Rainmaking the “Old-Fashioned” Way

By September 2, 2014

By Deborah Chames
More and more firms in South Florida are investing time and money in their business development programs to encourage young attorneys to bring in new clients. With so much of the business development focus centering around social media and online communications, it is important not to underestimate the power of connecting with people offline. As a former solo practitioner, I grew a family law practice before the advent of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  These are some of the strategies I employed that are timeless and often overlooked in today’s social media-focused legal community.

First, build a referral source network of attorneys in different practice areas.  If you concentrate on real estate transactions, go to lunch with attorneys who practice litigation, family law and trusts and estates.  When a client comes to you for an issue you do not handle, the worst thing you can do is send him or her away empty handed.  Having a rolodex of attorneys who practice in different areas will make you the go-to person for your client, and you can hope that the attorney who you referred business will return the favor one day.  Face-to-face meetings will always trump online communications.  The best referrals will come from people who know you beyond what appears in your LinkedIn profile.
After you’ve set up your lawyer network, work on building referrals in other areas.  Former clients are the best referral sources so your primary focus should be doing excellent work for your current clients who can tell their friends.  Remember to treat those who work in legal service industries with the utmost courtesy and respect.  Judicial staff, court reporters and opposing counsel can all be potential referral sources and your reputation as courteous and pleasant person in the flesh will be more important than a carefully cultivated online persona.  In the courthouse, always say good morning and treat people with respect.  You never know who is watching and who may send you your next big case.
Finally, when someone refers you a case, say thank you.  Do not underestimate the power of a handwritten thank you note and a gift card for a nice dinner to acknowledge your appreciation.  Even for smaller cases, send a thank you note and try to return the favor with a referral of your own.
It is important to remember that business development takes time.  It took me five or six years of practice before I saw referrals on a consistent basis.  Referrals can come from all different areas.  While a strong social media presence can bolster an otherwise effective business development plan, hiding behind the computer will not turn you into a rainmaker.  The “old-fashioned” ways are still the best.