Saturday night was the Dade County Bar Association's 96th Annual Installation Dinner. If you are a basketball fan you know it was also the night that would decide whether or not the Heat would be going to the NBA finals. Dueling events... solution: TV monitors in the lobby. Everyone was happy. Speeches were short... one Judge's speech was two words... "GO HEAT!" The atmosphere was filled with excitement that I have not seen at a Bar function before. It got me thinking...
How many lawyers didn't attend because they didn't want to miss the Heat game? How many lawyers never attend because they think... "Why should I hangout with the competition at Bar functions?" How many lawyers attend function after function and never get anything out of their effort?
I believe Bar Associations should be part of every lawyer's business development strategy.... BUT not all for the same reasons.
Camaraderie: There was a lot of that to go around Saturday night. Getting to know your colleagues in a social environment helps to build relationships. The Problem: most lawyers tend to hang out with lawyers from their office or the same old crowd they always see at these functions. The Answer: step out of your comfort zone... meet at least one new person every time you attend a function. THEN... follow-up with that person.
Referral Sources: The life blood of the profession is REFERRALS... And Bar Associations are where you can find prospects. The Problem: most lawyers hang out with people in their same practice area. The Answer: Attend meetings and conferences where you will meet lawyers from related practice areas. OR forge relationships with lawyers outside your jurisdiction.
Education and Information: The more informed you are the better you can advise your clients and make business decisions for your practice. The Problem: most lawyers have blinders on and only look at courses in their practice area. The Answer: Get CLEs in related practice areas or an area you would like to do work in. (Remember: One should market to what you want... not what you have.)
Why don't people get business from participating in Bar functions?
Your area of expertise is a secret! This is the BIGGEST obstacle to referrals... a lot of lawyers may know you... but do they know what practice area you specialize in? Chances are the answer is NO! They can't remember what your practice area is...so there is no way for you to be "top-of-mind" when they need someone with your expertise. The Answer: Say your practice area often and tell stories so they will remember it.
You never ask for the referral! Yes... you need to ask for the referral in the most sincere way. It is human nature to want to help people you like. You will be surprised what happens when you ASK. I have a client who left a lunch meeting with work simply because he asked.
Bar Associations can be a great source of new business if you have a plan and you work it! And lastly... it is a great way to give back to the profession, the options are numerous.