By John Trimble, Lewis Wagner LLP
One of the best pieces of advice that I was given as a young lawyer was to make and build friendships and relationships for a lifetime. My mentor, Robert Wagner, loves people, and over a period of many years, I compiled a list of "golden rules" that I had gleaned from his example. Periodically, I have added a few of my own. I hope that this is a list that you will keep and find time to remember. I can assure you that the very best in any profession adhere to some or all these rules.
1. Always be responsive.
No one will hire or give repeat business to a lawyer who is not extremely responsive. Make sure that your staff and team are responsive on your behalf.
2. Do good work and guard your reputation.
Your reputation includes your integrity, your substantive competence, your attention to detail, and your reliability, among others. Never lie…ever.
3. When you meet me, tell me your first name and your last name.
As a daddy of daughters, I realize that sometimes you hold back on personal information as a matter of personal security, but in professional meetings you want people to be able to find you later for referrals and other opportunities.
4. Always be on time.
There is no excuse for being late. Period. Follow the military rule, early is on time, on time is late, and late never happens. People do not like lawyers who are late.
5. Carry business cards everywhere and use them.
(And I mean everywhere, i.e., the grocery, the gym, the doctor’s office, the hairdresser, the Starbucks drive-thru; you name it.)
6. Keep your contacts list updated.
With technology and software these days there is no excuse for an out-of-date or disorderly contacts list.
7. Be aware of your community.
That means staying up on local news, business news, legal news, college and law school alumni news, new babies, anniversaries, birthdays and more. The better informed you are, the more ready you will be when a new matter comes your way or you meet someone new.
8. Send personal handwritten notes.
Subjects range from thank you notes, sympathy notes, congratulations for all reasons, and "nice to meet you" notes. In this digital age, many people do not expect a personal note, and they are gratified to receive one. If you follow Rule 7 and remain aware of your communities, you will have an endless supply of topics for notes.
9. Set expectations and then exceed them.
Keep your promises. Deliver on time. Use the Out of Office function on your computer and change your voicemail when you are not available.
10. Update your website bio, your Linked In profile, your Twitter profile, etc.
These days few clients will hire you without first searching out information online. You want them to know your practice areas and accomplishments. Be mindful that your website bio and social media profiles create a "brand" for you whether you know it or not. Pay attention to your brand.
11. Use social media.
Choose the platforms that are best suited for you, and try to consistently post and review the posts of others. But, don’t forget your reputation….
12. Nothing replaces face time.
You cannot build relationships solely from behind a desk or on social media. Get out of your office and meet people. Research the people you will be meeting before you meet them.
13. Be persistent and patient.
The experts say that it takes an average of ten "touches" with a prospect before they will send you business.
14. Commit to the long term.
Doing the things you need to do to build a reputation and relationships are not on and off propositions. You need to get out there and do these things consistently and long-term, but I promise you that they will pay off.
15. Pay attention to little things.
Intentionally work to remember names and pronounce names properly. Learn the titles of the people you are meeting. Prepare.
16. Make sure that your office team understands the rules.
17. Don’t be afraid to ask for business.
Practice how you will ask for business and try it on friends or colleagues. It is not difficult to do once you learn how to do it. But, don’t ask too soon.