Notes and commentary by Hannah T. Joseph
At this month's BANG luncheon, held on May 17, Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP (HRW) founding partner Max Perlman shared best practices for self branding and business development. Max, a well-known business litigator and employment lawyer specializing in noncompete and trade secret law, "grew up" at a small firm, where he had both opportunity and incentive to build business early in his career. He also attributes much of his early success to impatience (I'll explain).
I found Max's advice to be extremely helpful and thought I'd share my notes. Here they are*:
A note on networking
Network strategically. First, identify your ideal clients. Next, locate their centers of influence. It may be impractical to connect with every potential client in your city. Accordingly, ask yourself who has influence over your potential clients. (Whom do they go to for advice?) Think capital investors, corporate attorneys (for litigators), trade groups. If you build relationships with potential referral sources, you are gaining access to several potential clients at a time.
On networking with other attorneys - use your network to become a fixer. Most of us specialize in an area or cluster of areas. Use your network to build an entire law firm of contacts so that when your client, potential client, referral source, or potential referral source needs help falling outside of your practice area, you can connect them with the right person. Reaching outside of your firm will be essential for small- and medium-sized firm attorneys.
Make a plan, use the plan
Make a business plan. Use the business plan. Update the business plan often. (Members, feel free to refer to our individual business plan template.) Here is what yours should include:
- Organizations - List the organizations you should join and become active in. Examples include bar associations, trade associations, affinity groups. Get out in front of your audience, not just your competitors (although peers are great referral sources too).
- Contacts - Keep a list of 100 (or so) contacts with whom you want to connect with on a weekly, monthly, and/or yearly basis. Keep track of your interactions.
- Publishing - Blog. Write articles. Consider trade publications. You can write a simple area overview for a trade journal (e.g., trade secrets overview for a startups magazine) that establishes your name as the authority on a subject within an industry. Then publicize the heck out of it.
- Awards - Get some and publicize. Super Lawyers, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, ProVisors, AVVO (if your practice is highly public-facing). (Editor's note: The key to getting recognized is by elevating your name within the legal community and becoming associated with a practice area by, e.g., following steps 1 through 3. Also, make sure your profile information on the various websites is accurate.)
- Track your success - Whenever you succeed by, e.g., bringing in a new client, trace the success back to your efforts. Figure out what you've done that works and keep doing it. Redirect energy away from things that don't work. For newer attorneys, this may take time (one client does not a sample size make), so be patient. Always invest time and energy in groups that will grow with you - your peers will one day become your clients and/or referral sources (hello, BANG!).
- Refer business out, and track it - This will enlarge your presence as a mover and/or shaker who directs commerce. (Editor's note: Also, this is a good way to get swag/chocolate around the holidays.)
Be a (well-dressed) people person
Identify a partner within your firm. Make him/her your mentor in such a way that he/she is invested in your success. You can't always bat for yourself, so make it known that you are interested in building a book of business for the firm early on. This will make the "ask" easier down the road (for association dues, tickets to large events, etc.).
As noted in 6, above, refer business out to your network of attorneys.
Wear a suit every day, if you can. Look like you are ready to attend a meeting or go into court on a moment's notice.
Always, always, always say thank you.
When it comes to business development, be impatient
Don't wait. Do it now. (Editor's note: Think of long-term goals and break them into short-term action items. Our business plan template is great for this.)
* Helpful advice provided by Max Perlman; sass and editorial provided by a certain BANG co-founder who just returned from Nicaragua on vacation and is still easing into the workweek.