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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 in lawyers getting their hands on referrals, according to attorneys who spoke at a recent Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education seminar about branching out on their own. “Without other referrals, I wouldn’t have been able to stay in business,” said employment law attorney Carol C. Brown, of Carol C. Brown and Associates in Boston. Ralph “Jack” Cinquegrana, a partner at Tucker & Cinquegrana in Boston, credited the success of the early stages of his solo career to referrals noting that “100 percent of my work came from lawyers.” GETTING TO KNOW YOU All three attorneys said meeting potential clients means hitting the social circuit. As a way to get people to remember her name, Brown said 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 said. She also participates in non-profit organizations and community service projects. She suggested attorneys find an organization or activity 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,” said 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 where he ran into a lawyer he knew. “On Monday morning, I got a call from him and he hired me,” Cinquegrana said. NAME RECOGNITION 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 law firm in Medfield, Mass. Swan, who specializes in elder law and estate planning, said 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,” said 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 said she tries to keep up with previous contacts 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 said 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 said. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS Brown said she has fun building relationships that bring her business. “There’s a fine line between business and pleasure,” she said. “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 said. “The referral source is happy so they send you something else,” she said. Swan said he established a reputation by giving referral sources the names of people he’s worked with. Reciprocating work, the three attorneys said, is vital. “There’s little altruism in it, and I don’t mean that in a bad way,” said Cinquegrana. He explained that when attorneys refer clients to other attorneys, they expect to get something back. WORK CREATES WORK During the early days of a new law practice, Cinquegrana said it’s necessary to work, even if it’s just pro bono. “The best way to get work is to be working,” he said. He suggested 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 said.

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