Legal networking and business development can help you build the types of relationships that keep you top of mind among your greatest prospects. But, how do you network with the people you’re looking for? And once you’ve found them, how do you develop the type of impression that earns you quality referrals?
For tips on legal networking and business development strategies, we consulted Renee Thompson, a mediator and civil litigator working from Ocala, Florida, where she focuses on mediation, litigation, and equine law, and is heavily involved with the local and state bars.
Be strategic—network with people in your field
For Renee, networking and business development boils down to two essentials: building relationships and being accessible. “It’s imperative that you cultivate your relationships on an ongoing basis,” says Renee, “but you also need to be seen and heard, so that people remember you when they need a lawyer.”
To start, being an active member in her local and state bar associations has helped Renee build relationships with people in her industry on a statewide basis. Specifically, she works with the Animal Law Section of the Florida Bar and began writing for the Florida Bar Journal on topics that related specifically to equine law.
“You get to know who the players are in your particular field,” says Renee. “I have a discreet area of practice, so I want people to think of me when relevant matters come up.”
Leverage your social media networks
Social media is important for reaching out and staying in touch with a wide audience. Renee mostly uses Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn where she posts newsworthy content to show she’s in tune with key issues in her areas of practice. Renee says:
Part of business development is staying current and staying relevant in people’s minds on a particular topic area. For instance, I post articles about mediation and what’s happening in my business as a mediator. Hopefully then clients are going to remember you the next time they need a mediator. It’s all about keeping that constant contact with people, and social media provides a great avenue to do that—at no cost, of course.
It’s easy to be on someone’s news feed, or in their inbox. If they’re seeing you and they’re hearing what you have to say on an issue—and you’re answering their questions about an issue—that can lead to future business. It’s kind of a win-win. You get to meet wonderful people, but you get to help them with their business needs as well.
LinkedIn is also a valuable networking tool for Renee. She says, “From a business development standpoint, LinkedIn is great for two reasons: One, it’s your online resume; two, people can find you without having your business card—they don’t need a phone number or email.”
Go above and beyond for clients to earn more work
Meeting people is only the first step when it comes to business development. The real work comes in finding ways to cultivate relationships as issues come up. To stand out from everyone else, you need to do good work—really good work.
Renee says, “You have to go above and beyond for people. That’s how they remember you. Anyone can hire someone to handle a task, but if you handle it in a way that exceeds their expectations, that’s where people start to say, ‘If I send it to her, it’ll get taken care of, and taken care of properly.’”
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For law firms, a big part of that client care comes from good communication. “People want to know you’re taking care of things, but they also want to be informed,” she says. “That’s the biggest lesson I learned throughout my legal career. Keeping up with clients, keeping them informed, is a huge skillset that lawyers have to have.”
“People really get to know who you are as a person, and how you handle things, and then they’re willing to trust you with other things. To me, that’s where the magic happens.”
Use technology to support your legal networking efforts
When Renee branched out to build her own firm, she needed something to track time, manage bills, and keep her practice organized. So she started using Clio.
However, she quickly found that Clio helps with business development as well. Here’s how:
Everyone you know in one place. When setting up new legal matters in Clio, you can list out everyone associated to the case. This adds them to your master contact list.
For Renee, this helps her keep track of everyone she’s ever done business with at her firm. “For instance, when I was gathering all of my holiday stuff this year,” says Renee, “I was able to just go into my client contacts and pull them all up from one place.”
Reminders to reach out and follow-up. “Clio has a great tool for task reminders,” says Renee. “It emails you reminders. It updates you in the platform. I spend a lot of time in there making goals and scheduling things that I need to do. It keeps me on task, because I’m a small shop. You’ve got to have built-in safety nets for yourself. To me, that’s where the task list really comes in and streamlines that process.”
In short, Renee uses Clio to simplify her day-to-day, so she can get more done for her clients. “I use Clio for my practice and I don’t know how I’d run my practice without it,” she says. “It’s been a very easy way to simplify and organize my clients and my billing, and it keeps me where I need to be. I am very grateful for Clio.”