Bread and butter for a solo or small firm practitioner comes down to the ability to generate business. For many, it is not a function of the desire to attract new clients; it is a matter of necessity in order to survive. Many solo and small firm practitioners focus on survival, which is important, but do not always think about getting beyond survival and growing their business so that survival is a given and not a part of the dialogue.
I recently sat in on a 30-minute seminar on “Everything you need to know about business development, but never thought to ask” and learned that instead of telling clients “keep me in mind,” we should spend energy focusing on an ideal client and targeting our energies on attracting that ideal client. It is hard to know whether such an ideal client exists, as many clients have their benefits and their challenges, but it is an interesting mind-set. It helps us focus on moving beyond just paying the bills and getting to a place where we are actually able to attract clients whom we genuinely want to represent, with matters we have developed an expertise in handling or for which we have passion and ability.
There is so much that we, the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division, provide to our members that can serve as a great resource to help land the big fish, market our relationship skills, improve our business, and otherwise generate referrals. In this issue a variety of experienced practitioners offer tips that focus on rainmaking for the new and newly solo, mining your client list for business, networking to generate referrals, using rainmaking coaches, finding your marketing niche, using your website to attract clients, and getting a handle on social network sites and search engine optimization.
The General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division provides many opportunities for networking either in person or virtually. This year, we have started a LinkedIn general practice, solo, and small firm attorneys group that you can only join if you are a member of the ABA and specifically a member of this Division. To join, simply go to our website, where you will find a link to our LinkedIn site on the home page. Click on the link and submit a request to join the group. Because the group has an administrator, you will soon hear a response letting you know that your application to join has been accepted. We are excited about this new group that allows attorneys from across the country to refer business to one another.
Additionally, the Division has started virtual brown-bag seminars that are held the second Wednesday of each month from noon to 1:00 pm Central Time, with various topics being discussed ranging from technology tips, to tax and estate planning information, to dialogue with state trial court judges, to retirement planning, to bankruptcy tips for the non-bankruptcy lawyer. These are not CLE programs but are an opportunity for members of the Division to share, on an informal basis, expertise in an area and to allow for interaction with questions and answers. This is also a great networking tool to share information with attorneys from all across the country.
At our Fall Meeting last October in Denver, Colorado, and again at our Spring Meeting this May in Charleston, South Carolina, we put on two programs that were excellent networking and business development opportunities. First, the program “This Time the Government Really Is Here to Help” was designed to help solo and small firm lawyers find business using procurement technical assistance centers (PTACs). These groups exist to advise small businesses in doing contract work with the government. They can also assist attorneys in bidding on and obtaining that work. If you did not attend the Division’s conferences, the programs were recorded and are available on demand via the Internet; please visit our website for more details.
Another program the Division has sponsored is entitled “Can David Work for Goliath?” This program provides solo and small firm lawyers strategies to gain business from corporate clients. It features the “Inclusion Initiative” from several major corporations that have committed to doing business with a woman or minority-owned certified business enterprise. These corporations will offer opportunities to solo and small firms to do their legal work, traditionally work that has been reserved for large law firms.
Of course there is another virtual law firm in our midst: SoloSez. Solosez has been around for many years and provides solo and small firm lawyers, whether they are members of the Division or not, a connection to attorneys in cities throughout the country and an opportunity for watercooler talk and tips on practice, technology, billing software, insurance, even vacation destinations. This listserve has been administered by our Division for quite a few years and exists for the purpose for assisting solo and small firm practitioners.
Of course, last but not least, tried and true, the best form of networking is in person. These opportunities are plentiful if you are involved or active in the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. We have four in-person meetings: the Fall Meeting (held in conjunction with the annual National Solo & Small Firm Conference), the Midyear Meeting, the Spring Meeting, and the Annual Meeting, which will take place this year in Chicago, Illinois, August 2 to 5. At these meetings, you will get an opportunity to connect with other solo and small firm practitioners from across the country to share your expertise and war stories, obtain valuable information, and most importantly, develop wonderful friendships. Join us, whether virtually or in person, and learn how rainmaking is more than just a matter of survival—it can grow a thriving, interesting, and fulfilling practice.