Volume 19, Number 7
Bar Service Is Business Development
By Rew R. Goodenow
Our best source of business is other lawyers, and a bar association is one of the easiest places to plug into the professional network. We all refer cases to other lawyers-because of a conflict or because the services needed are in an unfamiliar practice area. Occasionally we need help in another state.
During my law career, I've received many new matters and clients from recommendations made by someone who knew me solely through bar association activities. Sometimes these new matters were the result of my participation-presenting or learning-at a seminar. A number of them were referrals from lawyers with whom I had never worked directly. At least three times in the past year, I had occasion to hire local counsel that I first became aware of through my bar association.
Although your involvement in bar activities may seem peripheral while you're still a student, it is never too early to learn about the many ways associations can help with the many facets of a lawyer's career.
o Build a network. Plan to make use of bar association resources and participate in committees and activities. You'll get to know other lawyers, in your practice area and in other specialties. Don't expect immediate results. After you've been an active member for a while, you'll come across an opportunity to write an article, speak at a seminar, or prepare a draft proposed statute. Successfully handling your first task will do much to build your reputation as a new but knowledgeable lawyer.
o Produce quality work. That is every lawyer's primary goal. Your clients will do the majority of spreading the word, but there's nothing wrong with letting other lawyers know what you do, within the restrictions of good form and the rules of professional conduct.
o Socialize with lawyers from your practice area and from complementary practice areas. You can develop useful referral networks this way-and possibly a few meaningful friendships, too.
o Be quick and responsive when other lawyers seek your advice. Stay in touch, sharing good times and professional information. Treat other lawyers as you treat your clients.
o Become a bar association leader. This will give you ample opportunities for making contacts, of course, but it can also be a valuable laboratory for practicing new communication and leadership skills. Your name will be listed in bar publications and directories that reach many more people than your business card-and they're more likely to be kept.
o Let the bar association assist with communications (websites, mailers, and newsletters) to help retain clients and inform the public of your practice areas. Utilize the services they recommend; they're a great resource for the public and other attorneys as well.
o Participate in mentoring programs. Experience being on both the giving and receiving end. You may think you have little to offer without decades of practice, but newer lawyers may relate better to the immediacy of your experience. Mentoring and having a mentor are good ways to become more involved in your practice area.
Do good work. Be a leader. Get your name out. Use the tools the bar association provides to help make your career in law rewarding in all respects.
Rew R. Goodenow is a shareholder in a law firm in Reno, Nevada. This article is an edited version of one that appeared in the November 2000 issue of The Young Lawyer.