New Lawyer – Just getting started? Just ask!


New lawyerWhen you are a young professional in the field of law, it can be a daunting task to setup operations and attract clients. No matter how successful your operations setup is, ultimately none of that matters if you have little or no clients.

I remember when I was a young man just starting out, fresh out of law school. I thought it would be easy and my good days had finally come. Then stark reality set in. I was operating from the seat of my pants without a clue where my next client was coming from.

I hustled my way around the local courthouse, did pro-bono work, and eventually started attracting paying clients. But it wasn’t easy. It took a while, what seemed like many endless hours for no pay or, at best, low pay.

Now the times are different, but the challenge is still there for the young law school graduate. You feel so proud finally passing that bar exam, all that endless study, preparation and learning for the opportunity to finally practice law.

Not everyone has the good fortune to be recruited and hired by major law firms. In fact, most new law school graduates go it alone or team up with another newbie attorney to open up a practice. I find this to be more so the norm in the legal industry. As it was with me.

First, let them know that you are looking for legal work. It is amazing how simply letting the people you know (both legal professionals and non-lawyers) that you have “hung your shingle” causes referrals. The “shingle” sits inert on the theoretical “street” for all to see who happen by, but sending the message out to all that you know is very important as it spreads the word that you are available and want professional work. Ask, Ask, Ask. Let folks know you are open for business and let them know the type of legal business you are seeking. Yes, asking is the key to driving professional legal work because it plants a seed in the mind of the receiver that may not take hold right immediately. And the personal ask is very powerful indeed, especially today when there are so many impersonal or electronic solicitations for everything under the sun.

Many years ago a buddy of mine left the prosecutor’s office. He had a family and was rightly concerned as to how he would make a living as a solo. His handwritten note to me was moving, he admitted that he needed work and asked for it. Today, this type of theme and personal approach can still be very powerful, and it can be taken to a new level through the many electronic/ virtual techniques. All in all, it still is about asking for referrals and letting folks know you are open for business and want them to think of you and your plight as a new lawyer.

Once the referral comes your way you have an opportunity to bring the prospect into your realm, by servicing them, just creating a relationship or making a professional referral yourself (which may or may not include a “referral fee” or a “fee splitting” relationship).

I’m here to tell you that these are exciting times for a new successful “fresh off passing the bar exam” attorneys to establish themselves in a deeply competitive environment. Opportunities and avenues are available right now that I could never have dreamed of when I was just starting out almost 40 years ago.

The operation of a small law office is changing rapidly these days. The new attorney has to be ready to jump head first into the deep ocean, whatever their legal specialty. It’s sink or swim, and that needs to be dealt with right off the bat. Timidity has no place for the aspiring young professional.

So as a new practitioner, it is the time to ask friends, relatives, other lawyers, anyone you can think of, to think of you and your new practice and refer “would be” clients to you the new professional. I think you will be surprised by the results. Don’t be afraid to make yourself human, even vulnerable, admit you need the work, and “ask, ask, ask”!

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