Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Selling Yourself

Lately I've been doing a lot of the thing I dislike most about being a lawyer: marketing.  I understand that marketing is part of the job, and I know how important networking is. I know that the most successful lawyers have large networks of people referring business to them.  But I still greatly dislike marketing anyway.  I hate the bar meetings and rubber-chicken dinners.  I hate making small talk with strangers about what I do and hoping that maybe we'll forge a relationship and someday, many, many years from now, this stranger will send me business.  But most of all, I hate missing out on time with my kids so that I can hob nob with a bunch of strangers. 

So far, for me, none of the traditional marketing strategies have worked.  I've been to plenty of dinners, joined plenty of professional organizations and I sit on the junior board of a great not-for-profit.  But I've never gotten business from these sources.  Instead, my client base has come from my past.  I took my largest client with me from my last firm.  I had worked for them for about a year, knew their business inside and out, and when I left, they came with me.  My other work I get from my friends.  People who knew me in law school or my last firm.  Former opposing counsel, or friends whose firms are conflicted out of a certain representation.  These are my business sources.  I, therefore, am marketing to my friends. 

 I find this uncomfortable.  My friends are smart people who know that I'm not taking them out to lunch just because.  They know I need to build a book of business and that my interest in their work extends beyond how they are spending 8 hours at work every day.  They know that I'm listening to learn if there is a way I can help them.  And they know that if they give me a legal matter, it will help me.  Because lawyers, after all, eat what they kill.  If I don't have any cases to work on, I have nothing to eat.  So, I take a direct approach with my friends.  When I call up in-house counsel to go to breakfast or lunch, I flat out tell them I'm doing some marketing.  And then I take them out, we talk about our work a bit and then just generally catch up.  I've found it to be a frank way to handle things that allows us to get business done and still enjoy our time together.  It works for me. 

At my last breakfast meeting, my good friend indicated that my approach was unique.  In fact, he thanked me for my candor and told me that he found my approach to marketing refreshing.  Apparently he too, felt uncomfortable suffering through lunches with friends where the real purpose of the lunch boiled gently beneath the surface. 

Which got me wondering, how do other lawyers approach marketing?  Do the bar meetings and not-for-profit-boards work for you?  Do you write a lot of articles?  Speak?  Where does your client base come from?  Maybe if we swap some ideas, we can all learn something that will help us grow our own practices. 


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