatory sandbox in which certain relaxed regulations allowed applicants to provide innovative legal service models that might not be permitted under traditional rules. She took this opportunity to build a niche dental practice, which I’m really interested in talking more bags. I’ve heard about them during the mastermind, but she developed this dental related legal practice where she helps dentists transition their practices, which is a really cool thing. And I’m sure you’re going to talk more about that. So But another interesting thing is before becoming an attorney, Ashley was also a professional musician who toured with bands across the country. She loves to use her freedom as her own boss to travel with her husband and two boys. So very cool story. Ashley, welcome to the show. Thanks so

Ashley Smith
much for having me.

Jim Hacking
So Ashley, we were talking before we came on about the fact that you worked as a paralegal for 10 years or 11 years. And I did it for two before I went to law school, we were congratulating ourselves on what great lawyers former paralegals make. But talk to us about the experience of working in law firms before law school, how it made you a better law student, if it did, and then how it led to you becoming a lawyer.

Ashley Smith
Yeah, so I actually never had any intention of being in the law. I’m from a very small, very conservative town in Utah. And so frankly, I didn’t know any female lawyers, I didn’t know any lawyers, particularly any female lawyers. I didn’t even know any women who had a college degree. And so it just wasn’t on my radar. But I got married when I was about 20 years old. And my first husband passed away in a helicopter accident, almost two years after we had been married. And that experience, I mean, having a spouse or a child or you know, a loved one die. It does a couple of things. I think, first of all, it makes you realize life is really short. And so you have to do the things that you want to do. And I think the other thing it does is it makes you a little bit fearless. It’s like, hey, if I could overcome that, and I can go through that I can pretty much do anything. And so after that happened, I just thought, Well, I never had any intention of going to college or, you know, having a career. I just thought we just grew up and we were moms. And that’s what we did. And so I ended up going back to school after he passed away, I was actually going to be an English teacher. And while I was going to school, I got a job as a legal assistant at a litigation firm. And so while I was there, I started becoming very interested in the law. And frankly, I saw some attorneys come in and I thought, Well, if that guy can do this, then I can do this. And so, so I actually was a legal assistant for a while. And when I graduated college, when I got my degree, I actually ended up finding out that I so I met my second husband several years later, and my last year of college, I found out that I was pregnant with my first son. And I found out that the LSAT was on my due date. And so naively I just thought, well, I’ll just take the next LSAT, you know, the one two months after I’ll have a two month old and study for and take the LSAT. Well, that didn’t happen. And so about five or six years later, I finally ended up taking the LSAT so I was not a traditional student. I actually had two kids, when I decided to finally go to law school. Wow,

Tyson Mutrux
that’s incredible. I didn’t know much of that. So that’s interesting. And thank you for sharing that I want to talk about, man, there’s so many topics I want to talk about now, especially but let’s talk about the career choice, that career change you pivoted in? What were the factors that led to that. And I know that COVID had us doing a lot of internal thinking, right. But what were the other factors? And maybe that was the main factor. But what were the factors that you took into consideration said, I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m changing completely what I’m going to do. And you’re

Ashley Smith
talking specifically about, like when I finally was an attorney, and I chose to go from litigation, right. So during the pandemic, you know, Utah was a really strange political climate during that time. And so there were actually a lot of law firms that were still requiring people to come into the office and remote work just wasn’t an option for I wouldn’t even say just law firms, I think just some businesses in general. And I’m because you know, Utah is a very conservative state. I think, initially, it wasn’t taken very seriously. And so kids were out of school, and I had to find a way to homeschool my kids, and still go into the office every single day. And I had an hour long Well, it was a 45 minute long commute. And so I had to commute into the office, and still find a way to homeschool my kids. And on top of that, I just was realizing, you know, I was a professional musician. I was a performer for a lot of years. And so I thought, I’m gonna love litigation, I’m going to love standing up in court and performing. And you realize in litigation, it’s not so much about that. It’s more fighting with other attorneys, and trying to meet deadlines. And especially as an associate, it’s doing all the grunt work, you’re not doing a lot of performing in court, because you’re not the one that’s trying the cases. And so for me, it was a grind. And I had two kids, and I was trying to homeschool them and trying to be a litigator, learning how to do depositions. I mean, you guys do this now. And you know, the first time we had to do a deposition over zoom, and it was just such a disaster, and trying to do hearings over zoom. I mean, it was kind of nice, because you didn’t have to, you only had to dress halfway in order to do the hearings in the depositions. But it just was a grind. And it just didn’t jive with my personality. And so on top of that I worked for a very, it was a very traditional mid sized law firm, they didn’t even have a case management system, they didn’t have a document management system, there was no embracing new technology at all. And so it was really frustrating and new ways to practice law, they wouldn’t even let me do things on a flat fee basis. And so it was all hourly. And it just was really frustrating because I didn’t have a voice. And on top of that, I could see these innovative ways that we could practice the law that they weren’t embracing. And so finally, I just thought, you know, I’m bringing in so many clients to this firm, I wasn’t getting paid a commission on any of the clients I was bringing in. And I thought if I just open my own firm right now, I could make more money than I’m making at this firm.

Jim Hacking
So let’s talk about that. How were you bringing in clients? And how did you continue to bring in clients once you decided to go out on your own.

Ashley Smith
So I was bringing in clients, I feel like I’m pretty good at you know, interpersonal relationships and building relationships. So I wasn’t doing a lot of marketing. I mean, some of my marketing was, honestly Facebook posts and Instagram posts, but every time I would do an Instagram post or a Facebook post, I would have someone reach out and say, oh, I need your help with my business, or I need your help with my estate planning. So at the time, I was doing litigation, but I really also wanted to move toward business organizations and contract and estate planning. And so I was pretty good at putting posts out there on Instagram and Facebook. And then I would just get referrals. And so I was getting so many referrals that I had to turn them away because frankly, I was putting in so much time. But I wasn’t getting the benefit because I wasn’t getting any kind of commission from the law firm. And so I knew that I could draw in clients just based on my relationship and based on referrals. But as you know, once I actually started my law firm, and I wasn’t doing a lot of marketing, I realized there’s a lot more that I actually have to do in order to keep those clients coming in.

Tyson Mutrux
Alright, so let’s talk about this. That your dental. I don’t know what you call it. Dental law practice. Yeah, whatever the hell you call it, right. So tell people what that is. I think it’s a really clever niche. I really do and so tell people what it is.

Ashley Smith
So what I do is I help dentists buy and sell their dental practices. And then also I help them on the management side as well. You know, I help them manage their practices with just like their associate contracts and things like that. I don’t do any medical malpractice. So it’s really just on the business end. So I help them with the formation and I help them with the actual transition and the management And what I learned is it’s an actual industry, this dental transition industry is its own kind of microcosm. And so they want lawyers that have done dental transitions before, because there are some weird, specific nuances that once you learn those, they’re kind of similar across the board and all dental transitions. But in this industry, there are lenders, there are brokers, there are dental transition coaches, and they want to work with lawyers who know what they’re doing, too. And so during the pandemic, I had a friend approached me who is a dental buyer coach, I mean, that’s all he does. And he does really well. And he writes books on how to buy a dental practice. And so he approached me and he said, Hey, I have all of these clients that I have to refer to an attorney, you know, have you. And essentially, it’s just mergers and acquisitions. You know, it’s very similar with just weird dental nuances. And he said, I really want to refer them to someone who knows what they’re doing, and someone who has done this before. But I’d like a referral fee. Well, as we know, we can’t give referral fees to non lawyers for in most states, I mean, so in Utah, that was the case. But right around the pandemic, Utah implemented what they call a regulatory sandbox, where they started relaxing some of the rules you had to apply, and you had to tell them exactly what you were doing. And one of the rules that they were relaxing is you could have a non lawyer owner for your law firm, and they could own a majority or a minority, it didn’t really matter. But it was a way that you could share referral fees. And when they actually started that they actually were doing bear referral fees. So they were just saying, Hey, we’re gonna relax the rules so much that law firms, you can pay chiropractors, a referral fee. And they ended up finding out that was not a great idea. And so they reeled that back a little bit, and they said, Okay, instead of just bare referral fees, you have to have like some ownership in the actual law firm, or in the business, it didn’t even have to be a law firm. So you can have a law related business that’s not owned by lawyers. And the whole purpose of this regulatory sandbox was, initially, let’s provide access to justice for more people. And so what they started seeing was people wanted to do these, like divorce clinics, where you go in, and if it’s a, like a pretty amicable split, you have someone who is not an attorney, helping you fill out the documents. And then if you need an attorney, or you need a mediator, they work there in that clinic and in that business, and it’s the same thing for you know, criminal law, and things like that. And so they’re like, We really can be innovative here, you know, we can expand the way that we practice law, we can make it more innovative, we can implement technology. And so when I saw that opportunity, I thought, Well, I had this guy, he wants referral fees, he gets all of these clients. And on top of that, he can help coach my clients who are buying a dental practice. And in turn, you know, he owns 7% of my firm. So he gets 7% of the profits. And it works out great for both of us. Frankly,

Jim Hacking
I’m really struck by the fact that you were mentioning how conservative Utah is. And I guess I should have been more aware of that than I am. But I’m wondering, why do you think this happened there? Like, what was it there? And then also, what has been the reaction to you and your practice from other conservative Utah lawyers?

Ashley Smith
This is a great question. It was so interesting that Utah was the one that came out. So Arizona did this first. So instead of having a regulatory sandbox, Arizona just came out and said, Hey, you can have non lawyer owners for your law firm. So they didn’t even do like a regulatory sandbox where you had to apply, you can just do it in Arizona. And there is a specific judge here in Utah. And I mean, he leans not as conservative, his name is Justice humanists. And he doesn’t lean quite as conservative. And he really wanted to spearhead this effort. And so he got a group of people, and they call it like the innovative office. And they said, We want to be at the forefront of this. We think this is going to be the future of law practice. And let’s make Utah at the forefront of this. And so I think it was really him. And what I will say is, man attorneys didn’t like it. They did not like these attorneys in Utah, and there is still a lot of pushback, because they’re essentially saying this is just a way to, to give referral fees, without, you know, having some kind of ramifications. What I will say is I have to report quarterly to the Utah Supreme Court. And so, you know, I have these reports. They have a way of monitoring us. And so there’s a lot of oversight, and we’re still in this regulatory sandbox. So we’re being monitored, making sure that we’re I’m following the rules as far as what the regulatory sandbox requires. But man, I think in every, like Utah bar journal, there’s some article from some attorney who just hates the idea. And there’s still so much pushback on this. So

Tyson Mutrux
nI think it’s a fascinating thing going on right now. And I’m sure it’s gonna spread from state to state, and there’s gonna be different variations of it. But I think it was really smart of you to sort of jump in and take advantage of it. But I want to talk more about the niche part of your practice, though. So what have you found like, what’s your been your experience when it comes to niching down to such a narrow niche, it’s a very, very narrow niche. So what have you found when it comes to the toy business standpoint? Like what’s been your experience with it?

Ashley Smith
Yeah, and I want to say I was really resistant to niching down. And I have to tell you, I listened to maximum lawyer for probably a year before I joined the guild. And there were so many episodes where you talked about niching down. So I was resistant to it, because I thought, well, I can do estate planning, I can do business law, and then I can do these dental transitions. And what I found is I couldn’t focus on the dental transitions. But here’s the thing that dental transitions, they’re so much more lucrative than these other practice areas. Because it’s dentists, they’re willing to pay a little bit more because it’s a very, you know, dental transitions in itself is a very niche industry. And what I found is because I focus on it, I get referrals from the lenders, I get referrals from brokers, I get referrals from brokers who have been on the other side of the deal, because they’re like, you know, it was so easy to work with her because she knew what she was doing. And so most of my business is completely referral based, because I am in that industry, and I’m in that niche. And so, I’ve been able to kind of let go of some of the estate planning and some of the smaller bits like, Hey, will you draft this contract with me and it’s going to be like a $600 deal. And I, I mean, $600 deal compared to a $7,500 deal. It’s kind of a no brainer. So I’ve just found that as I’ve niched down, I can be in the industry. And so I put on workshops, where I’ll have, you know, older dentists who are thinking of selling their practice. And we do quarterly workshops, where I work with a dental lender, a dental broker, a dental CPA, and me as a dental attorney, and we put on these workshops, and I mean, it’s easy to get clients that way.

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Jim Hacking
You’re listening to the maximum lawyer podcast our guest today Ashley Garvey Smith, she’s a lawyer for dentists and for dentists selling their practices, actually, are you just practicing in Utah, you’re practicing around the country. So I’ve

Ashley Smith
actually expanded my practice around the country. And I have to say, this was because of Tyson. And because of this he recommended this is that I contact attorneys and other states and have them work as of counsel. And so I pay them their hourly rate to ensure that we’re complying with any state law. But this is transactional law. I mean, you know, a lot of times these contracts are going to look the same, there are going to be weird state nuances. There are also some where the dentist is selling their real estate. And so I need to have a real estate attorney in that state to help with the closing. But I’ve been able to expand there are some states I just won’t touch because I don’t want to mess with that. I don’t want to mess with their, you know, potential bar issues. So I’ve been able to work with clients in most states,

Jim Hacking
actually, how do you create content? I understand you get a lot of speaking engagements and talking to dentists and people in transition. But how are you actually creating content around this awesome niche of yours?

Ashley Smith
Well, I wish I could say I was really good at doing that. When it comes to doing videos. I mean, extremely self conscious. And so I have a really hard time putting myself out there. We’ve created an Instagram account, which is at the dental attorney. And I actually have just hired in fact, I just hired yesterday, a guy to help me with videos and so he’s going to come to my office next week and we’re going to do a bunch of videos to put on YouTube and my YouTube channel is at the dental attorney and same with tick tock which is the dental attorney, but I’m going to be honest there is not a lot of time I’m out there right now. And so I actually, I’m hiring him to help me with the videos. And then I’m actually hiring a like a social media and marketing manager, which I just got in contact with her today. And I have decided it’s time to actually spend the money to put good content out there. Because if I am going to expand into other states, it’s going to be important to be able to get good content out there. It’s I think it’s easy for me to get clients here in Utah. But since I’m expanding, putting good content out there is going to be essential. And I don’t think I can do it without someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

Tyson Mutrux
So I have somewhat of an odd question, maybe. Have you seen any benefit in your legal career from your musical career? Like from traveling around? Like, have you seen any benefits from that? I mean, I’m really curious about that.

Ashley Smith
Yeah, I think definitely, because it’s like I said, I was a performer, and I’m really good at relationships. One on one, I’m good at communicating one on one, like, Guys, I’m so insecure when it comes to doing videos, because it feels like I’m not talking to anybody, it just, it feels like I’m kind of speaking into the void. But being on stage, and playing music in front of 1000s of people has helped with the confidence. And so being able to go and just talk to people. And I think a lot of it also kind of stems from going through, like the death of a spouse where you’re like, you know, I went through that I can do anything, there’s really nothing that I can’t do. And I think sometimes we really hold ourselves back, we let fear get in the way because it’s like, oh, well, what if I fail? Well, nothing is guaranteed tomorrow is not guaranteed. And so the way I look at it is you just go out there and you just freakin do the thing.

Jim Hacking
One idea that I have. I mean, this seems like a perfect niche for a podcast. Like, if you could talk about legal issues that come up with dental practices, you could have that person, that’s your partner who’s an expert in selling practices, you could talk to former clients, potential clients, people that would refer you business, I just think and you could even do without video, and you have a great voice, you sound like a TV reporter to me. So thank you, I think it’d be well received. And you know, it’s not going to have a huge audience, but the people that watch it are really gonna love it.

Ashley Smith
nWell, you might be surprised to know, there are probably like five or six different podcasts out there that focus just on dental transitions. One of them is done by an attorney in Texas. And then actually my partner does have a podcast. And so we did one whole season that was just the legal aspect of dental transitions, which was like 10 episodes, but he has five seasons. And only one of those seasons focuses on the legal aspect of dental transitions. So I’ve thought about that a lot. And I think, honestly, now that I have this very nice microphone that both of you had recommended that I think I could probably do a podcast and start that as well. And now that I’ve hired other people to do some other things in the firm, I think ramping up, you know, it’s been two and a half years that I’ve been doing this, but now I’ve gotten to the point where I feel like I can do a little bit more marketing and put out good content that way. I love it.

Tyson Mutrux
All right, well, we are up against our time. So I’m gonna start to wrap things up. Before I do want to remind everyone to join us in the big Facebook group go mad, go to and search maximum lawyer and the search box and you’ll find the group. And then if you want a more high level conversation with people like Ashley, you can go to max law And while you’re listening to the rest of this episode, if you don’t mind leaving us a five star review, we would greatly appreciate it. Jimmy, what’s your hack of the week,

Jim Hacking
I hack of the week comes from a company called PIP decks and PIP decks makes these little boxes of cards and the cards help you come up with stories to tell about your practice. And so there it is, there it is. So we’re both Facebook. We’re clearly both Facebook and Instagram product purchasers. Because I got mine through Facebook from James Schramko. But it is helpful in helping you formulate the structure of a good story. And we’ve used it a few times and the content was well received.

Tyson Mutrux
Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool. It’s kind of fun to be able to mix and match about the different ideas. And so it’s pretty cool. I recommend that as well. All right, Ashley, we always ask our guests to give a tip or a hack you got one for us.

Ashley Smith
I do this has been a game changer for me. And it’s an email hack. And my hack is you check your email three times a day, you give yourself 30 minutes to get to inbox zero and you don’t peruse you just quickly look at the email and respond. Don’t use your email as a to do list. But get to Inbox Zero even if it’s just replying and saying, hey, I’ll get to this. But I respond to every single email within 24 hours. And I do it at 10am 1pm and 5pm. And I’m at inbox zero by the end of the day.

Tyson Mutrux
I like it. It’s good. I would definitely support that. So that’s really good stuff. So my recommendation is it’s a financial product. The reason why I’m feeling uncomfortable about recommending is we use a company called Now it’s called bill and they had a lot a lot of our payments for like like paper checks, electronic payments, all that kind of stuff. It’s pretty nice. They have this product called Divi, and allows you to set up multiple cards for your employees. And they’ll have budgets, you can give them budgets limits. And it gives you a lot of functionality. And I’ve had a couple of meetings with them. And we actually started using them. It’s actually pretty cool. And so it’s kind of like a credit card bill on steroids. And so it’s a really cool thing, a lot of functionality. So it’s something that we’ve been using for a short amount of time, but it’s still cool product. All right. Thank you so much, Ashley, really appreciate it. I’m glad people get to hear about your story. I learned some new things about yourself. It’s really cool. Thank you so much.

The post Building a Lucrative Niche Dental Practice with Ashley Smith appeared first on Maximum Lawyer.

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