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  • Fern Lee

How to get your first client



As a young attorney, I was always intimidated by the fact that I had to build my own clientele. Networking seemed such a daunting task. And who, I wondered, wanted to hire a young, inexperienced nobody like me?


But I learned that 1) with some thought and care, getting my first client wasn't as intimidating as I thought it would be and 2) networking wasn't as frightening as I was afraid it would be.


Attorneys are attorneys for a reason. We want to just 'do the work'. We just want to hide in our cubicle and read case files and draft depositions. Hustling for new clients wasn't in taught in law school ... was it?


Regardless of whether it was taught in law school or not, to make it in private practice, building our book of business is a crucial exercise. And getting our first client is key.


You might be just starting out as an attorney, learning the ropes professionally. But it doesn't hurt to start building your connections and contacts. The earlier you start building relationships the easier it is to get that first client.


So what is networking?


In essence, it's simply connecting with people and keeping up with them.


It conjures up images of a room full of suited professionals balancing a plate of food, a drink and trying to shake hands with one another. If this sounds intimidating, then it doesn't have to be you.


Networking is simply making connections and dropping them an email or setting up coffee from time to time. The key to it all is chemistry. You must find that thing you have in common with the person you are networking with.


This is what I call 'business dating'. You make a connection, maybe something (or someone) you have in common, have coffee or drinks, exchange emails, enjoy each other's company and the rest, as they say, is history.


There are no guarantees they will give you business, however. There are no guarantees but the more you build your relationships, the more likely they will recommend you when there is an opportunity.


So, no more rooms full of professional strangers all trying to make a business deal happen forcibly. Find a group whose company you enjoy and build relationships. It could be within the professional organization you are a part of or a networking group. It could be an online group even.


Just make sure you are making connections with people you like. I always gauge the networking group by whether I would be happy to hang out with them in my spare time. Then it doesn't feel like work. It feels like I'm having a cup of coffee with good company.


My network is like a family. I treat them like friends. In that way, I would be happy to recommend them to someone who needs some help. And hopefully, they'll know, like and trust me enough to recommend me to their business contact.


Now with family and friends, we try and keep up with them regularly. Same with professional contacts, we have to keep up with them regularly. We cannot expect them to give us business if we don't keep up with them and get them to trust us.


Similarly, we also have to give them business so think of some ways you can help them out. Who can you recommend to them? It's not a self-serving need that will get us great business.


Know that getting your first client and building your book of business isn't going to be done in a day. Rome, after all, wasn't built in a day. It takes time and it will be longer than you think.


But know that consistent effort and trialing new ways of networking out will work for you and you will eventually build up enough of goodwill and reputation to land your first client and start building that book.


You have to believe and you have to work, sometimes doing some things outside of your comfort zone. Here are some things you could do: join a networking group that only serves one profession in the group, that way you will be the expert go-to person for that particular need; offer to speak at an organization that requires your services and talk to the participants afterwards; offer to write an article for your professional association and don't forget to leave your contact details in.


Come up with a plan of networking. There isn't just one avenue to your first client. There are many. Make sure that you do these activities regularly in order to see results. You never know where that first client will come from!


Have a great day!

Fern