We interviewed one New York solo lawyer to learn how he has drastically improved his firm’s networking efforts with a little help from a new tool.
For most solo or small firm lawyers, referrals can have incredible impacts on their practice’s bottom lines. Thus one’s ability to network and stay top of mind with referral sources can be incredibly important.
Alex Gibson* is a solo lawyer who noticed that the highest quality leads his firm received were all referrals. So he sought out a way to improve his networking techniques and increase the number of referrals sent to his practice.
To do this he started using an online networking and organizational tool called Contactually. We interviewed Alex to learn more about Contactually, and what the results have been for his firm so far.
Follow our interview and use Alex’s advice and strategies in this article to help generate more referrals for your firm.
LFS: How were you networking with other lawyers before using Contactually?
Gibson: My networking before getting and using Contactually as really haphazard. No plan, no nothing. I went on my own in November 2015 and I was just lucky enough to have referrals coming in from various sources. I didn’t really have to network. Then over the past year, I have noticed that referrals come in ebbs and flows.There would be a large amount of really good work for a few weeks, then nothing for two months.
I now understand the importance of networking and have realized that most of the work I have been getting has been through referrals, from other attorneys in particular. And Contactually is helping me to further develop that effort.
LFS: How did you find out about Contactually?
Gibson: Well one of my weaknesses is following up and keeping on top of contacts and people that I network with. In the past I would meet people, gather business cards but then nothing would happen. I needed to be more organized and find a way to stay top of mind with these people who could potentially send me a referral. So I started to search to see if there were any tools out there that can assist me specifically with my networking efforts.
LFS: Did you look at other apps? Why did you decide on using Contactually?
Gibson: There certainly are a lot of other apps out there that allow you to organize your schedule or organize your life, but apart from Contactually, I was unable to find any app directed specifically to networking. For me, that is why Contactually stood out from the rest.
LFS: How long did it take to set up, how difficult was it to get up and running?
Gibson: It actually was and is very simple to setup and use.The minute you sign up for the service you tell it what email service you’re using, and it will instantly link with your email. For there, Contactually doesn’t create contacts in the traditional sense. It doesn’t pull contacts and their information from your contact book like I would expect it to do. What it does, and what I think is a really unique, is that Contactually simply looks at your emails.
It goes back through your emails and it pulls out all the people that you have been communicating with for the past six months and turns them into contacts. If their email contains a signature block with an address or phone numbers, it takes note of that and adds that information to their contact within Contactually automatically.
At first, I thought that was a weird way of doing it, but now I think it’s awesome. You don’t have to worry about going through and putting contact information on your list. All you have to do is send them an email, and if they reply, Contactually will see their response and add their contact instantly.
You can also respond to your contacts directly in Contactually. So you can write your follow-up email within Contactually, but the message will be sent through your email server. Which makes following up that much easier.
LFS: Is there anything, in particular, you don’t like or find difficult with Contactually?
Gibson: There is one part of Contactually that is a little bit annoying, but it is still something that you need to do. And that is this concept called “Buckets.”
This is a tool that lets you organize contacts into similar groups. For example, you can have a bucket for clients and another bucket for referral sources, and then you can set reminders on different buckets. You can use these reminders to tell you to check in with different contacts. It’s great for staying in touch with the right people at the right frequency, but Contactually doesn’t do this for you. You have to go in and set these buckets up manually, and update them as your contact list grows.
LFS: Are there any other features that you have particularly found useful?
Gibson: There are tons of different features, many of which I haven’t been able to use fully yet. But one feature, which actually helped me decided to buy the tool, was an interactive demo. When you sign up for the demo, a person from Contactually will contact you and give you a 45-minute walk-through and demonstration of all the different features and answer any of your questions.
While going through that demonstration, I saw some other useful features, that might not fit into my marketing strategy but are still interesting. One of those features is called “Programs.” This allows your to send automated email campaigns based on “if-then” criteria. This could be something more useful for a company emailing massive numbers of people, but I don’t see myself needing this functionality.
LFS: What benefits/positives have come out of using this service to help manage clients?
Gibson: It is a great tool and I love it. My networking has improved dramatically, I’m not saying that I’m bringing in new business yet and I am still trying to learn the ropes. But in terms of my ability to keep up with people, it has been fantastic. Staying on top of mind was my biggest weakness with networking, and I know I am now on the right path towards changing that.