ABA GPSolo eReport

Apr 29, 2024          4 min read

Summary

  •     Marketing doesn’t have to be something you dread. It actually can be something you look forward to, something that feels natural and comfortable.
  •     Networking isn’t a transaction; it’s about building a community. Offer your help freely, without immediately looking for something in return.
  •     By focusing on what you love, staying connected, and being genuinely helpful, you’ll not only build a successful practice but actually enjoy doing it.

The best time to approach a bank for a loan is when you don’t need one. The worst time to approach a bank for a loan is when you do. —Old adage in banking

Starting out as a new lawyer is a little like learning to play chess without being shown the chess board. That’s actually how I felt in a number of classes in law school. I had no idea how a civil case proceeded through the court system, but I was studying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. I had no idea how a check flowed through the banking system, and yet I was studying concepts like holders in due course.

Most associates do learn the ropes in the first few years of practice, but the next challenge is learning how to build a practice. It is only once you have been an associate for a while that you begin to realize that to really advance in this profession, you need to become a marketer.

If you are like me, selling is not part of your DNA. Going to law school was a way to become a professional rather than a stepping stone to a career in business.

The reality today is that law is a business. Yes, it’s still a profession, but for most attorneys in private practice, success requires an ability to generate work, and this is not a skill that most of us cultivated in law school.

But what if I told you that marketing doesn’t have to be something you dread? That it actually can be something you look forward to, something that feels as natural and comfortable?

Here’s how you can start building your practice without selling your soul to the marketing gods—and actually enjoy the ride!

  • Find your people. You can’t be everything to everyone, and trying to do so will only leave you lost in the crowd. Pick a niche that interests you, something that makes you excited to get up in the morning. Whether it’s environmental law, trusts and estates, real estate, or intellectual property, carving out your own little corner in the legal world not only makes you stand out but also brings in the kind of work you’ll enjoy. You may not be able to be selective when you are starting out. You may not be able to choose your assignments at first. But as you develop more experience, take note of what types of matters you like and what types of clients you enjoy representing.
  • Old friends, new opportunities. Those late-night study sessions and college shenanigans weren’t just good times; they were networking gold. Keep up with your old pals from school. You never know when someone’s going to need a lawyer or recommend you to someone who does. Start reconnecting now when you don’t need anything. Be curious about what your former classmates are up to.
  • Be genuinely helpful. Networking isn’t a transaction; it’s about building a community. Offer your help freely, without immediately looking for something in return. While you can’t give away your services for free, you can certainly educate people about the legal issues that might be involved in their case or in the transaction they are working on. Introduce a friend to a contact who can help them, share your favorite movies, restaurants, vacation spots, or even just lend an ear. Refer them to another professional. What goes around comes around.
  • Pick your playground wisely. If you’re trying to catch lobster, you don’t go to a pond. Choose activities and organizations that align with your interests and put you in the path of potential clients or referral partners. And if the thought of swinging a golf club makes you want to run for the hills, skip the golf course. Find something that feels right for you, where you can be your authentic self.
  • Embrace what you love. The best way to network? Do what you love. When you’re engaging in activities that you’re passionate about, your authenticity shines through, making you more approachable and relatable to potential clients and partners.
  • Consistency is key. Carve out a little time each week for marketing efforts. Write an article, speak on a panel, go to a bar association meeting, or just catch up over coffee. Regularly putting yourself out there keeps the momentum going and makes the task less daunting.
  • Social media savvy. Stay active online. A well-timed post or thoughtful comment can keep you on the radar of your network without feeling like you’re shouting into the void.
  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Building a client base is a long game. Start planting those seeds now, without the pressure, and watch them grow into the practice you’ve dreamed of.
  • Bonus tip: Have fun with it! Yes, you read that right. Marketing can be fun. Treat it like a puzzle to be solved or a game to be won. When you take the pressure off and start to enjoy the process, it stops feeling like work and starts feeling like part of the adventure.

Remember, the goal isn’t to turn you into a sales machine overnight. It’s about finding ways to market yourself that feel natural and enjoyable. By focusing on what you love, staying connected, and being genuinely helpful, you’ll not only build a successful practice but also have a great time doing it.

Published by the American Bar Association ©2024. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

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