Thoughtful colleagues, friends and clients sometimes make introductions by email or social media to people they think it would be helpful for you to know. Hopefully the new contact will become a client or a referral source one day, but often they haven’t actually requested this introduction. How should you follow up? Here are a few thoughts on the subject.
1. Be familiar with your ethical restrictions. Rule 7.3 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct governs when and how a lawyer may solicit professional employment. It provides that a “lawyer shall not by inperson, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment when a significant motive for the lawyer’s doing so is the lawyer’s pecuniary gain, unless the person contacted (1) is a lawyer; or (2) has a family, close personal, or prior professional relationship with the lawyer.” Rule 7.4, however, provides that a “lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law.” Check your jurisdiction’s version of those rules to make sure you stay in compliance.
2. First focus on building a relationship. Even if the introduction is to another lawyer, such as in-house counsel, don’t launch into pitching your services. Who among us likes to be sold to? Your initial goal should be getting to know them and uncovering their needs, not asking for work. Use your response to thank the person who made the introduction and try to engage the new contact in conversation. By initiating the conversation in the thank you email, your new contact may feel slightly greater obligation to respond to you.
3. Express your interest in them. Hopefully, your benefactor has provided some useful information about each of you in the introduction. Find something in that introduction that interests you and ask a follow-up question about that. If the intro is inadequate, look the contact up on Google and LinkedIn. In that event, you could say something like “John’s introduction piqued my curiosity, so I looked you up on LinkedIn. I saw that you work in the widget industry. I wondered how the recent developments in that arena are impacting you. I would be interested in hearing more about the general climate from someone in the midst of it like you.”
4. Share something very brief about yourself. Don’t force them to read more than they want to know about you at this time. You might say something like, “John is correct that I have an estate planning practice. I was initially attracted to that area because I have a special needs child. If you want more of my professional info, here are links to my LinkedIn profile and website. Of course, I would be happy to share more if you are interested.”
5. Do your homework. If you haven’t already done so, use social media, the internet and any other resources available to learn more about the new contact. Try to get some insight on why this might be a good connection for each of you. If you aren’t sure that you want to invest time in this connection, call your benefactor to learn more about why they made the introduction.
6. Try to do something beneficial to the new contact. Demonstrate your usefulness right off the bat. Send the contact an article or a news report or even a cartoon that somehow relates to them. It could be something about their alma mater, their industry or even their company. (You would be surprised how often in-house counsel may be unaware of press releases their own company has made.)
7. Invite them to a phone call or coffee. Assuming you get some kind of positive response, invite the contact to a small next step. Make it easy, convenient and minimally time-consuming for them. Offer several options of specific dates and times.
8. Express your appreciation again to your benefactor. Even if the contact doesn’t turn out to be that useful, let your benefactor know that you followed up. Tell them what you appreciated about the introduction so that they’ll know what to give you more of. If it was off target, you can say something like, “I really appreciate you for thinking of me. I especially love introductions to people with XYZ problems, or to other service providers that serve them.” Wrap up with “Please let me know what particular kinds of introductions are helpful to you.”
These tips can help move a virtual introduction to more personal contact with a potential client or referral source. Don’t feel bad if nothing comes of the introduction right away, however. The contact may not have an actual need for your services at the time of the introduction. If you build a relationship, they are more likely to think of you when they do.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.