Discover the tactics Virginia attorney Matthew Kreitzer used to gain valuable experience and build a reliable network as soon as he started practicing.
When you’re running your own law practice, the first year is often the most difficult. This is especially true when you’re a brand new attorney.
Not only do you lack a network to help you get your law practice off the ground, but you also don’t have the credibility you need to attract new clients.
Luckily, there are many things you can to do gain experience as a new attorney that can also provide you with opportunities to establish a reliable referral network. You just have the play for cards right.
Perform court appointed work
It may seem obvious, but the best way to gain experience and meet more attorneys is to appear in court. If you start off doing court appointed work, then you will become more visible in your jurisdiction.
Being in court increases your visibility with other attorneys. By doing good work and reinforcing your presence, other attorneys will remember who you are and consider sending cases your way.
Always be prepared in court, be genial with your colleagues, and be respectful to the judge. All of these things will become the foundation for your reputation.
Find a mentor
Getting started with court appointed work will allow you to organically reach out to other attorneys for mentors. Quite often, states require attorneys to aid those already certified in a certain number of cases prior to taking cases of their own.
Consider reaching out to attorneys who are on the Guardian ad Litem list. These attorneys are generally willing to help you, considering they had to go through the same certification process and are aware of the hurdles you face.
Your mentors are a good stepping stone to building your own practice. If you prove your worth to your mentors, they may send cases your way.
Work with your local bar association
Working with your local bar associations is a great way of building a referral network. Many states allow attorneys to pay a fee and have cases referred to them for a limited consultation. Many of my first clients came through my state’s lawyer referral service.
Another good practice that built my network was offering referrals from my bar association’s referral service to other attorneys I had met. I would do this when I didn’t have the time or resources to take the case on myself. By referring out a few cases, you build a good rapport with other attorneys.
Work in a shared law office space
If you are in a collaborative environment, such as a shared law office space, it can be much easier to develop a strong network of lawyers.
The key to making this happen is being selective about the other attorneys in the shared office space. This is a particular issue in spaces where there are few resident lawyers, like what you would find in your typical lawyer co-op or a subleased office from another law firm.
You also want to make sure that some of the other attorneys practice in complementary areas. This type of environment will have the most potential for referral exchange and that the culture of the office is reasonably social.
And just because there are attorneys in a shared office space that could send referrals does not mean that they will. If the office space has a culture where everyone sticks to themselves behind closed, locked doors, then you’ll never have an opportunity to build the networks required to exchange referrals.
Building the right network and gaining the best experience is incredibly important to a long and successful career in law. Follow these tips and you can get on your path to success right out of the gates.