One of the challenges in building or maintaining a law practice is the need to continually develop new clients and/or engagements. Direct face-to-face solicitation of individual clients is still a prohibited activity for most lawyers. Law firm marketing is now often handled in part by a professional at larger law firms, but associates soon learn that they had better develop their own book of business if they want to make partner. And for the medium-sized to small law firms, this often gets added to the list of tasks of a lawyer who already has too much on his or her plate. It is still an amazing and silly thing to me that some jurisdictions expressly prohibit granting MCLE credit for presentations on marketing and client development. One of the greatest challenges to any business, but especially a professional services firm, is presenting themselves to the public. So if there are concerns about how advertising and marketing is done appropriately and professionally, one would think good training in that area would be essential.
But one thing lawyers have told me consistently over the years and one thing I share in my client development presentations is that your very best clients—those who trust you, are easy to work with and pay their bills on time—are those who come to your firm via referrals. If someone they know and trust shares your name and says you can be trusted, that is a huge positive first step in building a great attorney-client relationship. Building a professional network is its own challenge and so I wrote a column on Building and Maintaining Your Professional Network. Having a network of people who know you and take an interest in referring clients to you is a valuable resource. But developing one is not easy. i hear stories from lawyers all the time of attending “networking” events and finding themselves only talking to a few people in attendance that they already knew. There are different ways of networking and you have to find one that meets your needs.
I reached out to Mike Whelan, author and host of the Lawyer Forward conferences, after seeing some of his Twitter discussions about building your tribe and he shared some valuable insights, including the fact that your tribe likely cannot be as large as you might think it should be. I also covered what to do if a formerly good referral source “drys up” and how to avoid that happening. Spoiler Alert: “Nothing” is not the correct answer. I hope you enjoy Building and Maintaining Your Professional Network.
This week I am taking a look back at a few things I should have blogged about in 2018, but didn’t. More details on the reasons why later.