Cory R. McDowell 2015-12-24 05:40:47
Booming Start Five tips to help you build a successful practice. Whether you hang out your own shingle, join a small firm, or are asked to lead a new practice group, you will likely experience a moment when you realize that you need to build your business. For me, this happened when my boss and mentor died at the age of 58. Within a few months, I found myself at a smaller but revitalized firm where I was expected to build a high-end estate planning and probate practice that could keep an associate, a legal assistant, and me fully occupied. I’m extremely happy with what my team has developed, and I hope that the following tips will help other attorneys to have a practice they can be proud of. Recognize Referral Sources You need to identify the people who are sending you work—or who could potentially send you work. In my area of practice, we get many referrals from existing clients, other attorneys, accountants, financial advisers, trust departments, and bank officers. I have a spreadsheet with every potential referral source, including information such as the date of the last contact and the referred client’s name. Build Relationships Nothing is better than having referral sources and clients who are truly your friends. Find people you enjoy being around. When you care about people, you will try to help them; when they care about you, they will try to return the favor. Within the first six months of building our practice, my team and I had met or had lunch with 117 advisers. Every time you go to a bar event, a charitable function, a social gathering, or a CLE course, you have opportunities to build relationships. Find common interests, and get to know people on a personal level. Be a listener—find out what their needs are and how you can assist in meeting them. Let people know what you do and how they can help you as well. Once you have established great relationships, don’t forget to maintain them and stay in touch. Find Obstacles and Overcome Them Is there an issue in your community that isn’t being fully addressed? I had a lot of clients who struggled to find parking near my office. They were often elderly or had physical impairments and would need a loved one to take off work to drive them downtown. We now offer an optional service that enables a client to do everything—from the initial meeting to executing documents—in the convenience of his or her own home or business. Finding a niche to fill can really accelerate the growth of your law practice. Distinguish Yourself First and foremost, work hard on a client’s behalf to obtain the desired result. Make sure you are educated on the matter at hand and that you are practicing adeptly and efficiently. Become an expert on specific issues in your field. If you have opportunities to speak on topics in your area of practice, go out and speak. If you have interests in subjects that you can write about, do so. Get your name out there and build a reputation for doing great work. If you can serve on committees and boards, or get involved with the State Bar of Texas, you will find opportunities to distinguish yourself. Find Mentors When I started building my practice, I reached out to all of the local attorneys who had been in my field for longer than I had, and I invited each of them to lunch. It is a huge blessing to have mentors who you can call and bounce around ideas with. I believe that most experienced attorneys are willing to impart their wisdom and embrace younger lawyers who appreciate their insights. Be open to using your mentors’ knowledge about how to network and build a practice in your area of law. They will help you reach your full potential. A version of this article orignally appeared in TYLA eNews. Reprinted with permission. CORY R. MCDOWELL is a shareholder in Stubbeman, McRae, Sealy, Laughlin & Browder in Midland. His practice focuses on estate planning and probate.
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