{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "Any tips for building a client base from scratch? I’m a 4th year associate at a firm of 12 attorneys. I practice in business, compliance, and real estate (primarily on partners’ files) and don’t litigate. Most of the partners’ clients are wealthy friends or friends of friends (not my circle). Associates are not referred business, even cold calls, and so far “networking” events like Chamber of Commerce luncheons have been a bust. I equate a book to autonomy and career choice and pressure is on.", "post_id": "5eeafd236af523001a105ff4", "reply_count": 24, "vote_count": 8, "bowl_id": "552d1d24dc1c586b09d2d052", "bowl_name": "Law" }

Any tips for building a client base from scratch? I’m a 4th year associate at a firm of 12 attorneys. I practice in business, compliance, and real estate (primarily on partners’ files) and don’t litigate. Most of the partners’ clients are wealthy friends or friends of friends (not my circle). Associates are not referred business, even cold calls, and so far “networking” events like Chamber of Commerce luncheons have been a bust. I equate a book to autonomy and career choice and pressure is on.

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I left big law as a 5th year and started a firm with a couple buddies. Our first office was no bigger than a closet. We moved to a slightly bigger office a year later to one of those business suites. After a couple years we took up so many offices that we moved to our first legit space—a sublet from a firm that merged with a bigger firm. Two years later we had two floors downtown and over sixty people working for us. I left the firm eventually because I wanted to get out of the field I was practicing in but the firm kept growing and they now have offices in multiple cities. We had no clients, very little experience but a lot of hustle and heart. We advertised online organically (which firms didn’t really do back then) and built a client base from word of mouth/relationships. Attending association meetings does little, you got to be involved in leadership and be visible. You got to go out and socialize and tell everyone you know what you do for a living. I sat on any kind of boards I could find—community, charity, school you name it. I joined one of those networking groups that meet monthly. I socialized strategically, made sure I used my personal time efficiently. Other lawyers end up being your best source of referrals so don’t just spend time with people who do what you do. You can’t be shy. You can’t be risk-averse. You have to believe in yourself and your ability as a lawyer. You have to make a lot of sacrifices and you have to spend A LOT of time outside of your comfort zone but if this is what you want you CAN do it. I did all this with a mortgage, a wife who didn’t work, and kids and more expenses than you can imagine. When I left the firm I started I essentially ended up doing it all over again in a new area of law. I applied the same principles ... hustle, grit, and an unwavering belief in myself and my ability to succeed. I had zero financial backing from family so this was all on me. It’s been a smashing success and although there has been tough times at time, I’ve never regretted it.

likeuplifting

Love this!

Start from the premise that people do business with those that they know, like and trust. Building business involves a combination of reputation and credibility building and relationship building. Reputation and credibility building involves getting your name out there favorably in places where you can be found. Writing, speaking, linked in, blog, press, awards, etc. Relationship building is just that, you build connections. There are several ways to build connections that are meaningful. They may be different in different areas of practice. As a young attorney I started with simply developing contacts, attending events and following up. I then actively built a referral network. I also watched what the rainmakers did in my firm. One guy went to lunch every day with someone new. As business or transactional lawyer, building connections with bankers, accountants, and other lawyers may be a good start. Clients often ask their bankers and accountants for a good lawyer. Clients also ask lawyers for reference to good bankers and accountants. I also highly recommend getting involved in business organizations - I went to the National Association of women business owners. There I learned how to treat my practice like a business. I learned how to network and I learned how to simply describe my practice in a way that educated other members who then could be referral sources for me. I also got involved in committees, which gave me leadership skills and leadership credentials that helped build my connections and my credentials. I also think you need to think about what type of work you are looking for. I like the following exercise: 1) what am I selling (ie what legal work am I looking to do); 2) who am I selling to (ie target market); 3) why do they need what I am selling; 4) who are they buying from now (competition); 5) why me instead of them (what distinguishes you in the marketplace; 6) why is this distinguishing factor important to your buyer. Once you go through this exercise then you can build a simple sentence to describe your practice. You can write articles or present in areas that communicate your distinguishing factor.

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Great feedback. Thank you all so much

BNI. Business Networking Institute. Works for me. Also nearly daily networking lunches. Figure out what professional group works with your potential clients. And go to their professional meetings.

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I agree- try BNI. It comes off a little pyramid schemey at first but you can get some real referrals and it is a great way to learn how to network. Find your local chapter and go to a meeting. You can go to a meeting or two without committing to it

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Contact your classmates from law school and undergrad and tell them about your practice and seek referrals. Also reach out to your parents and there friends ..... they might be a source of good referrals..... Find community groups to volunteer your time ..... try to find ones with not a lot of other lawyers that are members......

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People here have already given you some good advice. You can also pick up the Foonberg book, How to Get and Keep Good Clients. It's basically just a list of strategies, with each strategy getting its own standalone chapter. Some of his strategies are . . . aggressive. Some are sketchy. Some are incredibly useful. Either way, if you are serious about building a client base, its a great starting point.

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Guys I know who are financial advisers or real estate agents are always looking for lawyers to do estate work. Maybe Find a bunch of these folks and work arrangements out with them - refer them business and in exchange you’ll take their estate work, even the small ones that you just bang out on the cheap. That will provide volume and cash flow while you try to land other more profitable work. Also gets your name all around town. Just a thought

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As long as you aren’t sharing fees with a non lawyer it should be ethical. Also you need to remain independent and not be bound by anything to give all your referrals to one professional. So nothing in writing. However having a referral relationship is the name of the game. So make as many as you can across different fields.

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At the end of the day, the advice above should tell you one thing - if you aren’t advertising, personal legal business grows through “relationships.” Relationships take time and build slowly. That is not excuse for not getting out and hustling. But you have to build relationships. This means that you need to arrange lunches, meet somebody at a bar, go to a driving range, or invite someone out for fishing or hunting or something outside of work. Most people (and most businesses) have a lawyer already that they trust. Your job is to be there when they need a different set of eyes, want to think differently or you have different experience. To do that, they have to know you. Young lawyers like you are uniquely situated to ask older businesspeople to be mentors. Seek advice from them to build relationships. Asking people to lunch seems trite but you don’t know how many people don’t already have lunch plans most days. Find what works for you and keep following through and doing it. If you are a good speaker, work your way into events as a speaker. If you love music, find a way to share that with others that are business minded. Just build the relationship and know you are playing the long game right now. BD is a about long game, middle game, and short game. Long game is relationships. Middle game is about knowing a project or deal is coming up in the future. Short game is the project or deal is here. Where you are in your career is the long game. While playing that part of the game, get some books and study up on middle game - because that is about positioning yourself to be there for the short game and being the person to close the deal. 

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Social media. Everyone is on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn etc. start by putting out content that provides value. Talk about legal tips you may have, advice, etc. Build a following. Get your name out there. Provide value and be an expert in the area and clients will come

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God this post is like looking in a mirror

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Consider the likely stream of business from assisting and connecting with other service providers who work with small and emerging companies like accountants and insurance agents. You can offer these like professionals guidance, referrals when you can and learn about trends to help you provide more holistic understanding of your business clients needs.

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Will only say that you have generated a bunch of good insights here that are great advice. Hustle & Foonberg. And ... you are absolutely right that the only security — and the greatest satisfaction — derives from having your own clients. Do it. Don’t stop until it’s done and do not be discouraged for too long. All of it is good, but also VERY satisfying to look back at a life well-spent on your career. AND ... keep your balance too because being grounded and connected to your partner and family is probably the only way to maintain your sanity. Go get it!

All useful advice, am taking notes :)

All this tells me is I should be looking for a new job because I dread doing everything listed here.

Stuff like that for example ....

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