Legal Networking Advice for New Solos
When starting off a solo practice, it goes without saying that you should focus on your network. No matter your existing network’s size, you should always be looking to add to your contacts. First look to the usual sources by joining your local bar association. Pay particular attention to committees and sections in your area of practice. For example, when I started my DUI defense practice, I joined the Los Angeles Bar Association’s criminal law and small practice sections. Many sections have email lists that you can join, giving you the ability to ask and answer questions from fellow solo practitioners. By participating in this manner you build your network in a practical way, making local contacts in your area to help with issues as they arise.
I recently had a question about finding malpractice insurance for my criminal defense practice. Of course I went to the Internet to do an initial search, and I found many insurance brokers who offered malpractice insurance, but I had no information from people who had actually used them. The best source of advice was my local bar association’s solo practitioner email list serve. I posted my query to the group, and within minutes I had several responses from solo practitioners, local attorneys who had faced my same issue and they pointed me to several qualified insurance brokers. What was most helpful to my search was that the information response was both timely and relevant to my situation. I saved several hundred dollars on my policy. I made sure to thank those who responded, letting them know that I used the information they provided and added them to my growing network.
Make use of online networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Myspace. Both Facebook and Myspace offer profiles for businesses and a platform for you to post information about your practice. I recently joined Twitter, albeit a little late to the growing Twitter bandwagon, and I have connected with several criminal defense and DUI/DWI attorneys from across the country. Twitter can be used in the same way as the local bar list serve described above: simply go to Twitter.com and grab a user id that relates to your practice (I focus on criminal law and DUI defense, so mine is twitter.com/LAduidefense). Follow members with like interests and you will be amazed at how quickly your online network expands. You can also post a Twitter feed to your personal or legal practice blog, which updates your site visitors to links for your new Twitter posts. Another very smart play is to start up a blog related to your area of practice. You can use Wordpress or Blogger to get a blog up and running, giving you a platform to reach potential customers and gain exposure. Once you have your blog going, make sure you update regularly with relevant legal materials. This is important as I’m sure we all have visited unhelpful sites that have not been updated in years. You will find that the benefit of blogging regularly is twofold, you will learn more about your area of the law while educating your audience.
Don’t forget about your offline network and opportunities that exist for making new connections at alumni mixers and CLE events. Many law schools have local mixers/events to encourage admitted students to attend or fund-raise among alumni. Use these events to meet fellow practicing alums in your local area. It doesn’t matter if they don’t practice in your area of the law. Keep a broad perspective of your growing network because referrals can be a huge source of business for your practice. Let’s say that I am attending an alumni event in Los Angeles, and I meet a fellow alum who practices family law. One may initially think, “Great, another attorney contact outside of my practice area,” but in reality this contact may be a source of future business. The moment his divorce client gets arrested for a DUI or his friend faces criminal charges, he will refer to attorneys in his network. That probably means you. That is when the shared experience of going to the same law school and the connection made at the alumni event can pay off professionally.
One of the most powerful tools in networking is a positive attitude. You must put yourself in the situation with a determined, positive mindset. This will motivate you past barriers to networking such as not knowing many people at an event or having the occasional conversation with someone who doesn’t really care what you do or even forgets to remember your name. You will find that most people, when contacted in a genuine and sincere way, seek to understand who you are and where you are going professionally. This practice of seeking to truly understand and listen to another attorney’s stories or advice is reciprocal and is the best way to actively network in our profession.
Additional Resources for Networking Skills
You can find John E. Kobara’s blog “Adopting the Mentoring and Networking Lifestyle” at http://jeknetwork.typepad.com/networking/. Books to check out include: Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” Napoleon Hill's “Think and Grow Rich,” and Og Mandino’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World.”
Adam J. Post is a Los Angeles criminal law attorney. His solo practice, the Law Office of Adam J. Post, focuses primarily on DUI defense cases. Mr. Post is a former Deputy District Attorney and a graduate of UC Davis Law School and the University of San Diego. He can be reached at email@example.com, and he maintains his websites at www.adamjpost.com and laDUIdefense.blogspot.com.
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