I clerked for a federal judge in my first job after law school. Among the many lessons Judge Forrester taught me was to look for the existence of a “Q” case, the source from which the rest of the precedents would flow. In practice, I learned that some questions require the thorough search that would lead to the Q case, while others simply needed “quick and dirty” research to get to the right answer.
When it comes to business development, there’s one “Q” activity: making personal contacts. Although not every activity truly flows from making personal contacts, contacts make every other activity much more effective.
As Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals, wrote, “All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust.” In other words, the more people who know you and think well of you, the more likely you are to receive business and referrals.
While you might argue about whether all things are ever equal, think about how you select any service professional you hire. Whether you’re looking for a dentist, a house painter, a baby sitter, or a lawyer, chances are that you check with at least one or two or your contacts to get a referral, and a significant number of clients who seek your services will do the same. Knowing more people increases the chance that someone in need of your services will find out about you.
Likewise, your current and former clients know and (let’s hope) like and trust you. They also have had the experience of working with you, so they know how you serve clients and may be able to evaluate, to some extent, your legal ability. As a result, current and former clients may be even more likely to refer business to you and, where your practice is amenable, bring you additional work themselves.
Even discounting the possibility of landing new business, knowing more people increases the chance that you’ll be invited to speak, to join a relevant Board of Directors, to attend events that your ideal clients might attend, and so on. The more people you know, the more you’ll be in the flow of information that may benefit you—and the more you’ll be in contact with people whom you might be able to serve or help in some other way.
So, the bottom line is that the more people you know, the more likely you are to bring in new business. And it follows naturally that, without knowing any information about your specific practice or your strengths, the “Q” activity for growing your law practice is to work on consistently and strategically increasing your network of contacts.
Consider these questions to kick-start your networking:
- Are most of your clients referrals, or do clients contact you directly? (Should you look to increase your network of potential clients or potential referral sources –or, more likely, both?)
- Where do your ideal clients congregate?
- Where do your ideal referral sources congregate?
- What organizations offer a natural fit for your practice, by virtue of subject area or membership, and how can you get involved?
No matter what your business development plan might be, personal contacts are a foundational activity for any rainmaker.