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The Do's and Don'ts of Networking for Lawyers: Growing Your Book of Business Ethically

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The Do's and Don'ts of Networking for Lawyers: Growing Your Book of Business Ethically

Whether you are a seasoned attorney, or just starting out, networking and growing your book of business is crucial in the private practice of law. In this presentation, we will discuss strategies for developing, growing, and utilizing a network of professionals while ensuring compliance with ethics rules. We will also discuss how to turn that network into trusted referral partners. We will discuss how to network to grow that book and avoid ethical lapses.

Transcript

- [Colleen] Good afternoon everyone. My name is Colleen Breems. I'm a Senior Associate Attorney at a law firm called Lavelle Law, which is based in Schaumburg and Chicago, Illinois. We're a full service law firm handling just about every area of law, but my specialty is family law, so I help folks through what I like to call the family transitions. And I help people at the outset of a relationship with a prenuptial agreement, in the middle of a relationship with an adoption or a postnuptial agreement, and then on the other side of relationships with divorce, parentage disputes, child support, spousal support, orders of protection, to name a few. And it's really my sincere pleasure to be here with you all today through Quimbee to talk about a topic that's really near and dear to my heart. All right, this next slide just shows you who I am, gives you an idea of what I look like and more information about my firm there at the bottom. And the topic we're gonna be talking about today, as I mentioned, one that's really near and dear to my heart because it really is a topic that plays into my life and my role as an attorney absolutely every single day. So the topic we're gonna be discussing is called The Do's and Don'ts of Networking for Lawyers: Building Your Book of Business Ethically. To me as an Associate Attorney, having a book of business is one of the single most powerful things you could do for yourself and to really escalate and kickstart your career. So before we dive into the ethics of building a book of business, it's really important to know what we're talking about, to give us a roadmap. So here you may be asking, especially if you're a newer attorney, what is a book of business? And the answer is pretty simple. It really is a list of your clients, your past clients, your current ones, and ones expected in the future. Really, when we're talking about a book, the idea that you wanna be thinking about is who of your client list right now would go to you if you were to go to a different firm? Who is the relationship that you have built in that attorney-client relationship that when hiring, they weren't looking to hire your firm and you just happened to be there, but they actually wanted to hire you. And generally that comes from your own networking efforts, or even better yet, these people may be family or friends or acquaintances of your past happy or current happy clients. So hopefully these are people who come to you by really good word of mouth that want to work with you specifically, whether that's at your current firm right now, or a different firm in the future. With this book of business, it's a great idea, especially if you're looking to make a move from one firm to another, to have a really good list of your triumphs and successes written down in chronological order with as much detail as you can possibly give. This is a good idea to be putting into writing as you're handling these cases. It's a lot harder to be five years into your practice and then trying to put together this type of list five years after the fact. It's a really good idea to keep this as a running list as things happen. So for example, in my experience as a divorce attorney, let's say I have a really favorable outcome at trial for a client, and let's say the issue is a relocation issue, which here in Illinois, generally means if one parent is seeking to move with a child more than 25 miles away from that child's home base, they would need the agreement of the other parent or leave of court to do that. So let's say this parent doesn't have the agreement of the other parent, so we go to hearing for them, and we get a favorable outcome where they're able to relocate with their child and start a new life on the foot that they're looking for. That's an excellent triumph and success. That's definitely something that you want to, number one, celebrate for yourself as an attorney, you know, having done your job correctly and gotten your client what they need, but also add this to the list. So when you get asked down the line, say at an interview for a lateral position or even a partnership, you have that accessible here. It's not something you need to try to remember what happens many years ago. You have it written and and it's quantifiable. With this book of business, it's also really important that it's valuable. So here, you know, it may be hard to value exactly what your book of business is worth because you do have the unknown of possible future clients, but you want to value that as much as you can. And a great way to do that is take a look at what your business origination was in dollars worth in your last year of practice. Lots of times that's information that can be given to you upon request or certainly at your annual or regular reviews at your firm. It's really important to notate this year after year and see how that's growing because that really gives you an idea of how you are doing on your book of business and how valuable it is to you and to your firm. It really demonstrates to your firm, your past, current and likely future ability to rainmake. Rainmaking is probably a term that you've heard before in the practice of law. And really what that means is if you're a rainmaker, you're an attorney who your firm can rely on to go out there and do the networking and bring in the business and bring in value to your firm that they wouldn't have had without you. And also, your book of business represents your profit and future rainmaking. It gives the firm a good idea of what you would likely be doing in the future when it comes to continuing to network and bring in a book of business. Another thing to know is when you're valuing a book of business, that value, as we've touched on, is subjective and could be a bit hard to praise. There's no guarantee, for example, that a client will go with you if you move from one firm to another. But it does give you a general idea. And also going back, having that list of triumphs and successes for your book of business, it is a really great thing to have at the end of your career. It allows you to look back on really what you were doing and how you were growing professionally through your time in practice. With a book of business, firms really value the associates who bring in a book of business versus those who don't. The firms want to know if you can keep yourself busy with your own caseload and earn your keep at the firm, or even better yet, that you could bring in a caseload that's so large that it's not just keeping yourself busy but keeping other people busy too. That's an ideal place to be in because now you're valuable not only for earning your key at your firm and demonstrating your value, but also allowing the firm to grow and expand because there's enough work to go around based on your efforts. So I think that that's really important to know. If you do get to that point, which I hope that you all do, if you get to that point where you have enough of your book of business that you're not only keeping yourself busy but other people busy, you gotta have a plan. You need to be prepared to be a mentor or to delegate work to other people while also keeping your finger on the pulse of your book of business. Lots of times that looks like while you're delegating, staying the point person for these cases so you can maintain that client relationship. Because with this book of business, generally what that means is that the client hired you because they want to work with you. So it's a good idea to make sure that you don't disappear, to make sure that you are maintaining that relationship, making sure personally that everything is going smoothly, especially in the instances where your book of business is so great that you're delegating. So the next obvious question is how can we start a book of business ethically? And obviously this is super important. It's the only way to grow a book of business and not only maintain your professional responsibility, but make it be a successful one. So number one might sound a bit obvious, but you need to make sure that those around you know exactly what you do. So you wanna be sure your family, friends, acquaintances, and those you network with, really know your elevator pitch, know who you are, know what you do, know what kinds of clients you love to work with. So that way when they come across someone who fits the bill, you're the first person who comes to minds. And you'd truly be surprised how useful it is to make sure explicitly that those around you know what you do. For example, I'm a Senior Associate Attorney, I've been practicing for a number of years at this point, but I have cousins who routinely ask me at holidays if I could handle X, Y, or Z case, or even my own parents have asked me in the past to update their will and estate plan. And I had to let them know that's actually not what family law is, at least in Illinois. And I had to give them a bit of a primer on exactly what it is I do day to day. So it's important here to never assume that people know what you do it. It's really important to make sure that that's obvious, that that's open, that you're talking about what you do, that you're sharing those experiences so you can be top of mind for the easiest people in your network, your friends, family, and acquaintances. Another thing which seems a bit obvious is to have business cards on you. You honestly never know when an opportunity is gonna strike to bring in a great client. To use an example from a personal experience, I can't tell you how many times I've been in an Uber or a cab where the driver is talking to me a bit about their life and I realize that they're going through a family law dispute and they're looking for a great lawyer. It's always amazing when I happen to have a business card on me, even if it's the weekends, even if I'm off the clock, even if I'm going to meet with some friends, not going to work, you truly never know. So I've actually made a habit of always at least having a few business cards on me at all times because that's a really great and simple way to capture a client without even really trying. Another way to do this is by making sure that it's clear on social media what it is you're doing, what your area of law is. And this is not in any way to mean that you should be posting about your cases online, sharing any confidential information, but just talking about your area of law in general. That could be be as simple as sharing an article you wrote for your firm on social media. You know, sharing on Facebook whether your firm is hiring, you know, posting on Instagram if your firm was doing a really amazing charity events. This really puts it out into your social media network, who you are, that you're an attorney, and what area of law that is, what your firm is, what you do. These are also really great simple ways to ensure that you are staying top of mind for a network that you already have. And then when we're talking about starting a book of business ethically and in networking, I always say it's really, really important to follow the basic principles of professionalism and ethics. So here I would call them punctuality, preparedness, polished, and provide excellent services, or the four P's. Generally, I think that these all summarize, just equate into having really good manners. I would recommend that you treat anyone you meet as if they could be a potential client, and you want them to be able to have confidence in your abilities, and that you would be there, and that you would be a reliable person if they were to ever work with you. So this looks like anyone you come into contact with or network with, make sure you're timely returning calls and emails. When you're in those meetings, give undivided attention, put your cell phone away, underpromise, overdeliver, don't be flaky, show up, polished and prepared at a meeting. Really just do what you can to demonstrate at all times that you are a professional and that you value the person that you're meeting with. So this could be a meeting with a potential client, but this could also be a meeting with someone that you met at a networking event. You should be treating them the same way, with the same level of professionalism and care that you would expect from a professional. So next obvious question, why even have a book of business? So as we've touched on, it's really important because it provides value to your firm. It means that you're not just a worker bee at your firm, but you're a rainmaker. You're someone who brings business in, and your firm would not have had that business if not for your discreet efforts. It helps you really be indispensable. It helps you be an associate that firms want to keep happy and that firms want to keep. And also, it also allows other firms to take notice. When there's a great associate that has their own book of business, that's something that gets around the legal local community. And when people are hiring, their ideal is someone who's coming with their own book of business and bringing in clients to their firm as opposed to someone who's just there to log hours. While logging hours, the billable hour of a lawyer is extremely important, this allows you to be indispensable and irreplaceable. Having a book of business also offers your autonomy to change firms and to open your own. So with a book of business, you really do hold the chips for your professional career development. If you're happy at your firm, your firm's gonna wanna keep you happy because you've got this amazing book of business. But if you wanna change firms, you've got this excellent asset that you could talk about in an interview that makes you especially attractive. Also, if at any point you decided that working for someone else is not something that you wanna continue doing, you already have the caseload to begin to open your own firm. So it really gives you an amazing amount of independence that you wouldn't have without a book of business. Another part of this independence that I find is great is it allows you to select the work that you do. You may not have this power as an associate when you're just getting assigned work, but when you're bringing in your own work and you're in a place where you're delegating, you get to decide what cases you want to handle, what cases light a fire under you, what cases you're passionate about and which ones you'd rather delegate out. So for me, just to use an example for me, my niche and my passion in in family law is child representation. Those are the cases I want to do all the time, and when I have too many cases on my plate, those are the cases I keep, those are the cases I don't delegate out. But when there are maybe more financially complex divorce matters that don't involve children. While I do those often and while I'm skilled at doing them, it's not my first choice. It's not the thing that I'm passionate about, it's not the skillset I'm looking to grow, but there are attorneys at my firm who are looking to do just that, and they're excellent at it. So it allows me to funnel that type of work to the appropriate attorneys in my office. While as we mentioned, I maintain that client relationship, keep my finger on the pulse of my book of business, but allows them to do that work. It also really, when you're delegating work like this, it really does allow the client to see the value in your firm because it's not just you, it's a team, and that client can see when you're communicating well, when you're working well, when you're being mindful of their costs by maybe even using lower hourly rated attorneys. And it allows them to see that they have a team behind them working for them. Also, when you've got a lot of attorneys on a case, that means that responsiveness goes up, turnaround on assignments is quicker. There's really just a lot to be said about having all of that in place. Having your book of business, as I touched on a little bit, also helps you develop a niche within your area of practice if that's something you would like to do. So as I've touched on, my passion and really what my niche is, child representation, having this book of business allows me to pick and choose the cases I work on personally. And as I mentioned, I hang onto those cases where I represent my children, and it allows the legal community locally as well as the judges that are local, see that that's what I do and allow me to be top of mind when there's a case that involves the need for child representation. And in fact, that's actually where I get a lot of my appointments from judges. Judges will know that that's what I do, and because of that, they will often appoint me and Cook County matters to represent children in cases where parents are disagreeing about how to co-parents. So it really works great for everyone. So here in the question of why you should have a book of business, we wanna talk about ethical considerations here. So here, I wanna talk about Illinois Rule 7.2 , which really talks about advertising. So what does this rule say? Part of this rule says, "A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person "for recommending the lawyer services, "except that a lawyer may, "number one, pay the reasonable cost "of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule. "Number two, pay the usual charges of a legal service plan "or a not-for-profit lawyer referral service. "Number three, pay for a law practice "in accordance with Rule 1.17. "And number four, defer clients to another lawyer "or non-lawyer professional "pursuant to an agreement not otherwise prohibited "under these Rules that provides for the other person "to refer clients or customers to the lawyer "if the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive, "and the client is informed as to the existence "and nature of the agreement." So how does that apply here? When you are building your book of business and you're networking, you want to be really mindful that your networking falls within the applicable rules of ethics here. You want to be very careful that if you're advertising or doing a letter campaign, that it doesn't violate any local rules, and that if you're involved in a say a lawyer referral service, it meets the requirements that would apply to you and your state. Also, when you have a book of business and say it's time for you to retire, there are lawyers that may value their book of business and plan to sell it in the future to a younger attorney who may keep up that client relationship while that attorney is retired. You wanna be sure that you're aware of the local rule that deals with that, and deals with advertising, and deals with the payment for building a book of business to make sure that everything you're doing is above board and completely correct. So more about how to grow a book of business. One of the obvious ways to grow that book of business is through networking. So there are a few different ways that you can network as an attorney. One is networking at regular networking events. So what do I mean by that? Regular networking events can be ones that you hear about often, ones that maybe you get emails about and just automatically delete. Don't delete them, read them. You may get emails about your local Chamber of Commerce having a meeting, or your local bar association having a meeting. This is a great way to get out there and be client or referral source facing, and build those relationships. I would definitely not sleep on those Chamber events, those bar association events, other regular networking events, because you never know who may be in need of your services. And the only way to know that is to go to these events and build those relationships so you have an opportunity to have that relationship, to win that relationship, and to potentially capture some business. Some other networking events may be membership in networking groups. So some examples of this that you may be familiar with, it's BNI or LeTip. These are membership networking groups where they have requirements and they meet regularly. Often these types of groups may be a one seat per industry networking group which sets it apart from say a Chamber of Commerce events. So for example, as you know now, I'm a family law attorney. If I went to a Chamber of Commerce regular events, I may meet some great people, but I may be one of eight fabulous family law attorneys in the room. Having membership in a networking group that is a one seat per industry allows you to box out that competition and be the go-to source for family law help for example. When you're selecting a possible membership at a networking group, it's a really good idea to define who your target audience is. And by this, by this example, what I mean is who are you looking to network with? Who has been the most useful for you in the past, or who do you think would be the most helpful for you in the future? So it's a good idea to think about what your ideal client looks like, and also what your ideal referral source looks like. Who is someone that you can have a really easy symbiotic relationship with because you work with the same types of clients? So for example, for me, I always love to network with other attorneys. They're the easiest people for me to refer to because when I have a trusted attorney-client relationship with my clients, they may tell me when they need something else, some other legal service. And say it's not something that my firm does. For example, let's say it's medical malpractice. I can say, "Thank you so much for coming to me, "I would love to make "that relationship introduction for you. "And here's a great person I know from my networking group "who I really know, like and trust, "who I know is going to take good care of you." Clients really put a lot of value into that. They don't wanna work with just anyone. They wanna work with someone who comes really highly recommended and who they already have the makings of a relationship with. It's also a great idea to think about who can refer to you really well. So for me, I'd love to network with therapists, mediators, attorneys who handle criminal law, attorneys who handle immigration law, attorneys who handle real estate. And when I'm looking for a networking group, I like to take a look at the roster and see if any of these people may already be in that group because that helps me decide what networking group is really gonna be worth my time and what networking group is filled with people that I can refer to most easily as well. Another great way to network is have one-on-one meetings with people that are of interest to you. This allows you to get to know more about the professional that you're networking with, not just a surface level, small talk conversation that maybe took five minutes at a regular event, or maybe even took 60 seconds at a membership or networking group, but really allows you to ask questions, get to know them on a personal level, and really establish that relationship. You wanna create some likability and find some common ground with these folks because really what you're trying to do is to build a relationship, and be someone who they find as professional and trustworthy. So you want to use these meetings to establish that relationship. And then after these meetings, you wanna be sure that you're following up. So say you had a great coffee date with someone, and during that coffee date, which I always think is a good thing to do, ask how business is going and ask how you can help. It's really important to not be out for yourself because I think that people can smell that from a mile away. You want to do your best to use the time in this meeting to get to know them, ask plenty of questions, find what pain points there are in their day-to-day of their profession right now, and ask how you can help. Ask what a perfect client looks like for them right now. Ask what type of professional introduction they're looking for. And if you find that you can make these introductions, be sure that you follow up. Don't let this conversation be something that happens and then you forget about it as you move on to the next task in your office. If I have a coffee date with someone and they tell me they're looking to meet an amazing financial advisor, I like to say in that meeting, "I've got a great one, do you happen to know her?" And if they don't, I say, "I'm super happy to make that introduction if you'd like." If they say yes, I go into my office and before you start anything else after this meeting, I make that email introduction. It's not something that sits on my to-do list, it's something that happens right away. It goes to those four P's, and it really shows that you're accountable. Also, stay in regular touch. Don't let it be just one meeting, but maybe send them an article of interest when you see it, or check in with a Christmas card, or maybe just shoot them a quick email to see how they're doing and how you can help. Or even reach out and say, "It's been a while since we met, "let's schedule another coffee or lunch." You wanna build this relationship. You don't want it to seem like a transaction because it shouldn't be. This should be a relationship that you want to maintain, and you wanna focus on how you can help that person. Your network provides value to your clients and your trusted referrals, and you also wanna provide value to that person. You wanna be helpful where you can. And your clients will thank you for having these relationships, because say the time comes and they need that medical malpractice attorney, you already have this great established relationship and you are happy to make that introduction. And that person's gonna wanna take great care of your client because of that relationship, and because they want you to keep the referrals coming. And then when they come across someone who needs your services, you're gonna be the first person that pops into their mind and they're gonna be singing your praises when they're referring you. That's exactly how you want this to go. So let's talk about choosing your networking wisely. As a younger attorney, you may find that you're spinning your wheels taking meetings with absolutely everyone, never saying no to an introduction, and that's not a bad thing. But let's say you get to a place where you're just positively overwhelmed with all of the meetings you have and you really need to focus and streamline this networking because you're an associate, and the billable hours is king. I'm speaking a bit from experience, I've been there. So you want to choose your networking wisely. If you're selecting a group, for example, say you're looking at a BNI chapter, you wanna know about that group's reputation. So if you know of other people that have had interactions with this group, ask around, get a sense of how this group is viewed, get a sense of how the people get along, get a sense of what type of business is being passed there. Also get a sense of location. You really want this place to be convenient for you if it's something you're gonna be reliably attending. Say for example you're living in a city and you pick something that's an hour and a half out of your way out in the suburbs, that's probably not gonna be the group for you. That's probably not gonna be your community. Pick something that is easy and accessible for you. Also, take a look at their requirements. For example, BNI does have requirements where you attend their meeting every single week, it tends to be for an hour and a half, and you're also expected to make referrals or pass business every single week. So you need to be sure that this is something that you are up to task for. If you hear these requirements and you know that it's not a good fit for you, don't waste your time or theirs. Also, you wanna look at the timing of this group. So to use myself as an example again, I'm a family law attorney, which means I'm a litigator. And often that means I'm in court just about every morning. It's pretty reliable that I'm in court definitely from the hours of nine to noon. So I don't tend to schedule too much during that. If I find a great networking group that meet at 10:00 AM on a weekday, I know it's unfortunately not gonna be a good fit. What might be a better fit is early in the morning before court even starts, or later in the afternoon or evening. So be mindful of that too and be realistic with yourself. As we've touched on, members. You wanna take a look at this group and see what the membership looks like, see if these are professionals that you feel that you could easily have symbiotic relationships with, people that could pass business to you, and people that you could pass business to. You do not wanna go into a group being a taker. You don't wanna just be interested about people giving you business and nothing else. When you're looking at a group, you want to be sure that you can help that group too, that you can add value, that your clients are ones that are looking for the services they're providing. And also you gotta be realistic with yourself and check in on your ability to commit. Say you have looked into all of this other information about the group, is this something you have the time for? Is this something you have the bandwidth for? And I would posit, you should be making time every day, or at least every week to devote to your professional development and growing your book of business if that's something you want to do. So I would challenge you to find the time to do this if this group checks off every other box for you. But you know yourself better than anyone, you need to know that this is something you can commit to. If this all sounds like too much, don't do it because you don't want to be halfway in a group and develop a reputation for not really being there, not really showing up on time, not really doing the work, not really being accountable. That is far more damaging than doing nothing at all. Another great thing about networking is you should know your pitch. So here you may be familiar with the term "elevator speech". This really is something that you should practice with yourself until you have it down pat, until you could do it on the spot in your sleep even. So this is how you introduce yourself, explain your business, identify good clients or introductions for you within 60 seconds. So let's talk about an example. Let's say I meet someone in an elevator and they ask me who I am and what I do. I say my name is Colleen Breems. I'm a Senior Associate Attorney at Lavelle Law, which is a full service law firm based in Schaumburg in the Chicago Board of Trade. There, I sit on our litigation team focusing mainly on family law. So I help folks through the family transitions, at the beginning of a relationship with a prenuptial agreement, in the middle of a relationship with a postnuptial agreement or adoption, and on the other side of a relationship with a divorce, custody dispute, or order of protection. I love to help people going through family transitions and I particularly love working with children in those cases. So that was way under 60 seconds, and it allows you to tell folks who you are, what you do, and what you're looking for. So hopefully if you give a really good elevator speech, maybe the someone you're talking with says, "Oh, you know what? "I actually have a relative who's going through a divorce "and they need a great attorney." Well then you did your job and and you're able to help and you've got your foot in the door for that type of business. So you really wanna have this elevator pitch ready to go until it becomes second nature in networking settings. You wanna be prepared to rattle it off, but you also want it to be engaging. You also want it to be attention grabbing. You wanna use something that's memorable. I find for me, using that phrase, "I help people through the family transitions", and then giving examples really helps people get a sense of, number one, what family law is. Don't ever assume people know your industry or what your role is, and it allows them to think while you're talking about who they might know or how that applies to their life. And also, again, never forget to ask others about themselves or how you can help them. Building a book of business and networking is not about taking, it's about forming relationships, it's about being helpful, it's about being of service, just as you would be for your clients. So here, let's talk about some ethical considerations. Illinois Rule 7.1 regarding Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services reads, "A lawyer shall not make false or misleading communication "about the lawyer or the lawyer services. "A communication is false or misleading "if it contains material misrepresentation of fact or law, "or omits a fact necessary to make the statement "considered as a whole not materially misleading." What's an example of this? Let's say in my elevator pitch, for whatever reason, I say I actually do medical malpractice. That is a big ethical no-no by these rules and I'm certain by any rules that apply to you in your state, you do not want to misrepresent or even exaggerate what your expertise is, because say that person believes you, say that person hires you and you don't know what you're doing, then what? You not only breached your code of ethics, but you're also in a world of a mess. So you've got to be really careful about how you are communicating about what you do, and being very careful to not make stuff up for the sake of getting business. That's not gonna serve anyone. So some networking tips. I love to network and I love to give tips on it. Networking does not have to be this big bad thing that you dread. I find that newer associates often have a bad taste in their mouth about networking. They see it as a bit of tedium and it doesn't have to be. I always find networking, especially being an extrovert, can be really fun because you're building relationships, you're making those connections, you're looking for how you can help other people. And I find that when you focus on helping other people, it just tends to come back to you naturally. If you're focused on other people, if you're interested in other people, if you're looking to help them and make introductions for them and pass business, they're gonna wanna do the same for you, which is really the beauty of networking. So some great tips here, know your elevator pitch, like what we just talked about on the last slide. But here, it's a good idea to have different elevator pitches and practice them. You wanna differentiate how you pitch to say, someone you're networking with, as opposed to a potential client. You might wanna tweak it and change it based on who your audience is, and it's a good idea to have that practiced and ready to go once you know who's in front of you. As I've also touched on, always have those business cards. I can't tell you what a pain it is when you meet someone and they like you or they even wanna work with you and they ask for a business card and you don't have it on hand. It doesn't make you look very professional or prepared. So make sure you have those, especially when you're in a networking setting. Be mindful of of where you network. You want to be networking in places that are appropriate for you based on who is in attendance and what types of professionals are there. As we've touched on a lot, you wanna focus on building those relationships. You're not out just to collect a thousand business cards from a thousand people you met at a Chamber of Commerce. You're looking to find in that group who speaks to you, who you want to help, who you think can help you, you think you can have a relationship with, and stay in touch, don't let it end there. When I get the business card of someone that I am really interested in, I try to make a practice of, number one, hanging onto that business card, number two, maybe even writing on the back of that business card some interesting things that you talked about. And then following up, send a follow up email after the event and offer to have a one-on-one meeting to get to know them more. There's always more to find out about someone, especially when they're a brand new relationship to you. As we've touched on a lot, focus on what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. It shows. It shows in a big way when you are just looking for what someone can do for you and not the other way around. You also wanna designate time weekly or even daily to grow and nurture your network. I try to make a practice of attending a networking event, or having a one-on-one meeting, or checking in on someone in my network at least once a week, because it really is part of your job as an attorney. So make sure you carve out the time to do it. Some other ethical considerations here, Illinois Rule 7.3 talks about the solicitation of clients. And what it reads is, "A lawyer shall not by in-person, "live telephone, or real-time electronic contact, "solicit professional employment "when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so "is the lawyer's pecuniary game, "unless the person contacted is a lawyer "or has a family, close personal, "or prior relationship with the lawyer." So here this is a good rule to have in the back of your mind or whatever the applicable rule is in your state about how you're soliciting clients when you're networking. You want to be sure that you're not violating any ethical rules when you're soliciting business, and that you're doing it exactly in the appropriate way and in the appropriate setting. I think it's also important here to talk about mentorship in networking. I think that this is one of the best things you could do for yourself as a new attorney is to look for mentorship in excellent networkers. So say you go to these networking meetings and you see someone who really knows his or her stuff, they seem to be excellent networkers, everyone knows them, they're passing business left and right, and that's something to be admired. So when you find that excellent networker, build a relationship. You may find them in your office and your networking group, or even friends or family. When you identify someone who's like that, you can ask if you could sit in on their meetings, have them sit in on yours. And you can learn a lot from how they run their meetings and how they close a deal. And you can apply these strategies to improve how you're closing business, how you're closing a deal. You could also set up a one-to-one with them to discuss strategy. How do they network? What's been good for them? How have they developed their book of business? How do they keep it? People love to talk about themselves, and if they're willing to have the time to have this conversation with you, ask them these questions. You may be really surprised by what you learn. And just as in anything else, you should focus on how you should help them in return. Even in a mentor-mentee relationship, it can be symbiotic. If there is a way you can help, say maybe they're looking to hire new associates and you know some great young associates that are looking to get the interviews, you know how to help them. Make sure you know what they're looking for and what you can do to help them so it's not just all taking on your ends. You also want to have this mentorship relationship help you with accountability. So this could include regular check-ins. Maybe this mentor is willing to connect with you every month to talk about networking, how it's going for you, and develop some strategies for how to make it better. And it could also help you review plans, past successes, and fine tune for the future. Now let's talk about organizing your networking. Once you've had enough networking under a belt, you wanna be sure that you have these great relationships and their information at your fingertips. So keep a list of those you've networked with. I like to keep an Excel spreadsheet where I include the name, industry, area served, referral partners, and centers of influence for the people I'm networking with. This allows me to work to help them, this allows me to stay in touch, this allows me to take note of commonalities or interesting things that we've talked about so I can keep them clear in my head, especially when I'm doing a lot of networking. And this helps me make introductions to them or pass referrals. So when I have a client who comes to me and says, "I need help locating a great CPA", I can go right to this Excel spreadsheet and find all of the CPAs that I've met with and make those introductions based on how I think that this client would fit in well with those CPAs. So this really allows you to keep a list instead of just a pile of business cards that is usable and accessible to you. And one of my favorites, networking without trying, let's talk about that. Even when you're not networking, you can still be networking. So for example, say you're part of social clubs that you attend just for your own fun, not really for any professional development, people can still get to know you, get to know what you do just by building those relationships and may keep you top of mind. So make sure it's no secret what you do when you're not at those social clubs or events. Also attend some pro bono or community service opportunities. You may be really surprised by who you meet there. And again, when you're at these events, make sure people know who you are and what you do. Build those relationships so they keep you top of mind. Another great idea is to join a board or a steering committee and take on a leadership position because this really puts you top of mind in that community, and people are more likely to know you and what you do and think of you as a trusted go-to should they need the type of assistance that you provide. More questions about how to grow a book of business. It's a great idea to identify referral partners and centers of influence. So referral partners are people that you can easily refer back and forth to. So take a look at what types of cases you've brought in so far, where have they come from? And if you're sensing some themes, that gives you a great idea of who makes sense to continue to network with in the future. For example, I get a fair amount of business from immigration attorneys, and likewise, I can give a fair amount of business to them. So make sure that you're taking note of that, and making a point to foster and nurture those relationships and build new ones. Centers of influence may be someone who works with your clients as well. So for example, great financial advisor who works with divorced clients has similar clients to the ones I do. So there's a lot of synergy there. So make sure that you're identifying those people in business you've brought in so far, or who you think would be good sources, and focus on growing relationships there. So you can determine from this network who works with potential clients, and it allows you to take stock of who in your network is also a rainmaker in their industry. Lots of times rainmakers are great at making introductions and building relationships. Can you see another rainmaker in a different industry that has a lot of synergy with yours? Definitely focus on building a relationship with them because there's a lot that you could do for each other. Also, don't count out cross-marketing. This is a fantastic opportunity for firms who practice more than one area of law. So for example, I'm a family law attorney, but I may know that my firm does lots of other areas of law and I may even know how to make a pitch to bring in business for those other areas. So I am able to talk with a good amount of skill about our amazing estate planning practice, for example. So that way people think of me, not just when they need family law help, but say when they need estate planning work as well, I am their go-to, and I get to be the one who brings in that case to the firm, which matters a lot. So let's talk more about ethical considerations here. Illinois Rule 7.3 talks about solicitation of clients. "A lawyer may participate "in a prepaid group of legal service plan "operated by an organization "not owned or directed by the lawyer "that uses in-person or telephone contact "to solicit memberships or subscriptions for the plan "from persons who are not known to need legal services "in a particular matter covered by the plan." So here, this gives you a great example of rules that you should be mindful of when it comes to building your book of business and how you can and cannot solicit clients. You should not be building a book of business at any cost. You should make sure that you are following the rules set forth that apply to you and your state. So you're soliciting clients in only an appropriate and legal way. More questions about how to build your book of business. You wanna build your brand, you want people to know who you are and what makes you special, what sets you, you know, what sets you apart from other attorneys in your industry. And you could do this by seeking out or agreeing to attend speaking engagements, those board positions that we've talked about, those pro bono community services that we've talked about, or even publishing articles or podcasts about your area of law that could be educational, so lawyers or clients alike, that allows you to keep yourself out there and have you be a go-to person when it comes to your area of expertise. More about how to grow your book of business. Do not discount marketing. Make sure you have an online presence that's appropriate and that applies to the rules of professional conduct in your given state. But you can have an online presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, a blog, a podcast, a firm website to an extent that's allowed by your professional rules of conduct, you could even have mailers. You could provide interviews or classes to other people who are interested in learning more about your area of law. You could have those speaking engagements we talked about. There are lots of ways to ensure that you're putting yourself out there and making sure you're remaining top of mind and differentiating yourself from others in your industry. Some other ethical considerations here. At Illinois Rule 7.3 talks more about the solicitation of clients. "Every written, recorded or electronic communication "from a lawyer soliciting professional employment "from anyone known to be in need of legal services "in a particular matter "shall include the words "Advertising Material" "on the outside of the envelope, if any, "and at the beginning and ending "of any recorded or electronic communication "unless the recipient of the communication "is a person specified "in the earlier paragraphs of this Rule." And I actually have the complete rule later on in the slides here. Here, this is something to keep in mind for if you're doing mailers, or if you're doing a recorded or electronic communication. You wanna be sure that if you are doing this type of marketing, again, you're not violating any applicable rule in your state of practice. More about how to grow your book of business. You wanna set some goals regularly. For myself, every quarter, I check in on how I did in the past quarter in terms of my networking and bringing cases in, and I'll set goals for how to improve the next quarter. Continue your education. There's so many great websites, and podcasts, and books out there about how to network, how to rainmake. Don't sleep on those, there are great tips and all of those, and they can really be useful for yourself and your practice. This should be a no-brainer, but you should be providing excellent service to these clients that you're bringing in. It's no good if you're just bringing in clients and then forgetting about them or not doing good work for them. You want them to be happy that they went with you because that allows them to recommend you to friends and family and acquaintances down the line. And also when you're taking stock about how you did in the past, you wanna determine what's working and what's not. For example, you may find you have tons of meetings with this particular industry, it's really not doing anything for you. It gives you good information about how to streamline your networking moving forward. Well, let's talk about maintaining that book of business. If you wanna keep in touch with clients and networks alike, and there are ways that you could do this pretty easily. Constant contact is a great thing to look into. If you could also put in place and draft quarterly or monthly newsletters that go out, you can make regular articles, you can schedule email check-ins, you can be sure to send out holiday cards and gifts. You could ask for good reviews, and you could pass good referrals. These are all just some simple ideas to keep in touch because you don't wanna gather and collect all of these relationships and then not maintain and nurture them. Now let's talk a little bit more about the ethical considerations in growing your book. As I've mentioned, I'm based in Illinois. So here I'm talking about the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct specifically. And I encourage you to take a look at the ethical rules that apply to you and your state, but we will be using these as examples and as demonstrations. So let's talk about Illinois Rule 7.1, Communications Concerning a Lawyer's Services as we've touched on. "A lawyer shall not make false or misleading communication "about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. "A communication is false or misleading "if it contains material misrepresentation of fact or law, "or omits a fact necessary to make this statement "considered as a whole not materially misleading." So our hypothetical there was say in your elevator pitch, let's say you do estate planning, but you can tell that the person you're speaking with maybe needs some medical malpractice work. And in order to try to secure that business, you misrepresent your services and you say you do medical malpractice. And your thought may be, "Oh, I can figure it out if I get hired." That's a no. You should not be making any false or misleading statements about your expertise. Let's talk about Illinois Rule 7.2, Advertising. "Subject to the requirements of 7.1, which we just heard, "and 7.3, which we will get to next, "an attorney may advertise services through written, "recorded, or electronic communication, "including public media. "A lawyer shall not give anything of value to a person "for recommending the lawyer services, "except that a lawyer may pay the reasonable cost "of advertisements or communications permitted by this Rule, "pay the usual charges of legal service plan "or a not-for-profit lawyer referral service. "Number three, pay for a law practice "and in accordance with Rule 1.17, "and refer clients to another lawyer "or a non-lawyer professional pursuant to an agreement "not otherwise prohibited under these Rules "that provides for the other person "to refer clients or customers to the lawyer "if the reciprocal referral agreement is not exclusive "and the client is informed of the existence "and nature of the agreements. "Any communication made pursuant to this Rule "shall include the name and office "of at least one lawyer or law firm "responsible for his contents." So let's talk about an easy hypothetical here. Let's say that you are soliciting business and you are telling people if they send you a particularly high net worth divorce case, you promise to send them on a cruise of their choice. That's a no. You should not be soliciting business in exchange in that way. So you wanna be sure that you are reviewing the applicable local rules to you and making sure that you are not inappropriately compensating someone in your solicitation of business. Talking more about solicitation of clients, "A lawyer shall not in-person, live telephone, "or real-time electronic "contact or solicit professional employment "when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so "is the lawyer's pecuniary game, "unless the person contacted is a lawyer, "or has a family, close personal, "or prior relationship with the lawyer. "A lawyer shall not solicit professional employment "by written, recorded, or electronic communication, "or by in-person, telephone, or real-time electronic contact "even when not otherwise prohibited by sub-paragraph "if the target of the solicitation "has made known to the lawyer "the desire not to be solicited, "the solicitation involves coercion, duress, or harassment, "or the solicitation seeks representation "of the respondent in a case brought under any law "providing for an ex parte protective order "for personal protection "when the solicitation is made prior "to the respondent having been served with the order. "Every written, recorded electronic communication "from a lawyer soliciting professional employment "from anyone known to be in need of legal services "in a particular matter "shall include the words "Advertising Material" "on the outside of the envelope, if any, "and at the beginning and ending "of any recorded or electronic communication "unless the recipient of the communication "is a person specified under paragraphs or ." So let's talk about a hypothetical here. On the next slide, let's finish the rule first. "Not withstanding the prohibitions in paragraph , "a lawyer may participate "in a prepaid group of legal service plan "operated by an organization "not owned or directed by the lawyer "that uses in-person or telephone contact "to solicit memberships or subscriptions for the plan "for persons who are not known to need legal services "in a particular matter covered by the plan." So as promised, let's talk about an easy hypothetical here. Say you have reached out to someone because you know that they need legal services, and they've let you know that they wish to not be contacted. Should you continue to contact them? No, this rule says that you can't. If they've made known to you that they're not interested and they're not looking for this particular service, you cannot continue to try to solicit business from them. You would hope that that would go without saying just by pure manners, but here in the rule, it bears some repeating. And lastly, let's talk about Rule 7.4, Communication of Fields of Practice and Specialization. "A lawyer may communicate the fact "that the lawyer does or does not practice "in particular fields of law. "The Supreme Court of Illinois does not recognize "certifications of specialties in the practice of law, "nor does it recognize certifications "of expertise in any phase of the practice of law "by any agency, governmental or private, "or by any group, organization or association. "A lawyer admitted to engage in patent practice "before the United States Patent and Trademark Office "may use the designation "Patent Attorney", "or a substantially similar designation. "Except when identifying certificates, awards, "and recognitions issued to him or her "by an agency or organization, "a lawyer may not use the terms "certified", "specialist", "expert", "or any other similar terms "to describe his qualifications as a lawyer "or his qualifications in any subspecialty of the law. "If such terms are used to identify any certificates, "awards, or recognitions issued by an agency, "governmental or private, "or by any group, organization or association, "the reference must meet the following requirements. "The reference must be truthful and verifiable "and may not be misleading in violation of Rule 7.1. "And the reference must state "that the Supreme Court of Illinois "does not recognize certifications and specialties "in the practice of law, "and that the certificate, award or recognition "is not a requirement to the practice of law in Illinois." So for example, let's use a hypothetical. Let's say in my networking, I tell people that I am an expert or certified in the area of family law. Here by this Rule, that's a no. That's not how you're permitted to hold yourself out. Here, I say I focus on family law, but I don't say that I'm an expert or that I'm specialized to do that area of law. So a really important differentiation to know there, and I encourage you to check on the local rules near you to make sure that you're communicating your services appropriately. Some other ethical considerations in growing your book. I would encourage you to be very mindful of social media use and checking out these opinions and rules for more information. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would love to hear from you. You can find my firm's Facebook and Twitter here. I'm on LinkedIn and here's my email address as well, phone number at the bottom. And I would love to stay connected with you as I've encouraged you to do. I've got articles out there, I've got podcasts out there. I'm on social media, and my firm does provide free consults for those who need it. And thank you again to all who've listened to this presentation, and thank you to Quimbee for having me.

Presenter(s)

CB
Colleen Breems
Associate
Lavelle Law

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