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It’s the time every solo practitioner dreads. The big case settled a month ago, little cases are winding down and the phone isn’t ringing. You’ve done all your backed-up filing, gone to some MCLE seminars, tidied up your drawers, dusted your photos, and the phone still isn’t ringing. You need work. What should you do? The best source of work is people you’ve already worked for. Remind them that you’re still out there, and they will remember the great job you did for them. How you do this is up to you; the important thing is to maintain those connections. Consider creating a client newsletter that describes your recent successes, interesting cases, a new development in the law that might affect their businesses, your new office, a new employee — whatever you want to tell them about. Make it short and punchy, and include some personal information, such as an anecdote from your last vacation or your plans for your next one. Write a short note to each client — in your own handwriting — on each newsletter. Who knows? The newsletter just might land on a client’s desk at the same time a summons and complaint does, or when a client has just gotten off the phone with a friend who’s getting a divorce and needs a lawyer. If wining and dining works for you (it never has for me, but I’m not much of a schmoozer), take a few clients to lunch, a ball game, a wine tasting or a cultural event. It might get you some work, and you’ll also have fun. Don’t overlook your friends and social acquaintances. The people with whom you share your hobbies and interests (you do have hobbies and interests, don’t you?) are a great source of work. I belong to a bridge club and a running club, and I regularly get work from both — enough work that I deduct my club dues as a business expense without a shred of guilt. Talk yourself up a little the next time you’re out doing what you do for fun. Consider offering to make a brief presentation to the group on wills, living trusts, 401(k)s, tax tips, workplace issues or whatever you know about that might be of interest to them. Or write a one-page tip sheet or short article (with your byline prominently featured), and hand it out at the club. Other lawyers and lawyer groups also can be a good source of work. If your bar association has a lawyer referral service, get on the list. Most ordinary human beings only need a lawyer once in their life, and they usually have surprisingly little idea how to find one. Bar associations are one of the first places they look. To get referrals from other lawyers, try some cross-pollination with lawyers in other fields. If you’re a litigator, don’t go to bar association meetings with other litigators. They’re not going to give you work — they’ll keep it for themselves. On the other hand, the probate lawyer who hates litigation might call you when a disgruntled heir sues the estate. The business lawyer whose deal just went south might send you the client who’s screaming “Fraud!” And it never hurts to cultivate other lawyers in your office, especially the old guy down the hall who’s headed for retirement and would really rather be playing golf than writing discovery motions on a Friday afternoon. You could also try some contract work — one discrete project could blossom into a steady source of income. Advertising can be helpful, but spend your advertising dollars wisely. Don’t bother with the Yellow Pages or mass mailings to total strangers. Your chances of getting any work, let alone work you actually want, are slim to none. Focus your advertising on the people you want to represent, instead of trying to appeal to the whole world. Prestige advertising is worth the extra expense. I have had an expensive full listing in the Martindale-Hubbell lawyer directory from the day I opened my office, and it has paid for itself many times over. And of course, you can’t overlook the Internet; it’s how everybody finds what they’re looking for these days. Think about creating a Web site if you don’t already have one, or spiffing up your site if you do. The key is to do what works for you. If you’re the gregarious, charming type, take the clients out somewhere. If you’re not, suffering through a lunch filled with uncomfortable silences isn’t going to get you hired — write that newsletter instead. And finally, have faith. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll always get work. Kimberly Fanady is a solo practitioner in San Francisco. She can be reached at [email protected] Read Ms. Fanady’s bio.

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