Networking for Attorneys:  How to Make Money with Your Personality

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Happy Lawyers Make More MoneySmall law firms are always looking for cost effective ways to attract prospective clients.  Networking is one of the best ways to establish relationships that will lead to new business for your law firm.

Attorneys who regularly attend networking events are not only improving their chances of client acquisition, they are also developing powerful reputation within their community.  This reputation will further enhance the likelihood that someone will think of their law firm when the need arises.

Surprisingly, many attorneys are intimidated – or at least a little “put off” by the prospect of entering a room full of strangers and making friends.  In many cases, it reminds them of the first day of school or some other less-than-enjoyable experience.  In other cases, they feel as though the entire experience will be unproductive and uncomfortable.

It doesn’t need to be that way.  Below are six rules for effective networking.  Attorneys who follow these simple rules tend to develop new business quickly with little more than a firm handshake and a winning personality.

The Follow-Up Rule

Every meeting or encounter should be followed by three other interactions.  The more frequently you interact with someone, the more they begin to trust you.  If you want people to give you business, you must begin with a foundation of trust.  This foundation can be developed with three brief interactions during a short period of time.

When you are introduced to someone you should always try to get their business card.  After the event has ended you should immediately send them an email letting them know that it was nice it was nice meeting them.  That’s the first interaction. 

About a week later, you should find a reason to call them. The reason can be as simple as asking them a question or inviting them to have coffee.  The key is to interact with them again, soon. 

The third contact is best handled by sending them a handwritten note.  Include another copy of your business card in the note – just in case.

This three step follow-up sequence is simple yet powerfully effective.  If you follow this sequence with everyone you meet at a networking event you will have developed a group of people that not only knows who you are and what you do, but they will also have started to develop a trusting relationship with you.

The Vendor Rule

People who sell you things should be excellent sources of business.  They all have friends and relatives who may need your services.  You should immediately make a list of all of the vendors that sell to your law firm.  This list should include everyone from the copier sales rep to the electrician who changes the light bulbs. 

After you have made your list, begin calling them one by one.  Set up informal meetings with them.  Again, having coffee is the perfect way to break the ice.  In these meetings, let them know about your firm’s areas of expertise.  After the meeting is over, apply the follow-up rule as we described above.

If these people have any sense at all, and they like the business they receive from you, they will send you a few referrals.

The Place-to-Be Rule

Every town or neighborhood has a “place to be”.  In some communities it is the local recreation center where friends and neighbors take their kids to sign up for sports teams.  In other communities, the local church, synagogue or house of worship is a gathering place for the community.  You may be a part of several different community organizations.  Each one of these may have a “place to be”.

Your goal is to become an active member of at least one of the “places to be” within your community.  Volunteer to serve on a committee or accept a position on the board of directors.  This involvement will raise your profile and people will interact with you more frequently in a less formal setting.  This will help build up in your interpersonal relationships.  Again, it is all about developing trust. 

The Strategic Location Rule

Have you ever gone to a social event where the food was served “butler style?  This means that the food was passed around by servers on small trays.  At events of this nature it is often difficult to eat enough to satisfy your appetite because some of the food never reaches you.  People between the kitchen and your location will often eat everything before the server with the food tray even reaches you.

At these events it is advisable to stand in a “strategic location” in other words – where the food enters the room.  This position allows you to select which hors d’oeuvres you would like to sample and which ones you’d like to let pass you by.

The same strategy applies to gatherings of people.  It is wise to strategically position yourself so that everyone must walk by you at some point during the event.  Good locations include:  close to the front door, near an exit, close to the coat room, near the food or bar and of course, close to the rest room. 

The idea is to approach people you’d like to speak with in a matter-of-fact way as they enter the space you have strategically staked out.  (The rest room strategy is great but remember to approach people on the way out.  People entering a rest room generally have more important things on their mind than conversation). 

The Hobbyist Rule

Most people have some type of hobby.  If you have one, make sure that everyone who belongs to that same group knows who you are and what you do for a living.  If you attend meetings or conventions for your hobby be sure to pass out your business cards and use the follow-up system we have outlined. 

Use your common interest in the hobby to get the conversation started and then find a way to casually segue into a work discussion.  I always recommend that you bring up work first by asking the other person what they do for a living.  This allows them to share their information with you and it almost always leads to the reciprocal question of your occupation.

Keep in mind that networking is much more effective when you adapt it to your own personal style.  Review these rules and make modifications that will help you fit them in to your regular routine.  Ultimately, they will help you build up your client roster without adding a great detail of expense.

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