February 24, 2017

Message from the Chair Elect: “Making The Business Case For The Forum”

Wendy K. Venoit

I am often asked by those unfamiliar with the Forum, “Why should I become a member of the Forum?” and “Why should I send my associates, and even partners, to Forum events?”  

The membership question is an easy one to answer.  If someone is already an ABA member, joining the Forum is a relatively modest monetary commitment at $60/year.  And, the benefits received—including access to the membership directory, subscriptions to The Construction Lawyer and Under Construction, access to the Forum’s Knowledge Base, and member discounts for programs and books (just to name a few)—far outweigh the cost.

Where the real “value” comes in, however, is in not just being a member, but actively partaking in everything the Forum has to offer—namely, networking at national meetings, writing and speaking opportunities on a national platform, and countless opportunities for leadership.

While involvement in the Forum and attending Forum programs may not seem like the most likely source of business, given the Forum’s national and international reach, it unquestionably does.  Many in-house counsel have told me that the first place they look for outside lawyers is the Forum directory, focusing primarily on names (and firm names) that are recognizable from their active participation in the Forum Divisions, Committees, Publications and/or at National Programs.  It is unquestionable that the Forum has become the go-to place for identifying and retaining qualified construction counsel throughout the country and beyond.

We are also seeing more and more “clients”, including but not limited to in-house counsel, at our meetings and are consistently looking for ways to attract more of them, not as business targets, but as active contributors to the overall mission of the Forum—namely, to “Build the Best Construction Lawyers.”  Of course, an added benefit is that these “clients” have the opportunity to not only learn about the latest developments in construction law, but to meet lawyers throughout the country and to hear them speak.

But opportunities don’t always come directly from the potential clients.  Business (or business opportunities) can also come from other lawyers.  Over the years, the referrals I have received from other Forum members have more than paid for not only my membership in the Forum, but my attendance at national programs as well.  It certainly made my participation an easier sell to both my practice group leader and firm managing partner.  

And, in my private practice, I have found the Forum network to be invaluable for several reasons.  When I need local counsel, my Forum contacts are the first place I look.  Moreover, I can have a level of confidence that my Forum colleagues are knowledgeable in the industry, will serve the client well and will not try to poach my clients in the process.

The “business case” for the Forum extends beyond just the receipt of legal engagements.  Indeed, the access to resources is often equally critical to a successful practice.  The Forum network provides resources that may not exist within the ranks of my own Firm.  It is like, if not better than, having an office in every jurisdiction in the country (and beyond).  The amazing network of Forum resources is at our fingertips and can not only save us time, but make us more efficient, productive and valuable to our clients.

So, the next time you are trying to convince your practice group leader, your managing partner, or even your spouse/significant other, why they should support your involvement in the Forum, share this article with them, or just a few of my shorthand bullets:

  • National / International Marketing and Networking Platform that reaches over 6,000 members located throughout the world;
  • Speaking and Writing Opportunities to a National / International Audience;
  • Networking Opportunities with clients and lawyers in other areas of the country who can be a source of business and referrals (and sometimes even job opportunities);
  • Access to resources that may not exist (or are not easily reachable) within your own firm or practice (e.g., legal research, forms, expert recommendations, etc.);
  • Leadership Opportunities;
  • Discounted CLE focused on Construction Law and related topics; and
  • Construction law publications and books that are either included in the membership cost or offered to members at a significantly discounted rate.

And that is just the “business case” for the Forum.  Stay tuned next month for the “personal” case for involvement in the Forum!

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Wendy K. Venoit

Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP, Boston, MA