Young attorneys are flooded with advice about how to build their careers. Work hard! Bill, bill, bill! Start marketing! When I was a young attorney, I was too concerned with just learning how to practice law to think about becoming the next rainmaker or marketing guru. That seems like a common experience; a new attorney has so much to learn that marketing often gets ignored until later in one’s career. Don’t wait! Start marketing right away. It’s not as hard as you think, and you probably already know how to do it.
1. Build Your Expertise
Before you worry about marketing a product, you need to have a product worth marketing. As a lawyer, your “product” is you, so the most important part of your marketing plan should be to become a competent attorney. Don’t just aim for competency, though. Approach each assignment as an opportunity to become an expert on a particular area of the law: become an expert on punitive damages; be the authority on non-compete clauses; untangle the complicated world of QDROs; master motions for reconsideration. The important thing is to build your expertise (depth) while building your competency (breadth). Every young attorney can become an expert at something, and it is much easier to market expertise than mere competence. By building expertise you will know what you have to offer. Now consider to whom to market your newly acquired expertise.
2. Market Your Services to Partners in Your Firm or Other Colleagues
You can begin your marketing efforts by marketing your services to partners in your firm, or other colleagues if you do not practice in a firm. It may sound strange, but it’s really pretty simple. Treat people that you do work for as your clients. Be eager, respectful, helpful, and take ownership of your assignments. If you see a need, offer to help. If you were asked to research a discovery issue, offer to draft the motion to compel. If you completed an assignment, offer to help with other matters. As you do good work for the partners in your firm, they will want to continue to work with you and your services will be in high demand.
What if you’ve hung out your shingle and don’t work with any partners? Market your services to other solo or small firm practitioners and let them know what you that you’re available, eager, and have particular expertise to offer. By marketing your services to partners in your firm and other colleagues, you will continue to develop your expertise and reputation. It’s now time to think about expanding your targets.
3. Network with Other Young Attorneys and Professionals
Many young attorneys are turned off by the idea of networking. Start by staying in touch with your law school classmates and friends. Over time, they will introduce you to attorneys they know and your network will grow. Take the time to get to know some of your new contacts and meet them for coffee or lunch. With the time pressures and demands young attorneys face, it can be tempting to say no to social engagements, alumni events, and lunches. Make time for these events; they are the foundation of your network. Although you will branch out and expand your network beyond these friends and classmates, they will be a source of referrals and new contacts throughout your career.
Consider branching out and networking with other young professionals. Young accountants, financial planners, real estate agents, bankers, and other young professionals all need to network too. Your city may have organizations for young professionals that you can plug-in to easily. Ask around and attend some of the social events for these groups; they are a great way to network since everyone else is there to network with you, too. And you will be surprised by how few young lawyers attend these events. Remember, these other young professionals have clients, and some of those clients are going to need lawyers. If you’re one of the lawyers they know and like, there’s a good chance you might get a referral.
4. Serve Your Local, State, National, or Specialty Bar Associations
Serving in a local, state, national, or specialty bar association is a great way to meet other attorneys. As a young attorney, it does not matter which bar association you get involved with, but it is important to pick one and focus your efforts. Start by regularly attending events, and then offer to help with the events you enjoy. Many bar associations have committees that do tremendous work and offer a lot of value to the membership. Consider joining a committee; you will get to know your other committee members, raise your profile in your legal community, and impress your firm with your initiative.
5. Put It in Print
OK, you’ve developed some expertise, you’re marketing to your partners or other colleagues, you’re networking with young attorneys and young professions, and you are active in your bar association. Now it’s time to tell everyone how awesome you are! I’m kidding; kind of. You do want to let other people know about your expertise. One way to do this is to look for opportunities to write articles highlighting your area of expertise. Contact bar association publications, business publications, or trade publications, and offer to contribute articles relevant to your expertise. And remember, many organizations have separate print and electronic publications, so ask about all media outlets, and then keep offering until someone accepts one of your article idea. Once your article is published, link to it from your firm webpage, your LinkedIn profile, your law school’s alumni listserv, and other online profiles to maximize the impact of your article.
About the Author
Micah R. Steinhilb is an associate with Gordon & Polscer, LLC in Portland, Oregon.
(Image Credit: ShutterStock)