Young Lawyers Network: Seven Ways to Develop Your Book of Business as a Young Lawyer

1. Provide Excellent Service to Current Clients. The greatest compliment a client can give you is to refer a new client. Perhaps the best way to provide service as a lawyer is to be responsive. If a client contacts you about his legal matter, be sure to respond within 24 hours. In the days of old, you may have been able to get away with returning a call after a few days. Not so in the age of instant communication. A timely response will go a long way toward keeping the client happy. If you give the client deadlines for updates on a matter, adhere to them. In addition, always be sure your advice is accurate. Clients will not expressly ask for this—it is implied in whatever advice you dispense.

2. Remember that Every Person You Meet Is a Potential Client. When you are developing a book of business, anyone you meet can be a potential client. A referral of business can have many different sources—friends, suppliers, relatives, former colleagues, former employers, or even your current supervising attorney. Because a potential new client or referral source can come from anywhere, it is important to be prepared to say what you do at any given time. Prepare a three-minute elevator speech and know it cold.

3. Let People Know What You Do. Others can only refer business to you if they know what you do. A proven way of letting others know what you do is to make a presentation or write an article. If you are comfortable in front of a crowd, offer to speak in front a group of potential clients for free in connection with an event hosted by a trade association or organization in your industry. Seize the opportunity to be perceived as an expert. If public speaking is not your strength, write an article that will be published in a magazine (or website) that will be placed in front of your target audience. For example, if you are a real estate lawyer and you want more developer clients, get an article published in the magazine for the Urban Land Institute, Urban Land. You can also have an article published in an ABA publication like Probate & Property. Every article you write or presentation you make is another way to distinguish yourself as an expert.

4. Express a Genuine Interest in Others. In his seminal book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote that one of the best ways to ensure that people like you is to express a genuine interest in them. Potential clients will like you more you when you express sincere interest in them and their business needs. Listen more than you speak. The first way to win over a client is to be seen as someone who cares about the client’s legal issue or how to improve the client’s business.

5. Form Relationships. In order to develop a healthy book of business, you will need to meet people. This means you will need to be social! Before the introverted lot of you gasp in despair, it is possible to be social in different ways. You can be involved in your local church or congregation and meet potential clients that way. You can attend social events hosted by a trade organization in your industry. Perhaps the best way to meet potential clients is to volunteer for a community service event with ties to an organization or company that you want as a client. Volunteering alongside a potential client or referral source is a great way to get to know someone that arguably has a lot more authenticity than sharing a drink with them at a mixer. Client development can be a lot more effective when it has less pretense than a social function marketed as a “networking” event.

6. Specialize. The surest path to building a book of business is to find a niche you love in your chosen area of practice. You want to love your niche because anything you can do with enthusiasm will sustain you over a long period of time. In modern times, potential clients want a lawyer who specializes in their area of need. If you pitch yourself as a generalist, you will be the proverbial jack-of-all-trades but master of none. A client needing to solve an immediate legal problem or quickly close a transaction wants a specialist, not a generalist. For example, if you are commercial real estate lawyer, you want to market yourself more narrowly than that. “Restaurant and Food Truck Lawyer” is more specific and likely to attract clients than “Commercial Real Estate Lawyer.”

7. Be Familiar. There is maxim in business development that states the following: “People do business with others they know, like, and trust.” Potential clients need to know who you are and what you do. As mentioned above, a proven way for lawyers to let others know what they do is to write or speak on topics related to their specific niche in their area of practice.

It is not enough to simply read the above principles to grow your book of business. Take action. That is the best way to produce results. Best of luck to you!