Law Practice Today | August 2013 | Young Lawyers Survival Guide (Part II)
August 2013 | Young Lawyers Survival Guide (Part II)
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A Business Development Checklist for Young Lawyers

By Kelly G. O'Malley

Summer is winding down and fall is quickly approaching. For most of us, that means the end of family vacations and the beginning of Monday Night Football. But for young lawyers who will join a new class of associates at law firms across the country, it means it’s time to focus on your career.

Beyond learning about the basics and billable hours, as a young lawyer, you must create a sound business development plan to ensure a long and successful career. Keep the following checklist in mind as you work to transform yourself from a first-year associate to a powerful and profitable rainmaker. 

Know your firm. Become familiar with your firm’s website and intranet. Both contain valuable information about your firm’s practice areas, offices, senior management structure and attorneys. Knowing who to call and when will not only aid in your day-to-day tasks, but can also be a creative way to impress partners.

Use firm resources. Does your firm have an in-house Marketing Department or Professional Development Team? Use them! They are there to help you grow your network and build your career. They are experts in what they do, and they are there to help YOU! Schedule regular meetings with a member of each team, ask what others in your position are doing/have done in the past, and participate at in-house seminars and presentations. Marketing and professional development teams are invaluable resources that young attorneys should utilize as frequently as possible.

Update your biography regularly. Attorney biographies are the most-read section of a firm’s website. So update yours regularly. As your career changes and you transition into to a more senior attorney, your practice will change, and so should your bio. Update your bio frequently to include presentations you’ve given, articles you’ve written, new aspects of a practice you’re focusing on and updates related to your community involvement. Potential clients won’t know how active you are unless you tell them.

Perfect your pitch. A well-defined elevator speech is a key component of a successful business development plan. In roughly 30 seconds, you should be able to explain who you are, what you do, where you do it and why. Make sure you craft and perfect your elevator speech. It will be one of the best tools to carry with you throughout your career. 

Social media can help…if you do it right. Facebook is rarely used for business development purposes. However, if you’re on Facebook for personal reasons, carefully review your Facebook page and remove anything you wouldn’t want a senior partner or potential client to see. Avoid friending clients and partners in your firm, or use Facebook’s privacy settings to control what’s visible and to whom.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a useful business development tool. In recent years, it has become the go-to online directory for professionals. But don’t wait for connections to find you – be proactive. After meeting another professional at a networking event, invite the person to connect with you. Post interesting and timely articles related to your practice. Comment on your connection’s posts. Share firm-related updates to your network.  Remember, social media is an active tactic in your business development toolkit, not a passive one. 

Don’t hide behind the computer…all of the time. Although social media is a great way to stay in touch with a large number of contacts, don’t forget the personal touch. Schedule at least one in-person meeting a month. Invite a fellow member of a community organization you’re involved with out to breakfast. Catch up with former colleagues, law school classmates or college friends over lunch. Take a partner in your office out for drinks after work. Face-to-face meetings establish a personal connection you can’t manufacture through email. Ditch the computer and put down the smartphone when you can. It will help you strengthen and deepen your professional relationships.

Participate. Is an attorney in your office presenting a seminar? Go! Is the firm hosting a client event at the local pub? Go! Is the office you’re in sponsoring a chamber of commerce event? Go! Whenever you can, take advantage of the time and effort others have put forth. This not only demonstrates to senior partners that you’re supporting the firm and its efforts, but also allows you to network with individuals you may not have had access to on your own.

Be active. Billable hours will keep you busy, but if you don’t expand your network now, you’ll have no clients to bill in the future. Join a committee at the local bar association or become a member of a nonprofit organization in your area. Grab business cards at networking events and follow up with a lunch meeting. Develop relationships with attendees of seminars you present – they’re already interested in what you have to say, so follow up and strengthen those relationships. Through these activities, you will increase the number of contacts in your network for years to come. And stay in touch with your network as they advance in their careers. This will help you develop personal relationships with a pool of potential clients.

Create a mailing list. Getting out of the office and establishing new relationships is key. However, the job doesn’t stop there. Gather those business cards you’ve collected and create a mailing list of contacts. Include new acquaintances, as well as law school classmates, college friends and former colleagues. These are people to whom you’ll send future announcements about your career, opt-in forms for your own e-newsletter and notices of your new blog.

Stay in touch. Sending holiday cards to your mailing list is a great idea, IF you do it right. Mass emails and pre-printed cards are hardly memorable. Hand-write a note to your key contacts with a personal anecdote from the past year. By reinforcing a personal connection, your card is sure to stand out.

Take it one step further. Holiday cards are sent by the hundreds in December, so be different. Send a St. Patrick’s Day card to your Irish friends, a summer-themed card to clients who you know own a vacation home, or a Halloween card to contacts with children. Remember that the point is to send a personal message to strengthen previously established relationships, not to fulfill an obligation around the holidays.


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About the Author

Kelly G. O'Malley is a senior business development specialist at Fox Rothschild LLP in its Princeton, New Jersey office. She can be reached at 609.896.4576 or

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