To be the go-to lawyer in your niche and ensure a steady internal stream of work, treat your referrers like clients.
A very successful partner once told me that when she was a young associate, a partner sent out a message seeking assistance on a coverage matter for his client, the insured. No one in the firm had that expertise so she volunteered to help. She subsequently became the go-to person in the firm whenever there were questions about coverage. She later capitalized on this experience by writing, speaking and getting leadership positions in the field. Eventually, she led a large department of coverage lawyers.
When I suggest that some lawyers focus more of their marketing efforts internally, I sometimes get pushback: “How does working on someone else’s client help me grow my own book of business?” I love this partner’s story because it illustrates how internal marketing efforts can help you develop a practice. First, you will build your portfolio, which is how you attract business; your experience is your selling point. Second, you will get valuable exposure to people who may hire you or refer others to you in the future, such as an attorney on the other side, an expert, a client contact who leaves to join another company, a banker or an accountant.
People hire lawyers for their expertise, so your niche should be something clients find valuable and for which they seek counsel. Ideally, it also will be personally enjoyable. Depending on your firm and its clientele, examples could include things like:
To ensure you build an internal stream of matters, you will need to provide great service to the firm’s clients, of course. But you also need to treat your referring colleagues like clients, identifying their expectations upfront, keeping them apprised of the status of the matter, being responsive, and following up when the project is completed.
For your internal expertise to become a practice-building opportunity, you need to make efforts to market it. Here are some ideas that will help you become the go-to lawyer:
If you are paying attention, there will be opportunities for you to become a subject-matter expert in your practice group, office, section or firm. When you see one, raise your hand, build your knowledge base and then make your expertise known.
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