It took me a long time to realize that “business development” and “networking” are not dirty or scary words. They are important and essential steps in building a law practice and a personal brand within the legal and non-legal community.
Networking and business development are not about being an aggressive salesperson. Nor do you have to spend thousands of dollars on top advertising spots on TV. It is simply about making yourself and your legal skills available to others through a variety of means. It is about meeting people and making connections.
Below, we provide our Top Five Tips on Networking & Business Development for Lawyers:
1. KNOW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
First, do some groundwork. Who is your target audience or ideal client? Usually, your target audience will be made up of two groups: other lawyers for referrals and your potential clients.
For referrals, think about the type of lawyer that might refer work to you. For example, an estate litigator may want to seek out referrals from an estate solicitor. If a dispute arises, the family often turns to the lawyer handling the administration of an estate for a referral to an estate litigator. Make a list of lawyers you already know and assess who might be a good referral source and who you can refer work to. Then ask them out for coffee or reconnect with them.
For potential clients, once again think about who and where they are. Family law lawyers have a very large market. Crypto-currency lawyers or entertainment lawyers may have a smaller market. If you have a practice that is accessible and understood by most of the public (family, criminal, real estate) it is easier to market to the general public. However, sometimes clients might not even know they need your expertise. It is your job to explain to them how you can fix their problems.
2. MAKE A LIST OF IN-PERSON NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES
Every month or so, review the upcoming lawyer networking events (not just CPD events, but those that also have a social component) advertised by the Ontario Bar Association, Canadian Bar Association, Toronto Lawyers Association, Law Society of Ontario, The Advocates’ Society, Women Lawyers Association of Ontario, etc.
Then, sign up for the ones that a) you think will provide a good return on your investment (hint: If you don’t work at a firm that pays for these events, find the free ones) and b) fits into your busy schedule. If you don’t have time to make this list, check out our curated list of lawyer events in the GTA/Ottawa/Hamilton area that we post every few months.
For non-lawyer events targeting direct clients, Google and make a list of events where you can mingle with others than can use your services: local charities, community organizations, local political associations, your kid’s school’s parent council, etc.
Try to target one event a month.
3. GET PUBLISHED: TRADITIONAL or SOCIAL MEDIA
Not all of us are extroverts who like in-person networking. The good news: you can just as easily develop your brand and network with others through the written word.
Consider writing an article for a magazine, law journal, newspaper, your firm’s monthly client newsletter, etc. Anyone reading these articles will see your name and your firm and this will help in keeping you top of mind. Every publication is looking for quality content! Just reach out! But also, write for your target audience. For example, if you are a franchise lawyer, consider writing for Franchise Canada magazine.
Not sure about traditional publications? Consider social media. Social media is one big networking cocktail party you can attend in your pajamas and with unwashed hair! Update your LinkedIn profile, reactivate that Twitter account, revise your firm’s Facebook page. The key with social media is to post regularly, post articles or information that is useful to your target audience and engage with others. (Just be mindful of the Rules of Professional Conduct.)
Consider blogging. Update your readers on recent developments in the law. Explain legal issues in easy to understand terms. It helps with search engine optimization when you regularly post quality content on your website.
Don’t have time to blog or draft articles? Consider outsourcing that work to qualified freelance lawyers/writers.
4. SEEK OUT SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
While this is not for everyone, consider speaking engagements where you can reach your target audience (either other lawyers or potential clients).
How do you get these speaking opportunities? Try asking. Put yourself out there. Approach the different organizations and say, “I have this great 30 min presentation on X law that might be beneficial to your members – do you have any programs coming up?” Once you do a few speaking engagements, you are on people’s radars, and you will be asked to speak again.
5. DON’T GET DISCOURAGED
Networking/business development is a marathon and not a sprint. Lawyers often get discouraged when their efforts do not yield immediate results. It would be rare for you to take a potential client out for lunch and be handed a file later that day. Instead plant the seeds (through in-person networking, publishing and speaking engagements) and watch them grow (at their own rate). The more seeds you plant, the more likely something will sprout!
These are our top five tips for networking and business development: What works for you?