David King Keller, PhD
As an attorney, whether you are solo or AmLaw 100, success is more quickly accorded to the rainmakers. As you consider mastering the art and science of new revenue generation through business development, it is essential that you develop the desire and skills to network like a pro. If you are currently un- or underemployed, this information is even more important.
One of the best areas for future business development is building rapport with your law school classmates. You must create, nurture, build, sustain and leverage as many of those relationships as you can. People prefer to do business with people they like and trust. With friends and classmates, you are well along on the path of excellent rapport, which puts you that much closer to the status of “trusted advisor.” This activity, staying in touch with people with whom you already share a common bond, has large potential payoff and can help accelerate new business development of your law practice.
For more on this I asked Akina Corporation’s Partners Deb Knupp and Tracy LaLonde to answer the following question:
Q. Would you please provide some specific examples as to why an associate or senior partner can make a difference in securing new business for the firm by staying in touch with law school classmates?
A. New business is the natural outcome of two important principles: 1) having authentic relationships, and 2) solving the problem that should be solved without self-interest. Staying in touch with classmates is a critical step towards maintaining authentic relationships over time. Staying connected also provides opportunities for lawyer to be a resource (legal and non-legal) as their classmates find new jobs, uncover new challenges and ultimately hire or refer the associate / partner as legal counsel. Many of today’s rainmakers can point to long-standing, multi-decade relationships with general counsels that began in a law school study group.
Establishing trust is much easier to maintain when a classmate has nothing more than friendship to offer, and the risk of being perceived as a sales person is virtually non-existent. Trust is also deepened by sharing common experiences and life stages (getting married, having children, getting a promotion to partner, etc.) Many partners express deep regret for losing contact with classmates and uncomfortable awkwardness to rekindle a friendship when a classmate is in an obvious position to hire/recommend legal counsel.
Staying in touch can be achieved through periodic invitations, making thoughtful introductions and providing useful information that helps the classmate solve problems.
About the author:
Dr. David King Keller is the award-winning author of 100 Ways to Grow a Thriving Law Practice and the ABA best seller, The Associate as Rainmaker: Building Your Business Brain. Keller is an Ethics CLE instructor and delivers business development training within an Ethics CLE titled Ethical Business Development Strategies. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-289-0544 by cell 415-444-6795.