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When stepping out on your own, whether new to the legal world or from a law firm, the importance of referrals cannot be overemphasized. Creating networking opportunities, taking on pro bono cases and schmoozing are important tools lawyers can use to get their hands on referrals, according to attorneys who spoke at a recent Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education seminar about branching out on your own. “Without other referrals, I wouldn’t have been able to stay in business,” says employment law attorney Carol C. Brown, of Carol C. Brown and Associates in Boston. Ralph “Jack” Cinquegrana, a partner in Tucker & Cinquegrana in Boston, credits the success of the early stages of his solo career to referrals, noting that “100 percent of my work came from lawyers.” INTRODUCE YOURSELF Attorneys say meeting potential clients means hitting the social circuit. As a way to get people to remember her name, Brown says she sets up a “lot of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, phone calls, drinks.” These occasions weren’t just with attorneys or prospective clients, but with consultants, accountants and professional groups in various trade organizations, she says. She also participates in nonprofit organizations and community service projects. She suggests attorneys find organizations or activities that they enjoy taking part in. According to Cinquegrana, it’s important to be good to other attorneys. One of his earliest jobs came from an attorney whom he opposed in court. “I haven’t ever thought you had to be a jerk … to do a good practice,” says Cinquegrana. It’s also critical to never let your guard down when it comes to networking, even at purely social events. He used an example of a wedding he attended during which he ran into a lawyer he knew. “On Monday morning, I got a call from him and he hired me,” Cinquegrana says. GET YOUR NAME OUT Keeping your name in front of potential referral sources is important according to David P. Swan, the lead attorney in the Law Office of David P. Swan, a four-member firm in Medfield, Mass. Swan, who specializes in elder law and estate planning, says besides doing the lunch route, he sends out a monthly newspaper, a bimonthly newsletter for social workers and teaches educational seminars. “I collect names and send them a cover letter,” says Swan. He also sends out Thanksgiving cards, instead of Christmas cards, “because everybody sends Christmas cards,” which helps him stand out from everybody else. Brown says she tries to keep up with previous contacts as well as meeting new people. She often calls people just to chat about one thing or another in an effort to get them to remember her name. During the latest computer virus outbreak, Brown says she called people she knew to warn them about it. “It gave me the opportunity to call up some of those people I haven’t heard from,” she says. A BUILDING PROCESS Brown says she has fun building relationships that bring her business. “There’s a fine line between business and pleasure,” she says. “You just need to get known as being a good lawyer.” If attorneys help referred clients, they would feel more comfortable sending additional work to those attorneys, she says. “The referral source is happy so they send you something else,” she says. Swan says he established a reputation by giving referral sources the names of people he’s worked with. Reciprocating work, the attorneys say, is vital. “There’s little altruism in it, and I don’t mean that in a bad way,” says Cinquegrana. He explains that when attorneys refer clients to other attorneys, they expect to get something back. During the early days of a new law practice, Cinquegrana says it’s necessary to work, even if it’s just pro bono. “The best way to get work is to be working,” he says. He suggests preparing financially to have little or no income for the first six months to a year of a new practice. “It’s better to do work even for nothing than not to work at all,” he says.

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