Consider these five tips for networking outside your own comfort zone to maximize and grow your referral base.
By Sean Ditzel, Family Lawyer
Family law attorneys acquire new clients in many ways. Perhaps the most rewarding way we get new business is through referrals from other professionals. When someone gives your name as a person to be trusted, it is easy to feel a sense of obligation to live up to that reputation and do a great job in the case. Are you getting enough of these coveted recommendations from your network of peers? Consider these five tips for networking outside your own comfort zone to maximize and grow your referral base.
Connect With Other Types of Practitioners.
Although it is sometimes nice to see the familiar faces of your fellow family law practitioners at a meeting or in a quasi-social setting, those people are not likely to send you new cases unless they are conflicted out or deem the case to be poor after speaking with the potential client. So, instead of spending your precious time amongst a group of people all scrapping for the same good business, why not get to know attorneys in other areas of practice? You will find that many sections of your State Bar will welcome you with open arms to attend their meetings, and will appreciate your interest in branching out. In addition to making your name known in other circles, you will also meet people to whom you could send your non-family law referrals, thereby creating a possibly symbiotic and continuing relationship. If you are a younger lawyer, many bar organizations have a Young Lawyer Division (YLD) which promotes this very idea. Young lawyers from each branch of the profession and from all corners of the map are involved in YLD programs, and they can be a great way to learn networking skills from the beginning of your career.
Interact With Non-Lawyer Professionals.
Similar to networking with non-family law attorneys, the family law practitioner can and should cast a wider net of referral sources amongst non-lawyer professionals in his or her community. Many professionals such as physicians, psychologists, accountants, and engineers have well-funded national and state-wide organizations that hold meetings, throw mixers, and organize fundraisers. There are also many networking groups set up for the exact purpose of meeting people outside of your profession. There is great opportunity to cross-pollinate with these professionals and develop friendships with people with whom you might otherwise never have the chance to interact. Consider researching opportunities to become involved with or volunteer your time to non-attorney organizations in your area as another way to grow your referral base.
Don’t Just Attend Meetings, Lead.
If you do decide to invest time in family lawyer organizations, make it your goal to become involved in leadership. After all, if you are not likely to garner referrals from the other family law practitioners sitting with you, you should find a way to distinguish yourself to outsiders looking to your organization for possible case referrals. Beyond simply leading meetings and introducing speakers, leadership in family law gives the practitioner greater opportunities to speak at continuing legal education conferences, write articles and teach family law to other professionals. Leadership of family law organizations is also often called upon to give their opinions on developing legal issues and speak on behalf of the group that they lead. Having a higher profile within your organization can certainly result in your name being given to those looking for a family law attorney.
Carefully Maintain Your Social Media Presence.
In today’s society of smart phones and instant connectedness, most family law professionals have a presence on social media as part of their networking plan. But are you doing enough – and are you doing it intelligently? Any attorney can set up a LinkedIn or Facebook page for themselves or their business, but passively maintaining such pages does little to engage your network; these pages are nothing more than placeholders. To truly set yourself apart, consider taking the time to actually reach out to your connections and friends, learn and inquire about their business, and figure out ways that you can help each other. Also consider posting regularly about your own practice to educate your connections about the various cases, causes, and organizations with which you are involved.
The Next Step: One-On-One Networking.
If you do any or all of the above, you will meet and interact with a great many possible referral sources, and you might secure some business therefrom. However, to truly earn the trust of a professional who may send you cases on a consistent basis, it often requires extra attention. Keep the business cards you get. Send a follow up email to tell someone it was nice to meet them. Invite people to lunch. Having more of a one-on-one experience with members of your network will allow those people to really learn who you are – and why they should send you business.
Sean Ditzel is an attorney at Kessler & Solomiany, LLC in Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Ditzel is on the Board of Directors of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia, and has served in many leadership roles within the Bar. Mr. Ditzel’s entire practice is dedicated to domestic relations.