Originally published in The National Law Journal on March 4, 2013
In the movie Rudy, we get to know a young man with all the ambition in the world to play football for the University of Notre Dame. He is hard-working, determined and has more desire than anybody else on the team. Unfortunately, he has one major drawback: no real athletic ability.
Many lawyers jump onto LinkedIn or Twitter with a similar ambition: to turn their career around by landing a big client through the magic of the Internet. It doesn’t work for many of them. It isn’t because they aren’t good lawyers; they have everything on paper that a successful rainmaker needs except for the ability to develop relationships and business.
LinkedIn amplifies our relationship skills — no skills equals nothing to amplify. “But I’m great with people!” you insist. Most lawyers are, but for the best business developers relationship-building is deliberate. They have a process. The process itself may be different for every attorney, but they all have one.
Fortunately, anybody can develop these relationship-building skills. To the extent that a lawyer finds it hard to break the ice with strangers, LinkedIn makes this process much easier. There are no awkward conversations as at cocktail parties — your messages can be much more direct. Online conversations must have a purpose, however.
Effective business developers understand the importance of making appointments. They also understand that the purpose of every appointment is to get another appointment. They don’t focus on closing the business or getting hired every time, but rather on building the relationship so that when the potential client has a need, he or she feels at ease reaching out.
If you feel you could improve your ability to network and market yourself, there are some great resources you can look to for help. One of my favorite books on the topic is Endless Referralsby Bob Burg. Introverts might try To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Othersby Daniel Pink.
If you want more specific direction, ask your marketing director for coaching. There also are some great business-development coaches who can help you get there.
If you’ve got the skills and you just haven’t jumped on the social-media bandwagon, you aren’t too late. The vast majority of LinkedIn’s users are such passive users that it doesn’t take long to build a great profile by comparison and start translating your legal savvy into new relationships.
In the movie, Rudy had one shining moment when the coach put him into a game and he slipped through the line for a tackle. This moment of glory meant everything to Rudy, but it was fleeting. Develop your business-development skills now so that you can enjoy enduring success.
If it helps, feel free to imagine thousands of fans cheering you on to your continued success: “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!”