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June 07, 2012 Articles

YAC Hosts Free Rainmaking Teleconference for Section Members

Topics included networking, speaking engagements, advertising strategies, the media, and business coaches.

By Dave Scriven-Young

The Young Advocates Committee (YAC) recently hosted a teleconference free for Section of Litigation members on “Networking and Rainmaking Tips for Young Lawyers: How to Develop a Client Base and Build a Law Practice.” Shawn Yesner, who spoke to YAC about this topic, founded the law firm of Yesner & Boss in 2004, oversees the general operation of the law firm, and represents clients in residential and commercial foreclosures; bankruptcies; residential and commercial closings; loan, debt, and short sale negotiations; and debt-collection negotiations. Yesner’s law firm now consists of 10 attorneys, 20 full-time staff members, three Tampa Bay area locations, and has experienced revenue growth of 100 percent annually since inception.

During the teleconference, Yesner discussed the justification of networking versus staying in the office and billing time; the utility and benefits of speaking engagements; advertising strategies; the use of media; and the pros and cons of having a business coach.

Yesner began the teleconference reviewing the types of groups that attorneys could join to network and generate business. He noted that it is important to evaluate involvement in such organizations. For example, a young attorney should look at the benefits (i.e., contacts gained and business referrals received) rather than the time, effort, and money that might go into your work in organizations. Some of the organizations Yesner recommended include close-contact networking organizations such as Business Network International (BNI), chambers of commerce, bar associations (including the ABA and state and local bar associations), alumni associations, and civic organizations (e.g., churches, Kiwanis, and Rotary Club). Yesner stressed that young attorneys should not limit their professional organizations to those in the legal profession. For example, he is a member of state and local realtor organizations because his top referral sources are realtors. Yesner also emphasized that it is important for family members to know about your work as attorneys because family members have an interest in ensuring your success as rainmakers and attorneys. Family members and friends obviously have their own networks, and the people in those networks can become your referrals too.

According to Yesner, the most important thing about networking organizations is that participation is key. If you simply register with and show up for an hour-long meeting with the local chamber of commerce, it is likely that you may not draw much business from this group. However, if you serve in a leadership position and on committees within organizations, you are more likely to develop the relationships you need to receive referrals and business. Yesner did acknowledge that it is possible for you to become too involved with organizations and spend more time than is necessary to generate business. At that point, it is important to re-evaluate your participation in the organizations.

Yesner emphasized that speaking engagements have helped him be a rainmaker. He said that he can track a noticeable spike in appointments and consultations after he completes a speaking engagement. He also learns more about a particular subject by preparing for a speaking engagement. If young lawyers do not like to speak in public, Yesner suggested becoming involved with Toastmasters, which is an organization that can help hone speaking skills. He also noted that it is important to think about what your referral sources are and speak to groups of those referral sources. For example, a personal-injury attorney might speak to a group of chiropractors, while a real-estate attorney might speak to a group of realtors.

Yesner then addressed advertising strategies. He advised young attorneys to check with local and state bar associations for the ethical rules relating to advertising. He explained that two specific forms of advertising that Yesner & Boss uses are radio and the Internet. For radio ads, Yesner advised to think about a target audience. For example, Yesner & Boss targets afternoon sports radio because one of his firm’s targets is business owners age 35 and older. Yesner also has been a participant on radio talk shows, which have been important to business generation. Yesner said that the Internet is a very important advertising platform for his firm as he has two employees that specifically work with their Internet strategy by posting on the firm’s blogs and writing monthly newsletters. Yesner warned young lawyers about pay-per-click advertising as it may be too costly in many contexts.

Finally, Yesner discussed attorneys having a business coach. He said that he has had a handful of business coaches in his career, and coaches do provide some value. He encouraged attorneys to ensure that a potential business coach has experience dealing with attorneys or similar professionals. It is important that a business coach understand the legal industry, attorneys’ goals, and what attorneys want to accomplish. As always, Yesner suggested that young attorneys should undertake a profitability analysis to determine if it is worth hiring a business coach to help generate business.

Dave Scriven-Young is an associate in the Chicago, Illinois, office of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. Dave is cochair of the Networking/Rainmaking Subcommittee of the Young Advocates Committee and is director of committees and liaisons for the ABA Young Lawyers Division.