Another valuable and less formal opportunity is generating content that can be used for a legal blog. Many firms today have their own blogs and there are many private blogs that will accept submissions. Although the number of consistent readers may vary, blog content will show up in Google searches and you never know who may stumble upon your article. It is not unusual for our firm to receive calls from potential clients and other practitioners concerning the content of a blog entry.
As referenced above, networking is a crucial component of any business development plan. It is also an area many young lawyers greatly neglect. Right or wrong, networking has a number of negative connotations these days. A lot of lawyers view it as artificial and contrived and therefore shun it as undignified or not worthy of their time. This couldn't be further from the truth. Networking is a crucial component of a business development plan and does not need to be an empty or artificial exercise. In fact, it shouldn't be. Networking is not simply about meeting people or shaking hands; it's about forming meaningful relationships.
There are many forms of networking, but in our opinion, the most rewarding and impactful occurs when you reach out and help someone without any expectation of receiving something in return. Volunteer work, pro bono representation and other forms of selfless contribution are not only civically, socially and professionally commendable they provide unique opportunities to get to know different people, in different places that you might not otherwise have come across. Although these interactions are not motivated by personal gain, the connections you make along the way might very well lead to compensable work down the line. Recasting networking from a contrived, artificial activity to a secondary benefit of meaningful, voluntary contribution makes it a far more palatable business development activity.
At some point, most young lawyers will sit opposite an attorney whose strategy is to demean, bully and attempt to dominate the litigation or transaction. While the antics of such an attorney may leave a lasting impression, it is certainly not a favorable one. Too often, attorneys treat being unreasonable as a substitute for good lawyering. The result, in addition to offending opposing counsel to the point of not wanting to refer you future clients, is that you will be looked upon more as a caricature than as a skilled professional. True, we have chosen an adversarial profession, but we should never surrender courtesy to our colleagues. Showing respect is not a sign of weakness; cases are won in the courtroom and in motion papers, not by striving to be the least accommodating litigant.
There is an infinite number of ideas and strategies lawyers can use to generate business, many just as good as or better than what we have suggested. Effective business development strategies can be highly individualized and you should certainly experiment with what works for you. Nevertheless, it is imperative that young lawyers start thinking about and implementing business development plans from the very start of their careers. In reality, the surest way to ensure job security in today's economic climate is to have a book of profitable business and don't believe anyone who tells you differently. Although it can be hard work, tiresome and at times dispiriting, in the long run, lawyers will be far better off professionally if they focus on strategies to generate business from the start of their careers.
James P. Goslee is an attorney at Cohen, Placitella & Roth. He specializes in personal injury, medical malpractice and complex litigation.
Matthew T. Stone is an associate at the firm. He specializes in medical malpractice and complex litigation and was recently elected to the executive committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association young lawyers division.