Ideas in Client Service: Assisting New Associates with Business Development

By Monique LaForce
Steptoe & Johnson LLP

In many law firms, come September, a new crop of eager first year associates joins the ranks.  As librarians, we often think of training our new associates on CALR techniques or outlining procedures for making research requests, but we don’t always think of how we might be of assistance to these new lawyers in building their future books of business.  Below are three pieces of advice for new associates looking to build their practices, and suggestions for librarians on how to assist in these endeavors.

1.  Become an amazing lawyer. When law students graduate, they are not yet superstars in their field.  They still have to learn the substantive practice area they have chosen, as well as related skills, like negotiating or trial techniques.  One of the major sources of new business for lawyers is referrals.  Becoming an expert in a particular substantive area is a great way to get those referrals.

If a new lawyer is interested in becoming a white collar trial attorney, refer her to sources such as Mauet’s Trial Technique, Courtroom Criminal Evidence by Edward J. Imwinkelried, or Lafave’s Criminal Procedure to help her develop a strong foundation in the practice area of her choice.  Assist her in setting up current alerts for developments in criminal law.  Offer to put her on the route list for any relevant publications the library might receive.  In short, help her to expand her substantive knowledge of her chosen area, so that she can build her expertise, which she can then sell to potential clients.

2.  Keep your networks warm, warmly. Again, referrals are critical for attorneys, so new associates should plan to keep their networks warm.  Of course social media is a great way to do this (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), but a personalized message can go a long way in making a lasting impression.  Such personal touches might include a congratulatory letter when a former classmate changes positions or a copy of a recent article about a subject a contact is passionate about.

Remind new lawyers that they can set up free news alerts on Google or other services about companies, colleagues, or subjects.  Offer to help associates with specific business development information requests for keeping in touch with contacts.  This can be as simple as assisting in locating a snail mail address if an associate wishes to forward a hard copy of an article and has only electronic contact information for a potential client.

3. Join one organization where you will interact with people who are in a position to refer work to you. Again, referrals are a primary source of business development, so a new associate should consider joining one organization where he will come into contact with people who are in a position to hire him or refer clients to him.

For example, if an associate wishes to pursue a career in estate planning, she might volunteer to assist a non-profit organization with a legacy gifts program.  This would give her experience with structuring legacy gifts, and would bring her into contact with individuals in a position to hire her to counsel on other estate planning matters.  A librarian may offer to assist the attorney in locating a few possible organizations, based upon the attorney’s interests and chosen area of law.

While there are many other strategies associates may pursue in becoming rainmakers for their firms, these three provide opportunities for librarians to assist in building the future leaders of their law firms, and, in turn, educate new patrons on the breadth of library services available to them.