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Connecting With  Your Tribe

thetribeLaw is a profession that attracts individuals who enjoy solitude (according to the ABA, as many as 60% of attorneys are introverts.) If you ask most lawyers how they feel about networking, you are likely to get a  lukewarm response.  Getting out and making small talk is simply not a high priority activity for a lot of attorneys.  But as I’ve written on many occasions, leaving your office and meeting other professionals is the best way to advance your career, position yourself for future job opportunities and build your law practice. Read more…

Overcoming Fear of Networking

Date October 24, 2017 Comment Comments Off on Overcoming Fear of Networking

Not Feeling Well

For most lawyers, networking is right up there with getting root canal or spending time in a Porta Potty.  It’s a necessary and useful activity.  But it is not fun.

Attending networking functions can feel uncomfortable to many professionals.  What if you don’t know anyone?  What should you talk about? How do you find business leads or job opportunities in a large crowd?  But networking can help you increase your circle of business relationships.  It should be part of your overall marketing and career strategy.  Read more…

Documenting Your Networking

Date October 11, 2017 Comment Comments Off on Documenting Your Networking

Documenting Your Networking

business-cardWhile social media has become an important tool in building business and personal relationships, nothing can substitute for the bonds that are created through in person interactions.  Going to networking functions is still important whether you are looking for a new job or trying to build your law practice.  But how do you make the most of your interactions at a networking meeting?  What should you do with the business card that someone hands you?

Read more…

What’s Your Story?

Date December 8, 2016 Comment Comments Off on What’s Your Story?

What’s Your Story?

Good marketing involves good story telling.  This is true whether you are marketing yourself as a candidate for a new job, marketing your company to a prospective hire or marketing yourself as a professional looking to generate new business.

Telling a “good” story is not always easy for analytical professionals.   Lawyers, for example, are accustomed to “documenting” and being  “thorough”.   But good storytelling is not about being thorough.  If you want to craft a good story, one that will make your point and one that will be memorable, it is important to be selective.  Give the details which make your point.  Avoid the facts which dilute or potentially contradict the message.  It’s okay to be selective as long as you don’t distort the truth. Read more…

Building Your Practice Through Non-Profit or Civic Involvement

Date February 25, 2014 Comment Comments Off on Building Your Practice Through Non-Profit or Civic Involvement

There are many ways to build your reputation as a lawyer and cultivate relationships that can turn into referral sources.  The important thing is to stay involved in activities you enjoy, otherwise, you will find yourself making excuses to avoid that activity and you won’t enjoy the activity enough to make it worth your while.  When I do marketing training, I always ask who likes golf?  I tell the attorneys who don’t raise their hands to avoid it because it is unlikely to be a positive experience and unlikely to help you build your relationships.

As a lawyer, there are many non-profit and civic causes where you can lend a hand and make a valuable contribution.  If you are thinking about the best way to do that, on March 19th, I am participating on a panel with the Massachusetts Bar Association.  Click here for more information.  The program is free for MBA members and can be accessed remotely.

It’s Never too Late to Set New Goals

Date January 22, 2014 Comment Comments Off on It’s Never too Late to Set New Goals

It’s Never too Late to Set New Goals

If you are like most of your colleagues, the New Year has come and gone and so have your New Year’s Resolutions.  Change is hard and in the high pressured field of law, resolving to spend more time on non-billable work may be easier said than done.  While there continues to be slow and steady movement towards project based billing in private practice, the reality is that most lawyers still bill by the hour; and most law firms still pay close attention to billable hours in determining how much of a contribution you are making to your firm.

In the short run, a lot of the incentive is to maximize the hours you bill.  But for most attorneys, building your own practice is what will give you more career satisfaction and more control over your destiny.

So you resolved to spend more time on marketing in 2014.  But as we approach Groundhog Day, that resolution may seem like a distant memory.  The good news is that its never too late to start making change.  So here are some tips for how you can be more successful with your Groundhog Day Resolutions:

1.  Don’t try to change everything at once.  Choose one or two things that you want to do differently this year.

2.  Resolve to spend a fixed amount of time every week on marketing and put it in your calendar (perhaps 15-30 minutes every morning before you become consumed with client demands).

3.  Choose marketing activities you think you would enjoy.  If you like to write, write about something you want to be known for.  If you like to speak, get out and speak about something that will reinforce the reputation you want.  If you enjoy playing golf or attending sporting events with referral sources, do that.

4.  Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.  When you work on a client matter, think about whether there are other prospective clients who might want to know about an issue.  You’ve already done the work.  Can you turn it into an article, check list or blog post?

5.  Recycle your marketing.  The goal is to be visible.  Once you have written something, send it to individuals on your mailing list (start a mailing list if you don’t already have one).  Create a newsletter that links to items you and some of your colleagues have already written (again, focusing on the subject matter where you want to build your reputation).  Publicize your speaking engagements through a newsletter, on your website and in a LinkedIn update.

6.  Send out articles (or links to articles) to people on your mailing list.  “Thought this might be of interest to you.”

7.  Get involved in a recreational, civic, non-profit or hobby related activity that puts you in contact with the kinds of people you want to meet.  Again, choose activities you enjoy (i.e. not things you think you “should” be doing).   You are much more likely to follow through and participate and you are much more likely to be relaxed.

Truly building a law practice can take years.  So the sooner you get started, the sooner you will start to see the fruits of your labors.  But don’t feel like marketing is an all or nothing proposition.  Resolve to do a little more this year than you did last year and you will make a real contribution to your own success down the road.

Focus Your Marketing Message Like You Focus Your Camera

Date October 30, 2013 Comment Comments Off on Focus Your Marketing Message Like You Focus Your Camera

Focus Your Marketing Message Like You Focus Your Camera

Good marketing is the art of differentiation. If you present yourself like any other lawyer in the marketplace, potential clients and referral sources are less likely to remember you when they encounter a need you can service.

This is a hard lesson to embrace in a competitive field for legal services. Most of the clients I work with are concerned that if they do not mention everything they do, they will miss out on opportunities. But by not focusing your marketing message, the opposite is true. You run the risk of being memorable for nothing.

Think of it as you would when taking a photograph. A good photographer will focus in on those elements in the scene where they want your attention drawn. If your main subject is out of focus, then you often end up with a bad photo and the viewer doesn’t know where to focus his or her attention.

So if your primary practice focus is creating estate plans for middle class couples, don’t be afraid to tell that to the potential clients and referral sources you meet. If the individual is looking for a good divorce lawyer and you happen to do some of that work, you can always indicate that as the conversation progresses. Similarly, if they are selling a home or have a potential conflict with a business partner, and that is work that you have successfully handled, then you can add that to the conversation, as well.

The point is when someone asks what you do, try and limit yourself to one or two (possibly three), types of matters that you handle and who are the most likely clients for that work. Like a good photograph, a focused marketing message will stick longer in the memory of those who you are relying on for your work. You can always clarify that you also handle the type of matter that the individual needs help with. But keep the focus of your marketing message on those areas that you want to be known for. A focused message like that is much more likely to stick.

Short Video Clip from My Appearance on Radio Entrepreneurs

Date June 19, 2013 Comment Comments Off on Short Video Clip from My Appearance on Radio Entrepreneurs

Click here to listen to the whole podcast.

Building Business Relationships 101-Where to Begin?

Date May 22, 2013 Comment Comments Off on Building Business Relationships 101-Where to Begin?

Building Business Relationships 101-Where to Begin?

Building relationships with potential referral sources is an important part of building your law practice. But given the huge range of possibilities about who you can spend your time with, where do you begin?

The starting point of course is deciding who you identify as your ideal client. Once you have established this, your next step is to identify who are the referral sources who work with these same clients. These can be other professionals who provide different services to the same clientele; they can also be other lawyers who are billing at a different rate and need a lower-cost alternative to refer work to when prospective clients cannot afford their fee.

Beyond this, how do you spend your time efficiently and focus on good “potential referral sources”. The following is a four step process for making that determination:

1. While your referral source may serve some of the same clients that you would like to serve, is that referral source well-connected to that clientele? Does that individual seem like someone who is interested in relationship building and do they seem well connected to those clients?

2. Is the individual the type of professional who likes to connect professionals with each other? In other words, is the person a connector who has a helpful personality and who will go out of his or her way to try to make connections on your behalf? (This certainly does not describe many professionals you may encounter, not because professionals are antisocial; rather, because being a good connector is a skill in and of itself – so look for the bright spots.)

3. Is the individual someone you like and someone that you feel you can relate to? Don’t underestimate the value of spending your time with people who you like and whose company you enjoy. If you focus on this group, you will be much more motivated to spend time with them, and you are much more likely to make connections that will result in referrals.

4. Does the individual have any shared interests? This of course is related to item number three. If you both happen to enjoy baseball, then not only will you have more to discuss, but you may have an activity that you can spend time doing together. In contrast if you think you have a good referral source but you have nothing in common with that individual and you don’t particularly care for their company, it will be very difficult to form a relationship with that individual.

While this may all seem like common sense, it is easy to fall into the trap of chasing individuals with whom you have little in common and whom you do not care for. We have all met charismatic individuals who seem to be the key to our future success. While these individuals may be seemingly well-connected to the clientele that you want to serve, the barrier of trying to build relationships with these individuals is likely to be high.  So aim for your ‘best’ prospects when putting together your list of potential contacts

Instead you are much better off trying to spend time with people that you do like and with individuals who share your interests. This is the foundation that relationships are built on this is the kind of trust you need in order to generate referrals.

Documenting Your Networking Meetings

Date May 10, 2013 Comment Comments Off on Documenting Your Networking Meetings

Documenting Your Networking Meetings

I was speaking to one of my clients the other day and he described for me what he does any time he makes a court appearance.  At the end of the day, he goes back to his office and takes a few minutes to document what happened.  He has a longstanding practice of doing this and he always tries to do it the same days so that his memory is fresh. In effect, he has created a habit which ensures that he does not have to rely on his memory to keep track of his cases.

Many lawyers do this as a matter of course.  In fact  it is good practice whether you are a litigator or a transactional lawyer to generate file memos that are written after you have met with a client or interviewed someone on behalf of a client.  As lawyers, we are very good at documenting in our case work.

But when it comes to networking meetings, we forget to use the skills we use all the time in practicing law.  We do not prepare in the same way.  I wrote about this after the blizzard in February.  And we do not take the time to document our activities (and calendar next steps).

This litigation client of mine has begun incorporating his regular business practices into his marketing activities.  After each networking meeting, he makes sure to write down notes about the conversation (including both personal and professional things he learned from the individual).   I am also encouraging him to “docket” a next step with that individual (if he deems the individual to be a potential referral source or client).

No one likes to take time to do this.  Tracking time, documenting what you have done and making a point of deciding on next steps before the day ends is all cumbersome.  But when it comes to relationship building, documenting is an invaluable activity that can help you greatly as you cultivate relationships over time.

Posted by Stephen Seckler