Setting up shop….

New Office Space

We’re now sitting at a transitional point. I am still not a lawyer, but I have passed the bar. There is now no mystery remaining between now and my official swearing in that will take place in mid-December, 2014. This means that I can begin to do some other things, however, that were not worth the risk of investing time and effort prior to learning my bar results.

  • Line up office space. Done. I have sublet a small space in downtown Elkton, MD.
  • Do all of the tedious office “set up” tasks, like buying a computer, printer, furniture, etc.
  • Move things into said office space- This will be an ongoing task for the next few weeks.
  • Order business cards, envelopes, and other necessities to run an office.
  • Tell people I’m opening an office locally. While I cannot represent myself as a lawyer yet, or solicit business, I can tell people what I will be doing and when.
  • Develop and draft web content. This is also an ongoing process.

I’m looking forward to getting things looking good in the new office space, and to be able to hit the ground running with a fully functional office the day that I am sworn in. Check back often for more information, as I will continue to update as there are items worth updating.

 

 

If you want better, do better.

I’m back working with my former employer on a very part-time basis. It’s allowed me to get back into the game and working with clients again, which is one of the parts of the business that I missed the most in my brief hiatus. It’s reminded me mainly of how poor at customer service and client service that most practitioners are. I was discussing the status of ongoing physical therapy treatment today with one of my boss’ clients who was injured about a month or so ago in an automobile accident. He was first of all shocked that he was receiving a call from the lawyers office, as opposed to making several calls unanswered to the lawyer’s office. Next, the fact that there was a level of concern with his physical wellbeing, and the status of his treatment plan was nothing he had ever experienced.

I had to be honest with him, and tell him straight up that we do right by our clients because we want them to stay our clients, not just be “cases” on a one shot basis. We would never wish the need for our brand of legal representation (auto accident victim or criminal defendant) onto them or a family member in the future, but we also want them to know that we’ll take care of anyone they refer to us, including them if they return.

Overall, the strategy is clearly designed to develop a long term business model that will have repeat business and referral business more than most other law practices, or other businesses for that matter. Most importantly, it requires us to develop a level of care and concern with our clients, and really check in to see how their side of the case is progressing. Far too often do we get caught up in the day to day of moving files, filing motions, breaking down discovery, etc. I’ve seen a lot of practitioners lose sight of the fact that through all of the paperwork there is a flesh and blood client, one who unlike you, has only one case right now. That case, to them, is the most important case in your entire office. Our clients deserve to be treated as their case is as important to us as it is to them.

And now we hurry up…and wait

It’s been some time since I’ve updated this thing, and for some good reason. The main reason for any delays here has been the bar exam, obviously. Lots of preparation, of course, and then some recovery time over the past month or so just trying to get my head straight after shifting gears from school(pseudo practical) to bar prep(almost impractical) to being finished.

The bar was actually fun, at least the Maryland essay day was. I found it to be somewhat straightforward, and I feel like I did quite well on most of it.

The MBE, however, another story. I do not feel like my bar prep course (which cost nearly $4,000) prepared adequately for the MBE. It was until I was feeling frustrated 3-4 weeks before the exam that I picked up another 3rd party study guide that I really began to learn how to “take the test.”

Now we wait…until October 31, 2014, around 4:30PM.

Then, assuming that Character&Fitness has given the green light (I have no reason to believe they wouldn’t) and that I pass(I also feel confident about this) then it is wait some more until early-mid December 2014 for the Maryland Professionalism course and the official swearing in ceremony. Then, and only then will I be a lawyer.

In the mean time, I’ve been doing some planning for opening a law practice in downtown Elkton, MD.

My goal is to keep the practice small, and be able to provide a more personal service to my clients. I’ve spoken to a number of practitioners in Elkton about subletting office space, keeping costs low, and building a practice that is client-centered, and where I can spend significant attention to each and every case.

I’ve always done whatever I can to promote as involved a relationship with clients as possible, so that they know that they’re a person, not just another file in a drawer. This isn’t easy to do in high volume practices, and I think that a lot is lost with the potential to keep open long term relationships where the clients think of ¬†you as “their lawyer” and know that they can trust you to advocate for them whenever, and that you’ll do the same for their family and friends.

I’ll talk more about my thoughts on opening a small solo practice in another post, and my time is somewhat more freed up to be writing more–so you can expect it.

Network…network…network

Networking is no doubt been a buzz word in the business community for years now. The entire concept of the social website ‘Linkedin’ is networking amongst other business professionals. The American Bar Association publishes a monthly magazine entitled ‘Student Lawyer’ which in their February, 2014 issue published a piece titled ‘Networking Doesn’t have to be painful.’
Across all professions networking is said to be key, but how do you do so effectively, and so that there are long term benefits?
First of all, networking is about sales–the product being yourself or your business. If you look at it any other way, you’re probably doing it wrong.
When such an analysis is missed, some of the key elements to the sale are also missed.

1) Promoting value to your customer/client/colleague. If the person you are networking with does not know or recognize how working with you in the future can be beneficial to them, why would they even think to work with you.

2) Utilizing the law of averages. Not everyone says yes. Just like you don’t buy every product when you go to the store, not everyone will be interested or immediately interested in working with you. It is important to meet with a lot of people in order to develop a core group of clients, customers or referral sources.

3) Learn about your customer/client/colleague. This point should probably proceed point #1. It is impractical to promote true value to a customer/client/colleague if you don’t really understand what their needs are. Also, any information gained here can help you build a stronger long term relationship with your customer/client/colleague and convert the individual from a customer/client into just a colleague.

4) Don’t seek a one and done. Great business relationships are often ones that develop over time. Utilizing someone one time for a quick benefit, even if that benefit is mutual, is somewhat hollow, and will not help you or your colleague build their business. Try to find opportunities to interact with a colleague even when you are not asking for the sale.

5) Cross pollinate! I cannot stress this point enough. While the value that you provide to someone may not be direct, it can still be valuable. As you expand your network, think about the core of the word: net. Building a strong net demands of you to cross-refer. Understand who is in your network and what their needs are. Put people in your network together that can help each other. I am not a lawyer yet, but have worked in the law practice for years. I have built value within my network of colleagues mainly by finding ways to introduce colleagues in different industries with each other. I now have a group of doctors, chiropractors, body shops and insurance agents who each refer to each other. Who will be the lawyer that these professionals refer to around the time that I am admitted….probably me.

When thinking about networking, think like this:

people-linked

 

Not like this:

social-network-lgr

 

6) Ask for the sale. This is important, and often even forgotten in the sales world by people who know they are doing sales. Much like you may not realize that your networking is an exercise in sales, the person you’re networking with may equally not realize this. If I were to have begun tracking the referrals that the offices I worked for over the past years as to dividing into an A and B group clients who were asked to refer friends and family, and clients who were not asked, I would probably find that most referrals came from clients who were in the A group. You cannot assume, and you immediately fail when you do assume, that your clients or customers know what you’re about and what you want. Much like your need to learn about them to adequately be of benefit to them, they need to know what makes you tick. You will often see printed on business cards ‘the best thank you is a referral.’ This is a reminder to the customer/client that you want more business. You helped them, you want your clients to know that you’ll be there for their friends, family, circle of influence should the need arise.

Some of the best business relationships develop out of friendships. Or perhaps the friendships develop out of positive business relationships. Either way, while it is not essential for you to be inviting everyone that you do business with to your children’s weddings, it is important that you get to know the people who will ultimately have something to do with paying for those weddings. Get to know yourself, get to know your colleagues, and through this build stronger relationships, and a stronger network.