Networking is a critical part of running a small law firm. As is true in many professions, building a client base is as much about who you know as it is about what you know. As you work to build meaningful relationships that will carry you through 2016 and beyond, here are three underutilized networking strategies you can tap into.
Get a Mentor
There is no playbook that can show you exactly how to run your small law firm, but identifying a mentor early on in your journey can be a great way to learn tried-and-true strategies for growth from someone who has “been there.” While it can seem daunting to reach out to a professional you admire and ask them to help you establish your practice, having someone experienced on your side can make a world of difference in your firm’s success. Start by researching local law firms that operate in your practice area and are well-respected by clients and the legal community alike. Then, simply reach out to their founders to see if they’d be open to meeting for coffee or lunch. A casual meeting is a great way to decide whether there could be potential for a more formal mentorship relationship in the future. Some cities even offer lawyer matching programs to connect you with other lawyers in your field.
Attend Events (With a Purpose)
Networking events are a common place for lawyers to build new connections. However, attending events without a strategy won’t help you get ahead. If you fail to set goals for your time at an event, or worse yet, choose events that are not attended by the types of people you need to meet, you’ll find yourself wasting time, money and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.
As you plan your calendar of upcoming events, ask yourself what types of people you need to connect with to grow your firm, whether target clients, referral partners, or both, and then consider the types of events they would spend their time at. Those events should make it to the top of your list. Then, set a concrete goal for each event you attend. For example, if you’re working on building your network of referral partners, set the goal of meeting two attorneys who you could invite to lunch or coffee at the next event you attend. After each event, evaluate whether you were able to meet your goals, and if not, what you’d do differently next time.
Use Social Media Intentionally
Many of your clients are already on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Why not meet them where they’re spending their time? But don’t just put up “broadcast style” posts where you talk about your firm and your expertise. Instead, engage personally with other individuals. Consider setting up private Twitter lists where you can monitor tweets in your state or zip code that mention specific keywords (like “need personal injury lawyer”). Then, chime in to introduce yourself, answer questions and start casual conversations.
Social media also allows you to get in contact with other lawyers in your field and may even open doors to future collaboration and referral opportunities. The best part? While most small law firms have social media channels, many remain dormant and rarely post. By maintaining a strong social media presence, you can position your firm to have a leg up on the competition.
Love it or hate it, networking is vital to your small law firm’s growth.