I am speaking today at the Collin County, Texas Bar Association: 5th Annual Law Practice Management seminar, “Making Your Practice Work!” The program is specifically for a small firm and solo lawyers.
As I was preparing my presentation, I thought about my own career. I spent more than 20 years of my career in small firms. In 1976, when I was finishing my work as a Judge Advocate in the United States Air Force, I was offered two opportunities to go in-house at major defense contractors and I was offered an associate position with a large Washington, DC law firm. I very purposely took a different path.
I began my private practice career at a small firm, Martin, Hopkins, and Lemon in Roanoke, Virginia. In 1983, a friend and I started our own firm with a young associate and our two professional staff members. Over time we added lawyers. I frequently said I would never join a large firm, but I finally did in 1997, when I joined Jenkens and Gilchrist here in Dallas.
It is interesting to look back now. My USAF friend who took the in-house job that I had turned down with the California based defense contractor is now happily retired. The lawyers my age who are working with the large Washington, DC law firm are doing very, very well.
I still believe I made the right decision for me. I would not have fit well in an in-house environment and I never wanted to be dependent on senior lawyers for work. I actually liked the pressure of being required to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients to feed my family. Throughout my career, I was always hungry and never content about what I had achieved.
I suspect that many of the lawyers who will attend the Collin County event today are in the same position. I think they will pay great attention to each speaker throughout the day. If you are a lawyer in a small firm, or on your own, you might find my presentation slides Client Development for 2014 and Beyond valuable. You might also gain some insights from the Collin County Bar Association: Client Development for 2014 and Beyond Handout I will share with the lawyers.
Here are a few major takeaways:
The principles of client development apply whether you are practicing on your own, in a small firm, medium firm or large firm. You have to be visible and credible to potential clients and referral sources.
Unlike when I was practicing law in Roanoke, in 2014, it’s not what you know, it’s not who you know, it’s who knows what you know.
Lawyers need to know how to use both the old tools and the new tools. I feel like many senior lawyers do not know how to use the new tools and too many junior lawyers no longer pick up the telephone or get up from their computer.
The internet, blogging and social media have given lawyers on their own and small firms more opportunities than ever before for more of the right people to know what they know.
If you are in a small firm, I would love to present to your lawyers. If you are active in a local, state, or American Bar Association Small and Solo Firm Division, I would love to speak to your group. In the meantime, please take a look at the presentation slides and handout materials and let me know if you have any questions.