A great lawyer is one with clients that pay!
Excellent work is not enough to guarantee your long-term success in the legal profession. If you want to have control over your destiny, you must control business. With a significant client following, you will dramatically increase your chances of becoming partner, keeping your position within your firm, being able to move to another firm, or establishing your own practice--if you choose to do so. Without a sizable book of business, you are at the mercy of others who do bring in the clients. Of course, it is imperative to do excellent legal work, but "worker bees" are not rewarded as handsomely as rainmakers.
It is never too soon to think about business development. More and more law firms are adding marketing and business development skills to their associate training programs. The key to getting business is in building relationships and that process takes time. Remember that the people at lower levels of business today may be the decision makers in the future. Relationships built over years at any level can pay off down the line.
To find new clients, first determine what it is you have to offer, and to whom it would be of value Then, make yourself and your skills known to your target group. Join organizations where your prospective clients are members, and take a visible, active role. In addition to professional and trade organizations, look for charitable, political, cultural, or interest-based groups where your prospective clients might congregate. Write articles on topics of interest to your targeted clients, and publish them in magazines they read. Offer seminars or workshops which provide useful information to help your prospective clients reach their goals.
Ask for referrals from family, friends, former classmates and other non-competing professionals. Perhaps you can joint market with your accountant, banker, broker, or other business person who has a similar target client base, but offers different services. Co-author articles or present seminars together. Meet each other's contacts.
Building relationships requires consistent, regular contact over time. Organizations with regular meetings have built-in opportunities for you to get to know other members. With "one-shot" meetings, it is up to you to keep up contact. Follow up with a letter, a clipping pertinent to your conversation, an invitation to another event or to a speech or seminar you have organized, send copies of your articles, business updates, holiday cards, etc. Go to breakfast, lunch, or a sporting or cultural event. Make sure, however, that you engage in activities that interest you, too. Over time, a prospective client will get to know you and your expertise, and will feel comfortable coming to you when they need your services.
You never know where your next client is coming from, so always be on the lookout, and have fun in the process!