Networking for Lawyers
By Jeffrey F. Silber and Liza Vasquez
Certified Master Business and Life Coaches
You have undoubtedly heard about Networking many times in your life, but do you know what it means? A Network is defined as “A supportive system for sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest” and Networking is defined as “the act of creating such a support system.” There are many types of networks, such as video-gamers whose network exits so the members can exchange tips about a specific game. Or a network of former alcoholics who help each other to stay sober.
What we will discuss today is how lawyers form their own individual network of people they know to grow their legal practice. Now we are clear about we are going to discuss in this article.
Expending Your Contacts Through Your Current Clients
In our last two monthly articles, we discussed how to leverage your current clients to grow your practice by getting more legal work from their company when they know what additional services you and your partners offer. Please go to our website (www.svacoaches.com) and in the Blog section, you will find the March 1st and the April 1st articles which cover this subject extensively.
Now let’s talk about how to leverage your clients for more referrals. Inasmuch as that you have been doing good work for your clients and you have developed a good human connection with them (See the September 1, 2016 article in our Website, titled, The Human Connection – The Key to Successful Marketing), If that is true, then you are ready to ask for referrals. Certainly, your current clients already know and trust you. Because they have confidence in you and you have developed a friendly relationship, it is not going to be difficult for them to refer people they know to you.
Arrange meetings with your clients to discuss referrals. Keep in mind that no one likes surprises, so when you arrange a meeting or lunch for this purpose, be sure to ask for permission in advance to discuss possible introductions. Depending on your level of comfort with this client, your request for a meeting with their in-house lawyer could look something like this:
Sofia, we have worked together for the past few years and I believe you are happy with my work. I was hoping we might take a few minutes over lunch to discuss some of the people and companies you know who might be able to benefit from working with me. Would you like to help someone else by referring me to some colleagues you know? Is that something you would be open to discussing when we meet?
Then at the meeting, you could say Sofia, there is something I have been meaning to ask you. I want to keep growing my practice and would really appreciate your help with some introductions to people you know who might at some point be interested in my services? Is that something you would be open to helping me with?
Some people do not like being asked so directly for introductions. There is an excellent alternative to this direct approach, and is to ask for advice. Sofia, you know the quality of my work, well, I would like to expand my practice. I respect your opinion very much and would like to ask for your advice about how you think I could go about growing my list of clients. You can use this approach when making the appointment by explaining in advance that you would like to meet because you would like some advice. It is amazing that a person when put in this position, will suggest names of people you he/she could introduce you to – because now it is their idea not yours pushing for an introduction.
The second factor in asking for advice is that people love talking about themselves and they also love to give advice and opinions. This re-enforces our rule of making the other person feel important by letting them do 80% of the talking.
It is extremely easy to make an appointment when you can call or send an e-mail saying I am contacting you at the suggestion of Sofia X who thinks that we are both friends of hers who should get to know each other …… Of course, at the meeting, ask many questions and build a human connection. Then continuous follow-up.
Expending Your Contacts Through Your Friends and Colleagues
On the other hand, without any question, the next best way to cultivate new clients is by developing your existing long-term friendships and relationships with colleagues who are not clients.
Starting with your friends, people who know you best: Why haven’t you been asking them to make introductions for you? Are you afraid that asking them to refer you to potential clients will damage your friendship in some way? In our coaching work, we speak a great deal about breaking your existing paradigms – ideas that you think are correct but which are usually not right. Remember, no one will hire a lawyer if they have no need of his or her services. After all, you are not a used car salesperson or a life insurance agent trying to talk people into purchasing something they cannot afford nor want. This is important to keep in mind when asking your friends to make some introductions. Reassure them you will not apply any high-pressure tactics to anyone they present to you. You merely want them to know what you do in the event they need a lawyer in your practice area.
If they are your friends, they will be more than happy to help you to the extent they can. Here is a good tip for asking friends for referrals: You can be disarmingly honest as we mentioned above when asking a client for referrals: Pedro, I’ve been meaning to ask you ……
Another good tip could be called Quid Pro Quo. Pedro, I believe you have lots of powerful connections. I have some good ones too. Would you be open to discussing some possible introductions we could make for each another?
If you are not a partner or senior lawyer, this should not deter you from asking for some powerful referrals. If the potential new contact is very senior to you, you could suggest to your friend that you will bring a partner of your law firm along to the meeting. Or, if you and your friend are both young, you could say, Pedro, why don’t we get your boss and my boss together? And you could arrange a meeting for the four of you.
Then of course, once you meet these people, you must remain in frequent contact so that they do not forget you when they do, in fact, need a lawyer in your practice area. Next month, in the June 1, 2017 article, we will discuss the Art of Following Up – the Place Where Lawyer Gain or Lose New Clients.
Conclusion for Seeking Referral from Friends and Current Clients:
If asking friends, colleagues, and clients for quality introductions is done in a nonaggressive manner, both you and they will be happy with the results. If this still seems hard for you, ask yourself these two questions: First, is obtaining an introduction from a friend or client easier or more difficult than from a stranger you just met at a networking event? Second, what do you really have to lose? If the friend or client is not open to making an introduction, then so be it. At least now you know where you stand with that individual, which is a good thing to know.
Expending Your Contacts Through Getting Out of Your Office Meeting People in Person:
As defined above, getting out and meeting new people is called Networking These are some of the best tools for expanding your social web of contacts by getting out of your comfort zone and meeting new people.
Make Speeches – We have a three-article series devoted to this subject, August and October 2016 and February 2017, which you can find in our Website. Here are a few main points about using speeches. 1) Select a topic for a speech related to your practice area which many business people would want to hear. 2) Research organizations that have speaking opportunities at their monthly meetings. 3) Contact as many of these organizations as you can to offer them your speech. 4) Once you have a confirmed speaking date, only then write the speech. Remember that you are not there to create a room full of people who can do this without you. You are not teaching a class in law school. You are speaking for one reason only – to teach them you are the expert and when they have this situation, they will need you. 5) Record your speech and have in it transcribed so that you can turn it into an article. Then use your speech, now in the form of an article, to send to prospects and post it on your website. 6) Invite the audience to a workshop on this topic in your office to drill down deeper on this topic. And 7) Before and after the speech personally meet as many attendees as possible, making a human connection and getting their business cards for further follow-up.
Giving Seminars – These are usually a breakfast or lunch meeting for about 15 people whom you will invite, this equates to about three tables. It is best to have separate seminars for current and potential clients as the message will be slightly different. Like with making speeches, your objective is to demonstrate your expertise. The invited guests need to RSVP and when they arrive they must be assigned to a specific table. This is important because the member of your firm who will be seated at that table needs to be briefed ahead of time about each person at the table, about their company and their industry so he/she can ask intelligent questions. When the seminar is for potential clients, at the end of meeting, again, invite them to a workshop in your office for more detailed information on this topic.
Workshops in Your Office – If you can get people from a speech or seminar to your office to attend a workshop, they will most likely become clients. If they could get this information somewhere else, they would not be in your office. All you need to do is to take the information form the speech or seminar and show them how it applies to their company. You are not teaching them how to do this without you – you are once again demonstrating your expertise.
Joining Organization – If you want to build your reputation, you can join your local Bar Association and become active on committees. However, this is unlikely to produce any referrals for you since most lawyers you meet will be competitors – unless you have a unique specialization that most law firms do not have. What is better is to go where you will find the most potential clients: industry-oriented organizations. That research you did regarding where to offer your speech, use that list to find some organizations that best fit your practice profile and join a few of them. Go to their monthly meetings early and stay late meeting as many people as you can, always asking questions to get to know them and to build as much of a human connection with them as you can.
Conclusion for Seeking Referral by Getting Out of Your Office and Meeting People:
It is a numbers game. The more people you meet, the more potential clients you will get to know. The more potential clients you know, the more referrals you will receive. Since many other lawyers can do the same quality work you do, what will make the difference is if the potential clients like you. They will like you by building a human connection with you. The key phrase is Be friendly and the work will follow.
The key is constant follow up once you have met someone. You must always remain Top-Of-Mind when they need a lawyer in your area. Look for our June 1, 2017 article on the Art of Following-Up.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com Feel free to pass our articles along to your friends and colleagues.
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