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Law Practice Magazine

The Marketing Issue

Sometimes It Comes from Where You Least Expect It

John Hinton IV and Linda A Klein


  • Many investments in your marketing activities are necessary to yield the few returns that will make a difference in your practice.
  • Patience is essential to avoid discouragement with your marketing efforts.
  • Investing in others creates opportunities to demonstrate that you can be a trusted advisor.
Sometimes It Comes from Where You Least Expect It

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For this issue’s column, we wanted to share a story from a colleague that will encourage all of us in our marketing efforts, particularly the younger lawyers whom we mentor.

Sometimes a big opportunity comes from where you least expect it. As a young lawyer, our colleague did a favor for an accountant. She couldn’t remember what it was. She just remembered helping him but not sending him a bill. Years and years passed. One day, as she was sitting at her desk, the phone rang. It was the accountant. It took a while for our colleague to remember who he was. The accountant said that he had retired long ago. Then he started telling her a long story, and she couldn’t figure out his purpose in sharing this. She wondered why he was calling her. Did he need a will? Was he bored and wanted someone to talk to?

The accountant explained that, in retirement, he was volunteering at a nonprofit that helped budding entrepreneurs get the advice they needed to start and run their businesses. He explained that, after meeting many aspiring business owners with ideas that could not work, he met one whom he believed had the potential to make it. He said that this person needed a lawyer and asked if our colleague would take this new business owner on as a client.

Within nine months, this new client was incredibly successful. Within a year or so, his business was the firm’s largest client. From forming an LLC, the relationship grew to complicated litigation, corporate restructuring, multigenerational planning and more. Nearly everyone in the firm touched work for this client.

Although our colleague’s story is unique in one sense, it also highlights the wisdom of several time-tested principles for us to consider. 

Scatter many seeds. Helping others without expectation of return is like scattering seeds. You never know which seeds will blossom into an opportunity. This accountant was not the only person whom our colleague helped with nothing expected in return. She made many similar investments of her time over the years. Most of those investments of her time resulted in no tangible benefits to her career. Some did, and one was a game changer. However, those acts of service that resulted in no return weren’t wasted time. They were necessary; because without the mindset and dedication that led her to make those investments, she likely would never have helped that accountant.

Practice patience. It is easy for younger lawyers to become discouraged and not stay the course when their efforts to build a practice don’t appear to be bearing fruit. You never know when your next opportunity is around the corner. Our colleague didn’t begin her day expecting to land what would become the firm’s largest client, and she certainly didn’t expect a call from this accountant. A decade passed from when our colleague helped that accountant until he called with the introduction. Moreover, the opportunity was not to take on a large, profitable client. Rather, it was to plant more seeds by helping an entrepreneur early in his journey.

Be willing to invest in others. The accountant never explained why he chose our colleague to call. One might assume that he was repaying a favor, and that may have been the case. However, it cannot have escaped the accountant’s notice that our colleague had been willing to invest some of her time in him. This entrepreneur needed someone to invest in him, and the accountant knew from personal experience that our colleague was likely someone who would be willing to make that investment.

Our colleague’s experience has given us much to consider, and we hope it also encourages you. Spread the word and let us know what you learn.