Networking was scary. I feared I was too young and inexperienced. What could I offer clients? Why should I be considered a good enough lawyer to be trusted?
Once I got creative and quit worrying, the process became easier. Initially, I approached networking by attending functions hosted by bar associations and subject-specific legal organizations. I was working primarily on family law and civil litigation matters, so I focused on these areas. The legal community in any given geography is tight-knit; when it comes to building relationships, be straight to the point. I was most successful when I canned the “elevator speech” and instead discussed an interesting case.
Finding a way to connect is at the heart of networking. I did not like talking about myself or my practice. Instead, I talked about my cases. This technique proved to be the ultimate equalizer, despite my age or newness to the profession. I also learned lawyers pride themselves on being direct, which makes networking daunting. Prior to networking events, I would prep by reviewing my active cases, the novel issues I recently came across, and interesting facts I had learned.
Eventually, I stopped viewing networking as a means to generate business and focused on learning as much as possible from those around me. I was shocked at how much experience my fellow attorneys had and how willing they were to share it. After initial contact, I often received attorneys’ calls weeks later, on topics ranging from novel legal issues to the scoop on a certain judge. I suspect my openness about my own experiences encouraged frankness in others. I was also becoming a resource. Cases started to flow into the firm, citing me as the generating source.
Just as I was getting the hang of things, my practice changed to employment-related cases for federal workers, focusing on
Despite my new focus, the same networking strategies that proved effective early in my career remained sound.
My bar associations remain excellent resources. While few local attorneys share my legal experiences, they interact with potential clients daily. More importantly, they know me as a good lawyer. I find the Lawyer’s Toolbox analogy to be particularly true. No matter the case, I use the same methodologies and strategies to attack issues. Having skill across substantive legal areas is among our most valuable assets. Once you prove this skill to fellow lawyers, their trust in you is unlikely to waver.
Practice Cross-Discipline Networking
It’s tough to stand out in a world with so many attorneys. Join associations and groups that do not focus squarely on your area of law. Look for synergy, not exclusion.
Becoming a resource to physicians is a wonderful way to generate business. I have fielded calls from doctors who want advice, and I end every call with, “If I can be of any assistance to you, on any issue, just call or email me.” Just like becoming known among attorneys, I became known among medical professionals, making other invaluable connections.
Write Clearly (And Have a Good SEO Provider)
Statistics show that increasingly clients are finding lawyers online and are more likely to contact you if you are at the top of their Internet search. Your online presence should reflect that you are successful and familiar with their legal need. Be specific about how you advise clients. If a prospective client has the same legal issue, they will call.
My clients are my best business generators. Store and index their information and communicate with them regularly in meaningful ways. No one is better suited or more willing to sing your praises than a former client.