You’re fresh out of law school and you’ve landed your first job as a lawyer. Or, you’re a lifelong lawyer who has experienced decades of changes. No matter what stage of your career you’re in, growing your book of business can be a lot of work, but you don’t need to overcomplicate it.
Here are four things that can help any lawyer build a book of business to sustain them for the long haul.
1. Find your niche and look at the long game
Perhaps you work in a large firm but you’re doing a little bit of everything. Perhaps you’re looking at what you need for the partner track at a mid-sized firm. Or perhaps you’re planning to launch a solo practice. Whatever it is, you need to have a specialty in order to stand out.
Why? We’re always encouraged to think big, but there is a lot to be said for thinking small. Small scale, that is. Small is agile. Small is innovative. Small can be mastered.
A niche is your key to professional success as a lawyer. How do you determine what to focus on? Choose an area that you’re enthusiastic about and have – or can develop – experience diving deep.
Don’t just consider whether you find the subject interesting. Consider the pace and type of work you’d do. Do you like high-stakes work? Are you a passionate litigator? What kind of clients would you ideally represent? What kind of work-life balance do you want to achieve?
When you specialize, you position yourself as an expert much more quickly and can reap the benefits: a higher salary, a solid network, and a more authentic personal brand. All of these translate to establishing your clientele.
Play the long game here. Quick wins can be great but think about your goals for the next five years or more when planning your niche. Just because a topic is hot today doesn’t mean that it will stand the test of time.
2. Identify your audience and your brand
Once you’ve pinpointed your focus, get to work identifying businesses, organizations, events, and thought leaders in this niche. What conversations are they having? What are the issues at stake?
Familiarizing yourself with them gives you a starting place for your work in your new niche. Find out where your potential clients are and position yourself there.
In business, you should always have an elevator pitch. The legal world isn’t much different. You need to know your subject intimately, but just as importantly, you need to know yourself.
What is your brand as a lawyer? This is a question many lawyers can’t answer with confidence.
Most people think that brands are just colors and logos, but that’s only a small slice of the pie. Your brand is your clients’ experience and how others perceive you and working with you. Invest in offering your clients a stellar client experience. By creating those connections and interactions, you build your brand.
So how do you plan on connecting with people? There are many, many opportunities and no single answer to that question.
Do you love writing? Blog.
Are you a social media addict? Get active – and stay active – on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook; whichever platform resonates with you, but also with your client base.
Perhaps you prefer face time with people. Getting involved in local and state organizations provides a great platform for showcasing yourself.
It’s important that you pick an area where you will be a consistent presence. While testing the waters of a new platform or channel is great, don’t spread yourself too thin. Pick one or two approaches and do them exceedingly well.
Channel your insight into industry topics on a blog. Provide value-added content like whitepapers or create a webinar. Give a talk at a local conference on your niche. Mentor younger lawyers as you gain experience.
4. What’s your relationship status?
Remember, your book of business isn’t just about the numbers. (Though that’s part of it.) It’s easy to fixate on numbers like billable hours, social media followers, and cases won. But building a solid book of business is about building relationships.
You can – and should – build relationships at every stage of your career. Don’t focus on whether any given person is a source of work. Anyone is a potential client, colleague, and collaborator: your partners and associates, your opposing counsel, your former classmates, vendors, cab drivers, delivery persons, etc.
You will never be able to anticipate all your business – and isn’t that part of the joy of finding it? With these tips, you’ll be on your way to building a solid, sustainable book of business.