This week in Things I Wish I Knew, Joleena Louis explains her hesitance at joining a “pay” networking group and the true benefits of monthly dues for solo attorneys.
As a new solo, I really try to keep costs down as much as possible. Every time I am faced with an expenditure, I go through a reflexive cost benefit analysis:
- Do I really need to spend this money?
- Can I put off spending this money until later?
- Will I see a return of my investment?
As I’ve said before, I tested out paid advertising with very poor results and I continue to get most of my work from referrals, so the thought of spending money just for the potential to get a referral really ate at me.
Everything changed when one of my Law Firm Suites clients got invited to visit a couple of BNI chapters. After every meeting he would come back and tell me what happened. Eventually he joined a chapter and invited me to visit.
For those of you who may not be familiar, BNI stands for Business Networking International and it’s the world largest referral network.
Each chapter, and there are a ton of them, holds a weekly meeting during which every member gives a 60 second commercial about their business. Every member is expected to participate by regularly contributing referrals to members of the group.
You are also expected to meet one on one with each member of the chapter to get to know each other and to better understand how to send that person qualified referrals.
Networking with Accountability
What really sold me was that, unlike traditional networking, members have incentive to go out and find referrals for each other. There are a certain amount of points you have to earn per month and you get points by giving a referral, having a one on one, or going to a networking event. Even as a visitor I left the first meeting thinking of people I knew who could use the services of the members. It’s like I have over 20 people out marketing for me.
When it really comes down to it, BNI stands for accountability. We all have to pay to be there. We all have to meet our quotas. If we cannot make a meeting, we have to find a substitute. It’s networking with skin in the game, which provides members like me an incentive to get up and be ready for our 7 AM meetings.
Overall, I think this was a great decision for me and the growth of my business. Just one referral that leads to a signed retainer agreement would cover the membership cost of BNI. And hey, everyone knows someone who is getting a divorce.
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Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a ﬁrm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial ﬁrm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ start-up program in Downtown, New York. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew… explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law ﬁrm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur.