Okay, so you have your sheepskin, are sworn in, set up an office, and ready to roll. Other than congratulatory cards and best wishes from family and friends, months go by and the phone’s not ringin’ much. Welcome to the real world!
To be sure, there is help along the way. State and local bar associations, for example, have programs for tyro lawyers. Indeed, you may have gone one step further in garnering an LL.M in tax, IP, whatever. Good job! After all, in medicine, dentistry, law among many other disciplines, specialization is a key factor in making a go of it. But even though you have laminated evidence of your qualifications lining the wall, nothing much is happening. What to do?
Obviously, to score clients, you have to “get “out there”–market yourself. Perhaps a bit trite but true. At the same time, don’t expect others to sound the clarion call on your behalf. It’s up to you, front-and-center.
So what to do? Just go out there, cold turkey, handing out cards at every opportunity? Attend meetings of a local group? You don’t know anybody there, but give it a shot. This approach might work out, but don’t bet on it.
Taking Advantage of Commonalities
Is there a better way, one that potentially can give you an edge? Yes, but only if you enthusiastically buy-in. Joining organizations is a good approach, but you’re going there without an “in.” What do I mean? The key is to zero in on your existing (prior and current) connections which are a fertile ground for new business. This common link to prospective clients is referred to as “commonalities.”
To exemplify: Years ago, I became active in both my undergraduate and law school alumni associations. I attended reunions, local meetings, took on various assignments and, in one ongoing project, edited marketing copy, which brought me into contact with other grads and university officials. Bottom line, in addition to renewing old ties (the commonality), it resulted in garnering business.
Over the years, I have been active in the affairs of local symphonic organizations. In this role, I attended meetings and social events in the community. After a while, Bingo! Business! I also joined a fraternal lodge. Good idea. And while a homeowner in various communities, I joined the Homeowners Association, an organization with considerable power, which made me uneasy. So I decided to become active in the group, if only to know what was going on. The bonus: I met a lot of nice people, some with legal needs. You get the picture.
And after my wife and I sold our last house, we moved to an apartment complex, which sponsors a wide range of activities. I persuaded my wife (who has forgotten more about wine than I ever knew), to hold wine tastings. I worked with apartment management on logistics, programming, manned the PowerPoint, etc. The programs have been popular and we met a slew of residents at the tastings, many of whom we used to pass in the halls or elevator. In time, we got to talking, trading anecdotes then, when appropriate, made myself available down the road.
Other potential affiliations include the local library, political/advocacy groups–you name it, all of which welcome help. And if you’re a gifted writer, write a piece for publication, submit it, and forget it. You might be surprised that it strikes a responsive chord, and you’re published.
By the way: Did you work at a law firm, large or small, before opting to go solo? If so, during your stint, did you cultivate a relationship with your colleagues? You never know when a fellow barrister-or-two might toss business your way. The lesson: Keep in contact. And if you currently work at a firm with your eyes on solo practice, keep it in mind.
Working with commonalities in mind, you don’t have to “break the ice”—it’s already been cracked! All too often, new lawyers are hesitant to sell themselves because, starting out, they are unsure of their capabilities—even what to charge. Taking advantage of commonalities eases the way.
Stating the obvious, no one is going to hand you business on a silver platter; you have to go out and get it. It is an increasingly competitive environment, but with “services to sell,” a commitment to do what has to be done, and time. as well as taking advantage of the commonalities edge, you can do it.
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®.