Whether you are a law student, new lawyer, or experienced practitioner, you should be thinking about how you are going to market your practice and build your book of business every day. This is the best way to ensure that your career - and the direction of your career - belong to you and you alone.
When we talk about marketing, we tend to think of the traditional marketing tactics that most of us reject out of hand (attend networking events, keep in touch with colleagues, participate on panels - more on these in upcoming weeks). These tactics do actually work, particularly if you start early and employ a consistent outreach strategy and a whole lot of patience (or "impatiently pound the pavement," as a new friend recently said of his own business marketing strategy), but we're not always willing.
There is another way to build your book and secure your positioning in the firm that does not involve leaving the office. (Nice!)
If done properly, internal marketing is incredibly lucrative. And in fact, some of the top partners in law firms across the country have few clients of their own, but have a monopoly on servicing other people's clients within the firm.
As an example, a successful partner I worked closely with in my first year of practice had a handful of clients of his own but was the go-to litigator for many of our transactional attorneys who had strong footholds with various mutual fund clients. This was more than enough work to keep him busy - and to sustain his "book."
Here are a few ways to market your practice internally, as you are simultaneously working to build your book of business externally.
1. Nurture Existing Relationships
Long before you have clients of your own, your performance in the firm is going to depend on the amount and quality of work product you do for more senior attorneys in the firm. In this sense, the more senior attorneys are your first clients. It is imperative that you consistently do good work for your colleague-"clients" and that you meet your billable hours whenever possible. This will reflect that you are a capable attorney and conscious of your own utilization and profitability.
As your practice gets busier, be sure to stay in contact with all of the attorneys you have worked with and seek out work from each of them from time to time. Nurture and keep up your existing firm relationships. Your objective is to be top of mind with the more senior attorneys in your firm or department so you are chosen first to work on client matters, attend client pitches, and eventually share in credit when new work comes in the door.
2. Work With (Or Socialize With) Someone New
Introductions and solicitations for work are not, contrary to common practice, a first year associate's game. You should look to work with new attorneys in your firm on a regular basis. At the least, make an effort to get to know people in the firm you don't already know. As these relationships build, so will your book of work. Also, law firms are fluid places. There is a lot of movement in and out. You never know which of your colleagues is going to transition to an in-house position (but you will be glad that you are close friends with that person when he or she does decide to leave).
3. Reach Across The Table (Pond, Continent, Etc.)
If you work in a large, international law firm (more and more law firms are these days), you will be well served by building connections with attorneys in other offices. Again, you want to be top of mind with as many attorneys as possible. So, as an example, if an attorney in London is looking for an attorney in the Los Angeles office where you are located, and you have previously made a connection with this attorney, he or she will likely contact you directly for assistance. As a tip, create an outreach plan (i.e., every Monday research a new partner in another office; send a quick introductory email to that partner and attach an article he or she might find interesting based on what your research reveals about his or her practice, interests, etc.). This will take little effort - 10 minutes of your time each week, at a maximum - and has the potential to produce big returns. What's the harm in trying, anyway?
Desiree Moore is the President and founder of Greenhorn Legal, LLC. Greenhorn Legal offers intensive practical skills training programs for law students and new lawyers as they transition from law school into their legal practices. Ms. Moore is also an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and was an associate at the law firm of K&L Gates. She can be found on Twitter at @greenhornlegal.