Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Solo Lawyers: Build a Strategic Network

If your network consists mostly of lawyers who offer the same legal services you offer, your network may not work for you, at least not for getting new clients.

Look at the lawyers in your network and also where your work comes from. Are occasional referrals due to conflicts frequent enough to justify your time? Think about where you can get the greatest return on your time and provide the most value to others who might help you in return.

I know hundreds of solo lawyers who know and hang out with lots of other lawyers who do exactly what they do. ie. criminal defense, family law, consumer bankruptcy, estate planning, probate, personal injury, plaintiffs' employment and immigration. They get to know each other through state and local bar sections, continuing legal education classes, etc. These lawyers have similar interests and common challenges but they don't have many opportunities or reasons to refer much business to each other.

If the above sounds familiar and you would like more business from your network, here are three strategies for boosting your lawyer referrals:

1. Develop meaningful relationships with lawyers who practice in a different area of the law. Get to know these lawyers, help them and become the lawyer to whom they refer all inquiries they receive in your niche practice area. You can start by seeking out and meeting these lawyers at networking events instead of standing around talking to your friends/competitors.

2. Develop meaningful relationships with key lawyers and other people who frequently receive inquiries about lawyer referrals. How do you spot these people? They may be people seen as leaders in the local legal community or perceived as having a vast knowledge of it, and other people with extensive networks. They know lots of lawyers who practice in your niche. To receive their referrals you will have to stand out. You have to earn their trust and respect as a lawyer in your niche, and in general as a professional and personally. Knowing them is not enough.

3. Develop meaningful relationships with lawyers outside of your geographic region and become their contact person for any legal issue in your region. You can then make referrals for these lawyers and they will always think of you regardless of the legal practice area involved. Sooner or later you will get clients through them and from the lawyers to whom you refer the other legal work.

Networking is really relationship building and that takes time. Build your relationships more strategically and you will develop more business. The sooner you start, the sooner you will see results.

If you are ready for coaching on building a more strategic network, please contact me.