Friday, March 9, 2012

4L: What to do When . . . You Don't Have Clients Part 1

Well it's that time again.  It's February bar exam time.  And that may be harder than the regular July bar exam time.  At this time, students are coming out of school at a time when most firms are prepping for their summer interns or fall associates.  At least this year, the economy is supposedly getting better and more firms are hiring . . . supposedly.  So if you take the Feb. bar, or took the July bar and are still looking (or took the July bar in 2010 and are still looking), this blog's for you.  It's also for the attorneys that have been practicing for 10+ years and have seen a substantial drop in clientele. 
You don't have clients.  You're sitting there in a suit watching YouTube.  Or you're sleeping in till noon.  I've done both.  I've done both with and without clients.  It's more fun with clients, let me tell you.  Then it's a time-waster or mini-vacation, not a way of life.  Either way it's probably your fault.  Yes, I said it! IT IS YOUR FAULT!  Clients are not going to find you out and walk in your door (especially if you're in sweatpants and a Superman shirt).  You will have to do SOMETHING.  So what are those somethings? 

Relationships - I've said it before and I'll say it until I die, I hate the word "networking."  No, seriously I hate it. And you should too!  Don't network.  You won't want to, it won't be important, and you won't remember anyone (and they won't remember you either).  Build relationships.  This way, you'll care, you'll want to, and you'll remember people (they still won't remember you). 

When you don't have clients it is ABSOLUTELY imperative that you build relationships with a great deal of people, especially attorneys.  If you have local bar events, or free CLEs, or know any one attorney you can do this.  Email the one attorney you know.  Tell them you are just starting out and have some questions (offer to take THEM to lunch and then actually pay). 

At this meeting, tell them you want to know how to do __________.  Ask them how it was when they started.  Tell them you're not looking for a job, but just wanted to pick their brain about something legal.  I will almost GUARANTEE that they will offer a LIST of people to talk to.  Be real.  Tell them the areas you want to practice (even if it's not in their area, they'll know people).  My wife met with a Federal Judge and he gave her a list of 13 people to contact! 13 PEOPLE! Well at least you know your next 13 emails and meetings. When you email the leads, tell them "so and so told me to contact you."  Then you're introducing yourself in the authority of the person you got their name from.

The day after the meeting, and I MEAN DAY! Hand write a note to them.  Thank them for their time, their advice, and tell them you are "looking forward to developing a mutually beneficial relationship."  (As a side note, I got lunch with a partner of Bigfirm.  I was EXCITED!!!!!! I thought, this guy can help my career!  You know what happened? He paid for my lunch and I gave him several legal documents for a new client that needed products liability intake procedures.  And you know what? It was worth it. We became friends and he introduced me to other people.  And he answered my phone call every time I called.  Just remember, sometimes you're there to bless someone else, not be blessed.  He has since passed and the whole Kansas City legal community has felt it.)

Do it.  You'll get clients from it.  Most importantly, you'll meet people that will guide you and continue to guide you.  And you'll build a relationship that is worth having.  I have meet a few of my mentors this way.  And in my position - "young attorney upstart that started up own firm" - it is imperative to surround myself with experienced teachers that are willing to share their knowledge at the risk of training their competition.  Almost every one of my mentors has referred work my way. 

Stay tuned for "What to do When . . . You Don't Have Clients Part 2 . . . Learning the Law."

No comments:

Post a Comment