If you are a lawyer I have coached, you could have written this blog post. You likely remember, we talked about repurposing the content you create.

As we talk about repurposing what you create, keep these four points in mind:

  1. More often than not, clients hire lawyers rather than law firms.
  2. Client development is about relationship building.
  3. You will be considered by a new client based on recommendations or based on something you have written or presented.
  4. The recommendations more often than not will come from weak ties.

Have you handled a complex matter recently? If so, how can you reuse materials you created to educate other potential clients, referral sources and weak ties?

Take something that was created in your billable work that your client would give you the ok to share.

Create an article or blog post. From the article or blog post create a presentation or a webinar. From the handout for the presentation, create a guide.  You get the idea.

I always did that. Let me share an example.

In the early 90s, the Federal Highway Administration received permission from Congress to “experiment” with Design-Build construction of complex bridges and highways.

I knew the experiment would lead to states wanting to construct more and more projects by design-build contracts. I also knew contractors were unprepared for this change.

I decided to do workshops across the country to educate contractors. About 100 contractors attended. I had taken many hours to prepare the detailed handout materials. I wanted to get the materials in the hands 100s of other contractors .

When it became possible, I had our marketing department put the materials on my website where they could be easily downloaded. Here is a link to my Design-Build Guide.

Design-Build

Next, I broke out sections of the guide and created several articles that were published. The net effect was I reached a much wider audience by repackaging the materials I had worked so hard to create. In some cases I put materials in front of potential clients I had never met.

First, I was hired by a state in New England to help draft their first design-build contact.

A couple of years after that, I was hired by the contractor to help put together a proposal to install a very complex electronic toll collection system in the Northeast.

Because of my design-build articles and presentations, I was hired by several contractors to handle disputes arising from design-build contracts. All of these opportunities and engagements came as a result of creating content and reusing it.

Think about how you can repurpose materials you create.

If I coached you, then you know all about the strength of weak ties concept which was first discussed by Mark Granovetter. We talked about it at length.

I also told you how blogging, the internet and social media has taken much of the luck out of getting recommendations from weak ties. Are you taking advantage of what we discussed?

As I reflect on my own career, I know just how powerful weak ties can be. I have shared this story before but it is worth sharing again.

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In early 1983, President Reagan signed into law the Surface Transportation Act of 1982. It included a provision that for the first time by statute required that 10% of the federal highway funds be expended with Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. That created new and complicated legal issues for highway contractors.

I wrote a guide and spoke on the subject all over the country. One presentation was a panel in Washington, DC.

A lawyer from the Federal Highway Administration was on the panel with me. I had never met him before we spoke that day. I have not seen him since, but I still remember his name. He was my ultimate “weak tie” relationship.

About six months after the panel presentation, I received a call from the general counsel of one of the country’s largest contractors. They had a $30 million issue with the City of Atlanta.

The general counsel told me he heard I was the one to call for help. Later in the conversation I asked how he had heard of me.

He had called the Federal Highway Administration about the problem and a lawyer there told him that Cordell Parvin was the lawyer who could help them. Fortunately, I was able to help the client solve the problem and that led to a long lawyer-client relationship.

I look back now and almost every major matter or every new client came to me as a result of recommendations from weak ties.

But, in 2015, there is something more to consider. When I was getting referrals from “weak ties,” they most often had heard me speak or read one or more things I had written. Take one moment to think about how limited my weak ties were.

  • To hear me speak, they would have had to be there in person.
  • To read anything I wrote, they would have had to have a hard copy.

Just, think about how many more “weak ties” would have heard me speak after the internet and social media made it so easy.

I have audio podcasts, a video coaching series and video on Youtube. Anything I write can be found by a Google search of the subject.

I saw a video clip from class taught by Stanford University Instructor Robin D. Stavisky.

I like this quote:

Social networks enable you to amplify reach.

Who are your weak ties?

How can you blog, use the internet and social media to geometrically expand the number of “weak ties?”

Have you thought about my three hour video coaching program?  You can participate and get feedback from me after each of the 7 sessions for only $49. (I spend more than that on coffee over 7 weeks).

  1. More often than not, clients hire lawyers rather than law firms.
  2. Client development is about building your profile and building relationships.
  3. You will be considered by a new client if they have seen you in action, have received a recommendation or read something you have written or watched you make a presentation.
  4.  The recommendations, more often than not, will come from “weak ties.”
  5. You will get hired if the client believes she can trust you to handle the client matter and feels she has rapport with you.

If I have convinced you these are key points, then:

  1. What are you doing to raise your profile?
  2. What are you doing to build relationships with contacts?
  3. What is your plan to build trust and rapport with potential clients?

I frequently say things like:

Client development is about building your visibility, building relationships and becoming a “go to” lawyer.

In 2013, it’s not who you know and it’s not what you know, it is who knows what you know. (I think I originally read that in something Scott Ginsberg wrote but I have been unable to find it).

In 2013, the idea is to find ways to increase the number and quality of “weak tie” relationships who know what you know.

What are the tools available to you to do that?

  1.  Your business plan – it is a tool to make sure you are focused and using time wisely. It is not the plan itself that is so important as the planning that goes into it. Time is a precious asset. Planning will help you use it wisely.
  2. Google Alerts – you can set up a google alert for your clients (put names in quotes), your clients’ competitors and topics (for me highway construction, bridge construction, etc). I use my Google Reader to get them so my office email is not cluttered.
  3. Monarch stationary and/or cards – use these for handwritten notes. I had both firm ones and personal ones. In a day when email and the internet are so prevalent, a handwritten thank you note or other note is more special.
  4. Your website bio – clients look at this first after they have received a recommendation. Is your photo current and are you happy with it? Can a client download articles you have written or presentations you have given. Update often.
  5. Industry associations-these are great tools to keep up to date, to get speaking opportunities and to meet with potential clients and build relationships.
  6. What your clients read – find out what they read and subscribe. Once again this is a tool to keep up to date with what is going on in your clients’ industry.
  7. Books on building trusted advisor relationships-“Trusted Advisor” and “Clients for Life” – two must read books. These books provide insights on what it takes.
  8. Blogging-this is a great tool for you to build your visibility and credibility to your target market.
  9. Podcasts-this is a tool to reach those people who prefer listening to reading.
  10. LinkedIn-Great tool to build more loose tie relationships. Connect with people you meet at functions, your clients and your friends. Join industry groups to keep up with what is happening and to post your own materials.
  11. Youtube – This is a great tool to use to repurpose presentations if you have shot video. I urge you to get someone to edit your presentation so that the videos you post are no longer than 5-6 minutes.
  12. Sticky Messages (taken from the book: “Made to Stick”) – This is a tool to remind you that your clients, and potential clients do not care about what you do. Your ability to anticipate your clients’ problems, opportunities, internal changes and external changes before your competitors and even before your clients is a great predictor of success.
  13. Presentations –This is a great tool to connect with your target market and demonstrate your expertise, speaking ability and personality.(See below for more).
  14. iStockphoto, Shutterstock and other sites with photographs and visuals-These are tools to make your slides actually interesting and to use in place of words and bullet points.
  15. Your elevator speech and your elevator questions – these are tools you be prepared to use when meeting someone. You will inevitably be asked what you do. Have several answers on the tip of your tongue. Don’t just say I am a litigator. It is also important for other lawyers in your firm to have a clear idea of what you do so they can think how you might help their clients. Have elevator questions ready because, being candid, people do not care about what you do and they love to tell you what they do.
  16. Listening skills – this is the most important and most overlooked tool and skill for us. Most lawyers are already thinking about how they will respond while their client or contact is talking. Learn to listen.
  17. Remembering names – this tool demonstrates you are listening and you genuinely care about the other person. Why are we so bad at it? (See 15 above). There are tricks you can practice and use.
  18. The 80-20 rule-This tool has many applications. First, you should spend 80% of your time with 20% of your contacts. Second, don’t talk about yourself or your firm until you are asked and even then tread lightly. Learn to ask questions and listen. You are well served if the client or potential client is talking 80% of the time.
  19. A list of things you can do each and every day that take less than 15 minutes-This is a tool you can turn to when you are busy. Do something no matter how small each day.
  20. Zite and Flipboard apps-These are tools to aggregate and organize information coming to you on topics that are most interesting to you. They can also be used to distribute any content you find valuable.

 

 

I am speaking this Friday at the ABA mid-year meeting to the YLD leaders. They asked me to address:

How to Leverage Your Bar Association Work to Advance Your Career.

Wow! That is a really important question for all young lawyers. I could have simply answered by pointing the lawyer to a great post by my friend Kevin McKeownThe Strength of Weak Ties in Social Networking: Seek to be Worth Knowing.

If you are a regular reader you know I have written about the strength of weak ties several times. Three years ago I wrote: The Strength of Weak Ties. I recently shared with Kevin that when I was a young lawyer I never heard of the premise, but my client development success most often involved recommendations by “weak ties.”

Every new significant client who came to me did so because someone originally recommended me and, that person was rarely in my inner circle of close friends. Years later I read research by Mark Granovetter and his paper; The Strength of Weak Ties,  and learned these referral sources were all “weak ties.” My largest client found me because a government lawyer who was on a panel when I gave a presentation recommended me. I spent a half a day with him so definitely a “weak tie.”

The idea in 2013 is to increase the number of weak ties who know what you know. I will give the YLD leaders this one page handout.

There are a variety of ways to increase the number of weak ties who know what you know both in person and on the internet. Being a YLD leader is one way to build weak tie relationships in person.You could also be active in your clients’  industry association, your community or whatever suits your strengths. For me, speaking and writing for highway construction industry associations was my most important activity. On the internet, a young lawyer can increase the number of weak tie contacts by blogging, connecting on LinkedIn, joining LinkedIn groups and actively using Twitter. See my post this week: What Can Twitter Do for Your Law Practice?

Another important thing to keep in your mind is what is called the 250 rule.  Joe Girard, record-setting auto salesman, created the rule. The essence of the rule is that if someone was getting married or getting buried on average, he or she might have about 250 people show up. For your purposes, every contact you have, likely has 250 strong and weak tie contacts. Think about which of your contacts has more who are potential clients and referral sources. You want to spend more of your time with those contacts and find ways to get to meet their contacts who are most relevant to your practice.

P.S. If you are coming to the ABA Mid-Year meeting in Dallas this week, drop me a note so we can connect before or after my presentation on Friday.

I am frequently asked for my “secret” to getting new clients. There really is no secret. As you will see below, you can get new clients the way I did it.

I came across a November 17, 2009 blog post by Tom Kane titled: New Survey: Top Activities To Win New Clients. What do you suppose the top activities are? A survey of inside general counsel of large companies on how they select lawyers concluded the two categories of top activities are:

  • Personal knowledge-recommendations
  • Credentialing-writing, speaking

That conclusion is consistent with several blog posts I have done about The Strength of Weak Ties and Blogging for Visibility and Credibility.

Let me share an actual example with you. In the mid-80s I was asked to help a contractor recover additional compensation on a complicated segmental bridge project. During my engagement I learned almost every complicated bridge project being constructed in the US had substantial cost and time overruns.

I decided to spend time studying how the bridges were designed, how contractors bid to construct them and how they were constructed. I bought bridge design books and studied them. I even made a Freedom of Information Act request of the Federal Highway Administration so I could learn more.

I started writing about bridge design and construction. I  spoke at industry meetings about bridge design and construction. The word spread that I was the lawyer to hire for cost and time overruns on complicated bridge projects. As a result, I was hired to help contractors recover additional compensation on segmental and cable-stayed bridge projects. Each time I worked on those projects I learned more about design and construction of bridges.

How did the clients find me? In several instances, leading bridge designers  recommended me. The designers were “weak ties.” They had read my articles and knew of my presentations at industry conferences. They knew I worked on the most complicated bridge projects in the US.

Here is the take away for you: Credentialing by writing and speaking will give you the opportunity to develop more weak tie relationships because you will be considered a “go to” lawyer on a particular topic. Those relationships will pay off for you because your weak ties will be great referral sources.