I do not know what it is with lawyers starting their practices. They always seem more concerned for their work environment, and the internal image they have of being a lawyer, than considering how to properly and effectively solicit clients. They equate building an office with building a practice. The concepts are completely different. Building an office concerns itself with debt, lost of time, overhead and loss of money (now and in the future). Building a practice concerns itself with paying clients, earning money to pay overhead an to make the life of a lawyer comfortable. Getting the two confused or prioritizing office building over practice building often has terrible consequences.
In this regard, attorneys fall into two very distinct and aggravating categories.
The first is the snooze-you-lose category. This is probably the most common of the two. It concerns itself with lawyers who cannot get either the energy or enthusiasm to do what it takes to actually survive in the practice of law. They hang a shingle and expect the world to find them. Generally that is not going to happen.
But, an equally frustrating category are those bodacious lawyers that also do not understand that overt salesmanship does not work out well. We will call this the schmooze-you-lose category.
I do not need to spend time in this post on the snooze-you-losers. You know who you are, and you know you need to quit fidgeting with thing that do not matter in the overall scope of things, and get out there and find paying business. The best way to start is to just start. However, do not let your enthusiasm get the better of you in the process. You do not want to become a schmooze-you-loser.
From where does schmooze-you-losing come? Ego, maybe. But, I tend to think it comes from a lack of self-confidence or certainty that result in an over correction. A lawyer has jitters about selling, so they blow caution to the wind, inflate their chest, and barrel out into the public trying to convince everyone about how great thou art. The fear of meeting and greeting and talking about oneself is overcompensated for by becoming a schmooze machine.
Nobody likes a salesman, and schmoozing in the end seems so Hollywood, so plastic, so opportunistic. People, companies and organizations have to deal with schmoozers because they are technically buyers, and it comes with the territory. It does not mean that people like it. And, in an age of choice it has serious consequences. Everyone knows what it is like to screen their phone calls, ignore their doorbells, and avoid a table at a luncheon to avoid schmoozers. Nobody but nobody likes to have services crammed down their throats. There is nobody that has not been conned so many times, or disappointed with the products of a schmoozer that they instantly believe the schmoozer's services suck. It is a visceral thing. You do not want to come across as self-serving like a telemarketer or a slick used car salesman. Yet, many lawyers do only to wonder why they are spending so much time and money to gain no referrals or no paying clients.
Sure, this might sound counterintuitive to some of the suggestions I have made over the years. After all, I am for making contact with people, taking your clients and referral sources to lunch occasionally, and marketing your niche. The key is, however, I sometimes take my referral sources out to lunch. I do not wine and dine people who have not referred me business generally.
You need to make yourself available - often - frequently - conveniently. But, the hard sell leaves almost everyone believing you are not listening, not caring, that lawyers are not trustworthy, and that honest representation is not available. There is a difference in making yourself available and in being a stalker. Lawyers need to make sure they understand where that line lays.
Avoid the schmoozefest. It is important to understand that regardless of all of the gimmicks promoted on TV, in sales departments, and in motivational books, that apart from making yourself available and being trustworthy, that most of it is a big waste of time and money. Sponsoring the CLE, trade shows, and seminars of others with catchy slogans probably has less effect than just presenting at one for free. Playing golf might be good recreation but its power to generate enough business for the costs is generally overrated. Wining and dining potential customers for business ... Well, they are just tagging along for a free lunch.
The other problem is that there is more productive, and less expensive work, to do back at the office. So, when invited, you need a simply elevator speech that informs others as to what you do, why you do it, and how you can help. Being prepared is good. However, if you want to randomly get in front of people, groups and organizations with a hard sell, well then just Glengarry Glen Ross yourself!
To schmoozefest is usually an excuse to ignore and avoid the bigger problems piling up at the office that need attention anyway. When a lawyer is at the club, in expensive restaurants, necessary decisions are not being made, and generally it is taking the law firm deeper into debt. After all, those credit card bills have got to be paid sometime.
Take schmoozing out of overdrive and take that money spent on airfare, expensive meals, sponsorships, and just be yourself.
Do not be a schmooze-you-loser.