With the Summer behind us and new lawyers entering private practice, new lawyers are looking for ways to kick start their marketing efforts. Starting on Day One of a first job is not too soon to begin thinking about their practice development goals.
Below are 11 ways (new and not so new) lawyers can get started on the right track:
1. Think Like an Entrepreneur, Behave as a Business owner. There are plenty of studies which reveal the wisdom for every attorney, not just associates, to view their practice as their own business. Your career will be more successful and fulfilling if you develop a client base which will lead to more freedom and autonomy in your daily practice, not to mention the portability you will create for yourself.
2. Remind Yourself that Image Does Matter. You have just worked for and earned a place in the corporate community. Dress the part. Seek out quality, well-tailored professional outfits. No need to spend a fortune, but you want to purchase a few select pieces which may be easily mixed and matched. Think basic colors and accessorize. Yes, this goes for guys, too. Whether you like it or not, first impressions do count.
3. Understand Who Your Top Clients Are. For the first couple of years of practice, it is essential you recognize that your top clients are the partners to whom you directly (and indirectly) report. They will watch and evaluate how well you take on and complete assignments. They will observe and be impressed with the initiative you take in integrating into the firm, if you volunteer for committee assignments, and, in general, whether or not you seem to “fit” into the firm culture. Impress them.
4. Search for a Mentor. There are plenty of lessons you will learn “the hard way” but there are some things which you must learn from the voice of others’ experience. A committed mentor will teach you about areas of the law and lend her insights into the business of law, integrity, and respect in the profession. Over the long term, developing a mentoring relationship with a trusted colleague may be the most important thing you can do.
5. Get and Stay Connected. Invariably, when I work with new attorneys, they profess that they “really don’t know that many people”. Rubbish. Look around your universe and capture in a contact management program (Microsoft Outlook Address Book will do) the names of personal and professional peers, former college and law school classmates, family, alumni group contacts, organizational and community group contacts (bar association, church, gym, etc.). Stay in touch through firm events, newsletters, holiday cards, lunch, social media, etc.
6. Craft a “30-Second Introduction or Elevator Pitch” of who you are and precisely what you do. Consider the introduction as a means to quickly and succinctly communicate your personal brand.
Avoid stating “I’m a xx lawyer”. That is your job title, not who you are. Instead, “My name is x and I help x”. If you practice delivering your introduction frequently, you will be surprised at how natural and effective it will become.
7. Get Involved. To build a healthy practice, you must become involved in groups and activities in which you are interested to foster new relationships. Consider joining one legal, one business and one community group, and get involved. Consider serving on a committee. Once involved, develop your professional reputation among these new friends.
Calendar at least a weekly coffee or a lunch with a new acquaintance to learn more about them and their business. Learn about their struggles, obstacles, how they generate revenue. Listen for ways to help them in some way. Find common ground and continue to nurture these relationships, adding each of them to your growing contact list.
8. Learn Key “Soft Skills”. Learning the art of effective networking; essential communications/listening skills; powerful presentation skills, etc. will enable you to become a more effectual business developer. Much of the success of your interactions will be judged upon how well you listen. Moreover, you must learn how to present compelling messages in order to create desired results.
9. Create and Maintain a Professional Profile. Though it may early to declare a law concentration, your profile will describe your credentials during your evolving career. It is important to update the profile (in print as well as online) often as you develop experience and become more active in business development activities such as publishing articles, presenting educational seminars, or becoming active in business, trade or legal groups.
10. Leverage the Web to help build your reputation and develop new relationships. Begin by joining your alumni or local bar association listserv, creating a LinkedIn profile and actively seek connections, and contributing to or starting a blog. One word of advice: whatever activity you choose, follow through and maintain involvement or switch altogether.
11. Develop a “marketing mindset” involves proactively looking for ways to increase your visibility among “target audiences” and incorporate various marketing activities into your routine. Instead of thinking you must take off your lawyer hat to put on your marketing hat, combine them. Invite a former law school classmate to some activity. While together, learn about your friend’s firm and the areas of law she handles.
The more you discipline yourself to think strategically about everyday activities as prospective business development opportunities, the more you will create those opportunities. It often starts with the “giving to get” service attitude.
While the steps above will help you begin the business development process, it is critical that you develop systems to apply positive habits and then follow up, follow up, follow up!!