Avoid These Mistakes Immediately for Your Law Firm’s Growth: A Comprehensive Guide

December 13, 2023
women attorneys networking and increasing their networth

The Power of a Strong Network

Think about your network as a net, catching opportunities, advice, partnerships, and even prospective clients. A robust network acts as a resilient backbone for your law firm, protecting you from challenges and an asset for your growth.

Remember, the key to networking is ALWAYS BE GIVING.

When building your network, consider the following:

  • Potential client leads: Many clients trust referrals, and a strong network can generate a regular flow of them.
  • Mentorship opportunities: Engaging with experienced professionals can provide invaluable insights, helping you navigate your path more effectively.
  • Exposure to opportunities: The right connections can open the door to speaking engagements, partnerships, and other fruitful opportunities.

From my personal experience, I can tell you:

1) Networking groups in a 12-month period generated over $100,000 in revenue for me

2) The relationships I built in some of these networking groups have fueled my consulting revenue

3) A fellow lawyer I met in a networking group asked me to speak at the Leadership Institute of Women of Color Attorneys in Atlanta annual conference, attended by hundreds of attorneys of color

4) I’ve connected with other consultants who work with the same clients I do and we’ve built our own referral network and learning network

According to LinkedIn, 80% of professionals consider networking to be important for their success.

woman on a laptop in a networking meeting

Should You Join a Networking Group?

The simple answer is, yes. Networking groups offer a platform to connect with like-minded professionals, share experiences, and extend your reach within the industry. However, it’s crucial not to join just any group, but rather, one that aligns with your firm’s values, interests, and goals.

When it comes to joining networking groups, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Before joining a group, do some research. Find out about its members: are they lawyers only or a blend of professionals? What’s the group’s main focus? How frequently do they gather? Is it virtual or in person? How many people have been in that group for more than 3 years, or 5 years? Gather as much information as you can to decide whether the group is a good fit for your law firm.

Once you’ve got information about the networking group you’re interested in, stop to ask yourself: Do you want a diversity of professions or a narrowly focused group? Will eating breakfast with a room full of professionals at 7 a.m. make you cranky all day, or does the thought exhilarate you? Knowing what you’re looking for in networking can help you find the right community.

When it comes to networking, remember that it’s not just about what you can gain, but also about what you can contribute. Building a network isn’t a one-way street; you need to provide value to others as well.

This is something I’ve talked about a lot when I was the Group Leader for a networking group in Atlanta. Don’t wait for someone else to reach out to you, don’t wait until you get a referral before you give one.

Do the work. If you’re joining for a year (the usual minimum time commitment), make sure you are taking the time each month to meet with at least 2 people in group, 1:1. This doesn’t have to be in person, it can be a phone call. Try to make it mutual:

1) Take 5 minutes each, talk about what they do and who they work with and who they don’t want to work with

2) Talk about non-professional topics, and look for commonalities. Do they enjoy baseball? Are they going on vacation? Do they have kids who also play football?

3) Have a plan for follow up – send an email highlighting what you do, and your client profile. Ask them to send an email reminding you what they do and their client profile. This email should be no more than 3 sentences.

4) If you can, make an introduction. It doesn’t have to be to a paying client. It could be to someone in your own network. For example, if you meet with a business attorney and they say they’re looking for a new paralegal, and you worked with a great recruitment or placement agency in the past, pass that information along.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” — Dale Carnegie

Pitfalls to Avoid While Networking

Networking can be a powerful tool, but like any tool, it needs to be used correctly. Watch out for these common pitfalls:

  • Only networking when you need something: Nobody likes a fair-weather friend. Invest time in maintaining your relationships, even when you don’t need anything.
  • Being too self-centered: Engage genuinely with others. Ask about their interests and needs, and show genuine interest in helping them.
  • Going for quantity over quality: It’s better to have a few strong and meaningful relationships than a ton of superficial ones.
  • Neglect: You’ve formed these connections, now you have to maintain and cultivate them. This means a balance of communication, maybe you carve out time each week to email, call, or simply catch up with some members of your network. You know what they say, out of sight, out of mind.

By avoiding these pitfalls, and being strategic in your networking efforts, you can unlock the full potential of your network and take your law firm to higher revenue levels. Remember, success as a law firm owner hinges on both your mastery of the law and the strength of your relationships.

Group of colleagues walking together as a form of networking

Are there any specific networking groups that cater to high-earning lawyers?

Yes, there are! Networking is not about joining the ‘most exclusive’ group out there. It’s about finding the group that aligns with your goals, career progression and, most importantly, with whom you feel a genuine connection. After all, networking is built on relationships, and relationships thrive on authenticity.

Now, for the high-earning lawyers, there are several networking groups that you might find valuable. These aren’t your ordinary networking groups; rather, they cater to seasoned professionals like you and are often focused on higher-tier clientele and members.

  • The International Bar Association (IBA): With members from top law firms worldwide, the IBA has a global platform for networking. It presents an excellent opportunity to mingle with high-earning lawyers.
  • American Bar Association (ABA) – Sections and Divisions: The ABA has several sections and divisions based on different legal topics. If you specialize in one or more topics, these sections may open up networking opportunities.
  • Provisors: Provisors has chapters throughout the country that are in-person and virtual.
  • BNI: BNI has chapters throughout the country. Pro tip: they are a weekly group and require more time than maybe most attorneys may have to give.

One thing to always consider is the price point for these groups and the time commitment. Some are monthly, some are weekly. And if it’s an affordable networking group, then think about the quality of the referrals you will get. (I’ve been in more affordable networking groups when I started – I got a few leads for potential new clients at my pricepoint. But when I joined a more expensive networking group, the quality of my referrals increased as well.)

image of linkedin on a lawyers phone

What are some effective ways to maintain and nurture professional relationships?

Nurturing your professional relationships is just as important as building them. Here are some effective ways in which you can keep those connections strong.

Mutual Benefits

Firstly, always remember that networking should be a two-way street. You should always be open to helping others in your network. Rather than only looking at what you can gain, consider what you can give. Can you offer advice or refer them to other resources or people? When you provide value to others, you establish your reputation as a valuable contact.

Consistency is Key

Secondly, maintaining professional relationships requires consistency. Don’t just reach out when you need something. Regularly communicate with your contacts, keep up with their professional lives, and provide support when they need it. Regular interactions foster trust and deeper connection.

Personalize Your Interactions

Always make an effort to personalize your interactions. Use people’s names, remember their interests, and relate to them on a human level. This can go a long way in building enduring professional relationships. A pro tip here is to use a spreadsheet to track who you met with, and their interests.

Don’t Forget the Social Events

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of social events in maintaining professional relationships. These events are not only a place to build new connections but also an opportunity to strengthen existing ones in a less formal and more relaxed environment.

What are some alternative ways for lawyers to expand their network outside of traditional networking events?

Virtual Conferences

Many conferences have now gone virtual and it has proven to be an effective way to network without leaving your living room. Just like in-person networking, the key to capitalizing on virtual conferences is effective follow-up and follow-through. Don’t just attend – participate. Ask questions, engage in breakout sessions, and initiate contact with others.

What are some key networking skills that high-earning lawyers should develop?

The essence of networking often boils down to a couple of critical, teachable skills. Honing these can potentially enhance your ability to build stronger relationships, create new opportunities, and maximize your network’s potential.

First, let’s focus on active listening. Contrary to popular assumptions, networking is not solely about pitching your services or showcasing your accomplishments. It’s about building relationships, and that requires sincere interest in others and their needs. Remember, when you’re engaging with someone, whether in a one-on-one conversation or a group discussion, demonstrating attentiveness to their words can leave a lasting impression. It might seem insignificant at times, but this skill lays the cornerstone for trust in any relationship.

Next, make sure you are asking questions. Here are some questions to help you engage with someone who is a relative stranger. I have used many of these to help those weird, awkward networking situations:

  1. “What’s your current professional role?”
  2. “What brought you to this event?”
  3. “What’s your favorite aspect of your job?”
  4. “Any recent exciting projects you’ve worked on?”
  5. “What’s on your desk right now?”
  6. “Is there a current favorite client you are working with? What makes them the favorite?”
  7. “How did you start in your field?”
  8. “Any hobbies that influence your career?”
  9. “What’s your go to for breakfast? Mine is…”

Following up is the next critical aspect of networking. It’s not enough to exchange business cards or make casual promises about connecting soon. The real magic happens when you follow through on your promises. Remember that person you met at the conference who expressed interest in your services? Drop them an email. That friendly competitor who suggested a collaboration over drinks? Schedule a lunch meeting. Nurture your connections post-event and solidify it by taking proactive steps.

The final skill – and arguably the most important – is adaptability. As a law firm owner, you’re likely to come across a diverse range of people and situations in your networking journey. Your ability to adapt your approach based on the person or circumstances is invaluable. For instance, some may appreciate a direct, no-nonsense attitude, while others might prefer a more casual, friendly conversation. Recognizing these nuances can elevate you from a good networker to a remarkable one.

But remember, this is all easier said than done. As with any other skill, these take practice and patience to develop. So, take it one interaction at a time, learn from your experiences, and steadily expand your network.

What if you don’t have the time to join a networking group? Or what if you don’t like any of the networking groups near you?

I get this from a lot of attorneys. You’re busy running your law firm, how are you supposed to find time for networking?

Here’s the key: a networking group is for professionals who want to help each other with their business: whether it be introductions to potential new clients or another professional who may be able to solve a specific problem for you. The networking group doesn’t need to be a group of strangers.

You can build your own networking group.

Here are a few options on how you can do that:

1) Find an activity you enjoy doing: is it bowling, is it drinking wine at a local wine shop, is it going on a hike? Activity-focused networking groups become a friend network for you.

2) If you don’t want an activity, then find a time that works for most people – usually I suggest Friday’s around 4 pm. Invite 10 people one Friday each month at 4 pm for a wine-down, or a check-in.  You can do this over Zoom or in person.

3) Network with a friend. If you’re an immigration attorney and your friend is a business attorney, work together to do an activity or a group Zoom call. You can each invite 10-15 people from your network. Each person who attends now has the potential for meeting 10 new people they didn’t know. And you know what? The next time you do an event, they’ll be there, and they’ll probably bring someone else.

Don’t forget about LinkedIn

Once you have connected with someone on a 1:1 phone call or in a group, make sure you take that connection not just to your email inbox but also your LinkedIn. Add them as a contact.

I’ve referred back to LinkedIn many times when I’m searching for a business attorney or a marketing company for my clients. It’s a great way to keep the relationship going and to expand your network. Remember, it’s not just about adding contacts on LinkedIn and getting to 1,000 or 10,000 attorneys. Engage with your connections: comment on their posts, repost their posts, share interesting articles and be genuine.

This is another way to “give” to your network – actively engage with their content.

Have a memorable introduction

This is one of the most important parts to networking. Too often, I hear attorneys say introductions that have no substance.  “I’m a 30-year business law attorney” or “I have a boutique law firm” or “I work for Smith, Patel, Cox, and Johnson and we are….”

This is irrelevant information and you sharing it at the beginning guarantees most people are going to tune you out thereafter.

Take the time to create an intro that makes you memorable.

Here’s my formula:

1) Easy enough for an 8 year old to understand

2) Explains what you do, who you do it for, with an emotional punch.

Here are some good examples of an effective introduction:

I am a divorce lawyer helping doctors who love their kids get a divorce.

Tax law sucks. I help make it suck, less.

I am a commercial lawyer helping my clients collect high rents and get to the closing table.

I am an estate planning attorney who won’t confuse you with all the weird tax laws when writing your Will.

I am an immigration attorney working with Nigerian professionals get their legal status in the US.

Here are bad examples of an introduction:

I’m an immigration attorney with 15 years of experience. I work on H1B’s, O’s, family, and VAWA, and T Visas.

I’m a real estate closing attorney with Smith, Patel, Cox, Johnson, Waters and we are located in midtown and have 10 attorneys in the office with over 100 years of experience.

I’m a business lawyer and I don’t charge as much as those Big Law attorneys do – I’m affordable and I can help with suing your business partner, or helping you create an employee manual, or buy another business. I can do everything your business needs.

Are there any questions you have about networking? If so, reach out to me and I’ll be sure to get back to you.