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   October 2001


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Practice Development

MARKETING

Marketing While You’re Parenting
By Robert W. Denney

When I first learned that the focus of this issue was on parenting and practicing—and that columnists were encouraged to incorporate a parenting theme in their submissions—I was stumped. How in the world could parenting be included in a discussion of marketing?

But after several periods of unproductive thinking, suddenly I started to recall some of the successful lawyers I have worked with over the years who make time to be good parents and are also excellent business developers. And the more I thought about them, the more I realized that many of them develop business because they are parents.

No, these lawyers don’t give their children their business cards to hand out at school, and they don’t have their kids wear badges that say, "My father (or mother) is a good lawyer!" Not only would that violate most ethics rules, but it would also be bad marketing. What these parents do, in most cases without even thinking about it, is maximize opportunities to meet new people—and, therefore, potential clients —by being involved in their children’s activities.

Soccer, Spring Fairs, Musicals: Opportunities Abound

Here are just a few examples of some of the successful parent-marketers I know.

¦ The chair of the estate planning practice group in a 17-lawyer firm has three children, ages four, five and eight. She has been active in the parent-teacher association at her oldest child’s school for three years and also works in the school library one afternoon a week. She reports that more than half of her clients are other parents whom she has met either through the PTA or the school library.

■ Several years ago, the head of the corporate practice in a 40-lawyer firm had two children in high school. He volunteered to run the annual spring fair. It was the best organized and most successful event in the school’s history. As a result of that, and of the recognition he received, he became much more widely known and has had a steady flow of new clients ever since—most of whom he had not even met beforehand.

■ A young litigator’s twin boys were in Cub Scouts a while back. The Scout Pack was failing and was about to be disbanded when his sons asked him if he would take over as chairman and try to save it. For his boys’ sake—and with no thought of business development—he took over the job for two years. He not only saved the Pack, he built it into one of the most active and successful ones in the area. As he was completing his term, one of the other fathers, who was the managing partner of an engineering firm, asked the young litigator to meet with the firm to discuss handling all its litigation because he was impressed with the lawyer’s ability, patience and persistence. As a result, this young lawyer obtained his first major client.

■ A solo practitioner began coaching summer soccer eight years ago, when the oldest of his four children was playing for the team. While the team hasn’t always had winning seasons, the solo has become widely known and respected in his community. Many of his clients are parents whom he first met when he coached their children.

■ Four years ago, when she was a freshman, the daughter of a labor and employment attorney made the cast for the local high school musical. The school produces a major musical every year, with more than 100 students involved. As they were about to begin rehearsals for that year’s show, the music director suddenly resigned. The attorney is an accomplished vocalist who is a soloist at her church. The school principal asked if she could jump in as music director that year. She did—and she has continued in that role. Since then, her practice has grown dramatically. She reports that many of her new clients are either parents or have been referred to her by parents.

Ground Rules: Active Parent First

In any type of marketing, there are always a few basic ground rules, the things you should and shouldn’t do. The same is true in this case.

First off, don’t become involved in your children’s activities solely because you want to meet potential clients. As with any outside activity, if that is your only reason for participating, it will actually work against you. People will soon recognize your motive and resent it. Join up because you want to be an involved parent and want to help the organization.

Also, don’t just be a joiner. Be active. Work at it. Accept a leadership position if offered or, at the very least, be a member of the group who can be counted on.

Finally, remember what I call the Principal of Transfer. Non-lawyers are funny people. If they know you are a lawyer and they see you commit yourself to a project outside of your law practice, handling it competently and enthusiastically, they will assume you are also a good lawyer. As a result, they will think of you when they need a lawyer. No, it doesn’t make sense to most lawyers—but it does to everyone else.

So, without trying to, you can often be an effective marketer by simply being an active parent.

Bob Denney ( bob@robertdenney.com), president of Robert Denney Associates, Inc., is a strategic marketing and management consultant. He can be reached at (610) 964-1938.

ACTION
Comments? Contact Bob Denney at Robert Denney Associates, Inc., 110 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, PA 19087; (610) 964-1938; bob@robertdenney.com.