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Have you ever been in the grocery store selecting fresh fruits or vegetables and ended up engaged in a conversation with a complete stranger? Since you appear to be hitting it off, you offer one of your business cards only to have that "stranger" actually start referring you business. Although you may not have experienced an identical situation, it is very likely that you have experienced something substantially similar.
One of the greatest benefits of working at a large firm is having the luxury of a business development team. That is, those charged with identifying and cultivating new sources of business. However, whether as a solo practitioner, associate, or a partner at a firm, there is great satisfaction, both personally and financially, derived from generating new business for the firm through your own efforts.
As women, we have an often-overlooked competitive advantage when it comes to cultivating business relationships. Many of us have a natural gift of gab; and, although we might not feel as comfortable talking about ourselves, we can go on for hours doting on our children, pet, or significant other. Thus, it is imperative that we seize those opportunities to allow people to get to know us.
You know the "book stuff" and there will be plenty of opportunities to showcase your knowledge and passion for the law; however, people want to hire attorneys whom they like and with whom they feel comfortable. So set the stage and do that, but be genuine when you do. It is important that people like the "real" you and not a façade created just to get their business. This way, you are almost guaranteed to keep the business through repeat customers and personal referrals.
The competitive advantage also comes into play almost every day through your roles as daughter, wife, mother, or just a productive member of society. At some time or another, you may have served in some religious ministry, served as team mom of your child's sports team, or volunteered with some community service organization. It is those connections that you make on a daily basis that serve as sources for referrals. Here are some strategies that work best, both for attracting new clients and for growing business from existing clients:
Name recognition is the name of the game. Many people pick service providers based upon familiarity, either personally or merely because they have heard the name tossed around. Whether you realize it or not, we all have private referral lists. Yours may be stored in your Treo or on a mental list, but if someone asked you for a good divorce lawyer, home improvement contractor, or caterer, there is likely someone who comes to mind and whose information you'll freely share. Thus, my goal is to be on that list. When someone asks you for an attorney who handles real estate transactions, elder law matters, trust and estates, estate administration, or mediation within the District of Columbia or Maryland, I have accomplished my goal if you say without hesitation - "Arnettia Wright, give her a call at (202) 829-7500 or send her an email at email@example.com. If she can't help you, she'll know someone who can."
1 Urban legend has it that the Stanfords, adorned in a faded gingham dress and homespun threadbare suit, went to President Elliott's office seeking to have a statue erected in their son's honor. The son, who had been killed a year earlier, supposedly had attended Harvard before his death. The Stanford's request was denied; and as a result, they returned to Palo Alto, CA and established a University bearing their name as a memorial to their son.
About the Author
Arnettia S. Wright, principal of Wright Law Group, PC, represents clients in matters related to corporate law, real estate transactions, estate planning and administration, elder law, and mediation in DC and Maryland. In addition to serving on the Estates, Trusts, and Probate Nominating Committee of the DC Bar Association, she is a Fellow in the 2006-2007 class of the Maryland State Bar Association Leadership Academy. Arnettia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.