The theme for this year’s Solo and Small Firm Conference, to be held Friday, November 15, 2013, is “Happy Days are Here Again: Preparing Your Practice for Prosperity.” In an effort to get a jumpstart on this looming prosperity for both new and experienced practitioners, this month’s column will offer 26 tips on how to build or expand your practice. These tips are in no particular order, and not all may apply to your particular practice.
- There is no one right way to market your practice. What may work for one firm may not work for you.
- Choose methods that you are comfortable with, BUT do not be afraid to move outside your comfort zone. Even if you do not like social events, attempt to meet new people in an new setting.
- Always remember that you will NEVER know where your next client will come from, so never make derogatory comments about any particular person, company, or groups. The company you are complaining about today may need the services of a lawyer tomorrow.
- It is never too late or too early to start building positive relationships with all of your contacts. Regardless of how long you have been practicing, it is critical to create opportunities for future clients.
- Do not focus too narrowly 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 – perhaps not immediately, but eventually.
- Always send written thank you notes to anyone who has referred a potential client to you, even if you did not take the client.
- Resolve to contact one referral source or potential client for business development every week. It may not translate into business every time, but it will begin to build your base.
- 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 to build your practice, expand your influence, and develop your leadership potential. You need these skills to have a thriving practice and career. Lawyers refer business to people they know, and bar associations (at any level) are a great way to know people and have people know you.
- Even if you are shy or introverted, you can still learn some techniques for meeting new people. The Solo and Small Firm Practice Section and the Young Lawyers Section are sponsoring a Networking Event on Wednesday, July 17, 2013, at Nick’s Seafood House in Baltimore.
- Make a note on all business cards you receive in order to remind you of 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 just talk about you, but ask questions that find out information about the other person and his/her business. 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 _________?”, and “What do you think is the key to being a successful _____?”
- Send a note (handwritten is really still the best) after meeting someone; mention some way you can help, and even ask that 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/her name once or twice; this will help you to remember the name.
- When you are in a situation entering a room where you know few people, decide that you will talk with between three and five 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 serve on committees is even more important. This will give you the opportunity to work with others by showing what you can do rather than by simply trying to impress others in a social situation. Some good articles on networking for shy or introverted individuals can be found at http://susancartierliebel.typepad.com/build_a_solo_practice/2008/08/networking-for.html
- My counterpart at the South Carolina Bar, Courtney Kennaday, offers a really good blog post on how to use your business cards at www.scsmallfirm.com/wordpress/category/career-building/. Some of my favorite tips of the many listed include: Make sure someone can read your card easily without glasses or a magnifying glass (the “over age 40” rule), and; Send two business cards to each client at the close of your case and ask them to refer you business.
- For more experienced practitioners, do not dismiss the new social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. You should understand them and use them in addition to more personal techniques.
- You must have a website and it must be kept current.
- Determine who you want as clients and go where there is the opportunity to interact with those potential clients.
- Find a way to distinguish yourself from other attorneys in your area. Be prepared to explain what you offer that others do not.
- Send a survey at the close of all matters to learn what you may improve upon and to make sure clients know what other areas of law you may practice.
- Be enthusiastic about what you do, and share that enthusiasm.
[NOTE: Some of the following networking tips come directly from www.thecompletelawyer.com/networking-tips-for-lawyers.html]
For more details about expanding your practice, watch my 60-minute webinar on “How to Build or Expand Your Practice”; view it online at no charge at www.msba.org/departments/loma/.