Laser Networking is the Key

Every lawyer goes through it. We get busy and spend our days doing the work for existing clients. When the "fires" are all put out, we sit back, take a breath and relax a little, relishing in some jobs well done.

Then the reality begins to set in and we start to wonder where all the new work is going to come from.  

We look at the phone and realize that no one new has called recently. Our website traffic is down because we've been so busy working on cases that we haven't been adding new content to our site. Our email box doesn't have any new inquiries. That's when the panic sets in. We worry now about how we're going to make money in the next couple of months.

We need new clients and we need them now. 

Go "Old School" on 'em

In this age of online technology, social media and instant response, lawyers sometimes forget and even ignore "tried and true" methods for developing business. I'm talking here about "old school" networking.  

Networking is a fundamental way to build your law business. In fact, it's a fundamental way to build almost any service-related business. Yet, most lawyers tend to neglect it. Many don't do it at all. And, those that do "network" frequently do it the wrong way.

The fact is that lawyers aren't usually taught good networking techniques.  Law school teaches us how to practice substantive law. They generally don't prepare students to build successful law businesses by teaching them how to network effectively.  I know this because I see it first hand in my role as an adjunct professor at Suffolk University Law in Boston.

Not All Networking Styles are Created Equal

Since most lawyers aren't given the tools for great networking, we usually think that it simply involves showing up at a few Chamber of Commerce events and passing out our business cards to whomever will take them. Many of us go nervously to these gatherings  thinking that all we need to do is introduce ourselves to other attendees, make some small talk, exchange professional information and voila we're going to strike gold!

Sadly, this exercise is usually a complete waste of your time. I know this because I was guilty of this type of networking approach for years in my practice. Before I learned how to effectively network, I went to countless business mixers over the years and I have yet to point to a specific client that I've gotten from these efforts.

The problem with this approach is that you're counting on basic luck to land a client. And, unless you're in the very right place at the very right time, it isn't going to work well.

Think of it in fishing terms. One day you're hungry and you want to eat scallops.  You get into your boat, chug out a few miles from land, toss out a huge net and hope for the best. You keep reeling in your net figuring this will be the catch that will turn up a ton of scallops. 

If this is your approach to catching scallops for dinner, you're going to go hungry. The mistake is that you're going about it in the wrong way. To catch scallops, you need: 1) to have the right boat; 2) with the right dragging nets; and, 3) to know where the scallop grounds are.

In my experience, going to mixer events is similar to just blindly casting out a broad net over the wide-open ocean looking for scallops without the right equipment.   

"Laser Networking" is the Key to the Kingdom

So what is the solution? It lies in a technique I call "laser networking."

Using this approach, you identify specific people who could be sources of referrals for the types of cases that will fit your practice or the types of cases that you'd like. 

In our profession one of the best sources of referrals is other lawyers. That makes sense because lawyers, especially well-established ones, tend to get a lot of inquiries from prospective clients. And those same lawyers will not take on all of those prospects. It may not be their practice area; the case may not be attractive enough for them; or, the prospect may just not be someone that they want. So, they will appreciate having a referral outlet for those types of prospects.

You could be that outlet. But in order to be that outlet, that other lawyer needs to know that you exist. That's where "laser networking" comes in.

In later articles, I'll discuss specific ways to identify potential lawyer-referral sources for your "laser networking," but for now take a few minutes, think about some of the lawyers who might be a great contact with whom you should develop a referral relationship, offer to take them out for a lunch, or even just a quick coffee, and get working!

Remember: it's called networking for a reason - it takes a little work.