Aug. 6, 2014 – A few years ago, I attended a speed networking event for law students. Here is what I learned: 1) there can’t possibly be that much work for new lawyers who want to help financially strapped new business owners as there is interest in that field; and 2) each student gave the same unmemorable marketing pitch. I threw all their business cards in the trash.
Law is a Relationship Business
Clients seek legal services because they have a problem or need professional assistance to avoid problems in the future. Because these issues are often sensitive in nature, most people ask their friends (especially lawyer friends) for recommendations. They ask, “Who, trusted friend, would you trust with a similar issue?” They are not asking for who is in your network group or whom you owe referrals because of formal or informal obligations.
org cbennett wisbar Carolyn Bennett, U.W. 2000, is a program planner for State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE®. She previously was in private practice.
Therefore, it is important to:
1) Identify who will refer clients to you. Be intentional about your referral network to get the clients you actually want. (Hint: It may not be your fellow practice area attorneys.)
2) Differentiate yourself. Your “brand” (your elevator speech) should be memorable for why you are interesting to know and what you can do to help people, not for its delivery (rehearsed, jargoned, etc.).
3) Be sincere: Even more important than branding your professional activities is being an interesting and reputable person. Give conversation hooks to help people converse with you.
4) Everyone is a potential referral source. Do not discount people who do not want to engage your services. Take advantage of every opportunity to be interesting and help someone. You never know where a random act of kindness will lead.
Maintaining Momentum Over Time
Developing a strong referral network is a long-term exercise in trust-based relationship building – it is not about making an extensive network of superficial contacts.
Make friends with your potential referral base by spending meaningful time with them;
Give, give, give … in as many ways as you possibly can, to as many people as you possibly can; and
Be patient … you are growing your reputation, not auditioning for a part.
Client development can be challenging. Don’t waste your time on unfocused activities or unproductive relationships that do not generate meaningful referrals. Maximize your networking time with targeted strategies that build your reputation for being a competent and trusted advisor. This will ultimately lead to new clients and a satisfying work life.