I recently had the pleasure of being on a panel at the MSBA Young Lawyer Section Summit to talk about legal career building tips. Also on the panel was a professional career counselor and coach, Marian Fetter. It was a good experience and I spent some time doing some research about the topic and now want to share some of the tips with readers of this column. While the information was directed at lawyers newer to law practice, there are many tips that can be used by those readers who are more experienced.
Regardless of how long you have been practicing or your current practice setting, these tips will help you either build your early career, help you expand your experienced practice or even help you consider changing your practice setting.
Some of these tips are taken from other people, and I will mention them as we go through the article. In addition, when you read this article on the website, there will be links to many additional resources.
- Always remember that you will never know where your next client will come from.
- It is never too late or too early to start creating positive relationships with all of your contacts.
- Do not be too narrowly focused when creating your referral network. If you only view individuals as “referral sources” you will definitely be missing opportunities to turn every contact into a potential referral source or even potential client. Every contact is a potential referral source or client. Maybe not immediately but eventually.
- Develop a reputation for producing tangible results, for keeping commitments, and meeting deadlines, not just at your firm but in all your activities whether bar association activities or your child’s PTA.
- Bar association activities absolutely help you build your practice, expand your influence, and develop your leadership potential. These are skills you need to have thriving practice and career.
- Make a decision that every week, you will contact one referral source or potential client for business development. It may not translate every time into business but it will begin to build your base.
Some tips come directly from www.thecompletelawyer.com/networking-tips-for-lawyers.html.
- Make a note on all business cards to remind you something about the person.
- Successful networking is not about you. It is about the other person. It is about how you can help.
- Do not concentrate on you. Ask questions that find out information about the other person and his or her business. Some great questions to ask include, “So how did you get into that business?”, “What type of training do you have to go through to be a __________?”, “What are the biggest challenges your industry is facing right now?”, “What do you like best about being a _________?”, “What do you think is the key to being a successful _____?”
- Send a note (handwritten still is really the best) after meeting someone and mention some way you can help, even asking the person to let others know about how you can help.
- When at any type of event, do not only talk with or sit with people you know. Sit with new people. Talk with new people. Sitting with a friend—or worse, a co-worker—defeats the entire purpose of going to a networking event in the first place!
- Wear your nametag on your right shoulder, not your left. That way, when you shake hands, your name will be clearly visible to the other person. (I always do this and it works really well.) Also, when introduced to someone, repeat his or her name once or twice and this will help to remember the name.
- When you are entering a room where you know few people, just decide that you will talk to 3-5 new people. If you are uncomfortable with networking, the goal is simply to create an impression.
- Decide what type of impression you want people to have of you and then make that happen. You can control the impression you give to people. What do you want to be known for? What do you want to be known as?
If you feel as though you are an introvert and may be uncomfortable with networking, then joining bar associations or other organizations where you can volunteer to be on committees is even more important. This will give you the opportunity to work with others by showing what you can do rather than simply trying to impress others in social situation. Some good articles on networking for shy or introverts can be found at susancartierliebel.typepad.com/build_a_solo_practice/2008/08/networking-for.html.
There was a really good blog post by my counterpart, Courtney Kennady, at the South Carolina Bar (www.scsmallfirm.com/wordpress/category/career-building/) about how to use your business cards. Some of my favorite tips of the many listed are:
- Make sure someone can read your card easily without glasses or a magnifying glass (the “over age 40” rule).
- Send two business cards to each client at the close of your case and ask them to refer you business.
Success is never an accident. It comes from hard work and doing a lot of the right tasks regularly. It involves a lot of time and a lot of effort.