LAW LIFE: A checklist for first-year associates

By Larry Bodine

The Daily Record Newswire

As a first-year associate, your job is to excel at delivering legal services. Don't worry about originating new files right now. Your short-term goal is to start building your network.

Your long-term goal is to avoid being a 40-year-old lawyer with no clients.

* Volunteer for assignments. Ask the firm's rainmakers. Your eagerness will build a reputation among the partners as a dedicated lawyer. Become known as the "go-to" associate. Make sure that your work is delivered on time, accurate and error-free.

* Start a habit of visiting clients at their office. It doesn't matter if they're junior people. In five years they will become executives or company owners, and now is your chance to start a relationship with them. Drop off work product in person. Establish face time early.

* Take your clients out for breakfast or lunch. Start the habit of scheduling at least one face-to-face meeting a week. If the firm will reimburse you, go someplace really nice to create a memorable meeting. Ask questions and get to know the other person. And get the person's business card, being sure to write three things on the back: the date, where you are and what you talked about.

* Immediately create a record for new contacts in your email or firm CRM system. Record key points about the conversation as well as business-card information.

* Over time, collect personal information about client contacts -- key events in their lives: births, deaths, graduations and promotions; the names of their spouses/significant others, children; hobbies and what they like to do for fun. Once you have the names of all their pets, you've gone deep enough.

* Create a mailing list and keep it updated. Include your law school classmates (who will become referral sources, judges and in-house lawyers), your fraternity/sorority contacts, college friends, etc. In the future, these are people to whom you'll send your e-newsletter. Ask your firm's marketing professional for help.

* Join a bar association and learn the law. Make friends with people in your generation. Get their business cards.

* Scrub your Facebook page so there's nothing you don't want a client or the managing partner to find. Use the privacy settings to control what's visible.

* Go to LinkedIn and create a complete profile with a good picture. One million lawyers have profiles on LinkedIn. It's the de facto online directory for professionals. The idea is to make yourself easy to find. Invite contacts on other online social networks to connect with you.

* Don't waste time on Twitter. Only 4 percent of in-house lawyers use it, so there are few potential clients there.

* Send out holiday cards to your mailing list. Hand-write the signature. Be sure to make a record of incoming cards for the sender's job or address changes.

* Have the firm's annual report or other firm-wide messages sent to your mailing list.

* Participate in firm functions where clients are present. Encourage senior attorneys to introduce you to clients you don't know, or go ahead and introduce yourself and thank them for being your firm's guest. Ask them questions about their work. Get their business card.

* Look like a lawyer, not like someone who works in the mail room. Take your dress cues from the senior partners and rainmakers. Your office should also look organized and tidy. Do not use the floor for filing space.

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Larry Bodine, editor in chief of Lawyers.com, is a legal marketing expert.

Published: Mon, Feb 20, 2012