Law Firm Seminars:  If You Teach – They Will Come

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Before changing careers and becoming an attorney my good friend James was a teacher for nearly 15 years. I guess he’s still a teacher at heart. As far back as I can remember James has been completely unselfish in offering to help people and explain things. In fact, it’s been said of James that his true ability lies in making complex subjects easy for the average person to understand. This is what led him to the teaching profession. But somehow he wasn’t completely fulfilled as a teacher. He wanted more. So he went back to school and before we knew it he had become an attorney.

He worked several years in a family law practice before branching out on his own. At first, his old firm offered a fair number of referrals. Added to those clients were the friends and colleagues he’d known as a teacher. And slowly but surely his business grew. But it wasn’t until he did what comes naturally, teaching, that he hit full stride in what has become one of the most lucrative law practices in town. And it all happened quite by accident, though many would say there are no accidents in the world.

One day James received a call from the curriculum director at the community college. He wanted James to teach a civics class two nights a week at the adult education program the college offered. Well, James could never turn down a teaching opportunity or an old friend so he agreed to teach the class. And something happened when he did. The material offered in the civics class was closely related to some of the family law matters he dealt with on a daily basis in his law practice. Before long James was offering a question and answer session related to certain family law issues after regular civics class hours.

Word of these sessions got back to the college and James was offered an opportunity to teach his own family law class the following semester. It soon became one of the college’s most popular courses and brought James a good deal of business to his practice. But it didn’t stop there. James so much enjoyed teaching the class that he began offering short weekend seminars on family law matters such as simple contracts, divorce counseling, child custody issues, bankruptcy, immigration and others. These classes were usually full and these too brought James a lot of business.

If the story ended here it would be a happy one for sure. But it doesn’t end here. James ended up literally developing and adding a teaching arm to his practice.

Here’s how he did it:

The new division of his firm specialized in offering family law seminars to the public as well as a weekend seminar offering to show other attorneys how to build their clientele by teaching classes of their own. So even though James had become a lawyer he never stopped teaching. It wasn’t long before James was offering marketing seminars to other professional such as chiropractors, insurance and real estate brokers, and of course, attorneys. As it turned out, James was once again a full time teacher. He enjoyed teaching and referred most of the legal work to other lawyers in his ever-growing practice. I guess things had gone full circle.

I once asked James what it was he though had made him successful. He answered rather quickly as though he’d thought about it a lot. He said he believed it was his willingness to share his knowledge with others without asking for anything in return that made him successful. He also said that in the beginning he never taught a single class with the intention of picking up clients. It was always about the instruction and his goal of helping to educate people, to help make their lives better. As time passed he obviously began teaching to build his practice and produce income but things didn’t start out that way.

I asked James what I might do to build a business around a teaching theme. He told me that there are many businesses that could easily benefit by offering instruction as a lead-in. He explained that this should be evident in many fields where people offered classes not only as a source of actual income but to secure clients for their main business. I then asked what was necessary to conduct successful classes and to actually acquire clients from them. He offered the following items in no particular order:

  • Know what you’re talking about – have some valuable expertise to offer. People can easily spot a blowhard.
  • Don’t hold back on information. This is one of the hardest concepts for new instructors to grasp. Many think that if they unload all they know in the class or seminar people will have no need to contract for their services. To a small degree this might be true but in the long run being generous with your knowledge will pay huge dividends as new clients recognize that you’re trying in earnest to help them.
  • Teach concepts that people need to know. In other words, offer real value. It’s amazing how appealing you become as a service provider when people realize that you are sincere in offering great information – information that will make a real difference in their lives.
  • Remain humble. No matter how much success you achieve, never forget where you came from or the people who helped you to gain your success.

There were a few more items but most were simply common sense – stuff like keeping your word and doing a great job for someone once he became a client. It’s clear to me that James not only talks a good game but lives it as well. We could sure use more devoted people like him in the world.