Relationships with other people, no matter where those relationships emanate from, can lead to business for lawyers. Facebook should be looked at by lawyers as a relationship building medium. Limiting your use of Facebook as a lawyer to your ‘personal side,’ and nurturing ‘professional relationships’ elsewhere on the Internet is a mistake. You’ll be missing out on the opportunity to build and nurture relationships that can lead to business. How so? Long time lawyer and Editor for TheCorporateCounsel.net, Broc Romanek, explained during our panel discussion on Facebook at PLI’s social media program that he limits his use of Facebook to personal friends and acquaintances. Broc uses LinkedIn, blogging, and the like for professional networking. I explained to the audience that I couldn’t disagree more with that philosophy. Why not get to know better through Facebook the people we have met socially and acknowledge that by doing so it may lead to business? Why not get to know better through Facebook the people we’ve come to know well and really like through our business affairs? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t accept Facebook friend requests from everyone who requests to be my friend on Facbook. I need to know a person well already before I’ll accept their request or ask someone to be a friend of mine on Facebook. On the other hand, I’m very likely to accept a request from someone on LinkedIn if they appear to be a respectable business person, lawyer or not. I’m not one to decline connections from professionals who have looked at my background or have become familiar with what I do via the Internet or otherwise who’d like to connect on LinkedIn. I view that as akin to a virtual handshake – ‘I’d like to get know you better.’ President and founding partner of Denver based Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Steven Farber, explained to a Denver University Law Alumni gathering last year that life presents multiple relationship baskets. Each relationship basket represents an opportunity to build relationships that may lead to business. I loved how Steve expresses the concept of ‘relationship baskets.’ As a lawyer you may meet people by coaching baseball or hockey. I did. You may meet people by sitting on a local non-profit board raising money for a home for developmentally disabled children. I did. You may meet people sitting on a local bank board. I did. You may meet people sitting on the board of your state’s trial lawyers association. I did. Why not get to know better through Facebook the people I got to know and like well through those relationship baskets? If I grew to like and know the parents of a kid on my team so well I’d send them a Christmas card with our kids’ picture on it, why not connect with them on Facebook? The people you get to know through your ‘relationship baskets’ present business development opportunities whether you like it or not. People get to know you’re a lawyer. They will overtime have business or personal needs for a lawyer. They’ll turn to someone they know and trust when they do — you. If you can’t help them out, you’ll refer them on to a lawyer who can. That lawyer will reciprocate over time. If Facebook enabled you to see the family vacation pictures of those friends you have met through these ‘relationship baskets’ and vice versa do you think you’d grow tighter? Do you think if you each got to see the news and info you each were reading through Facebook that you’d see where you have similar business, sports, and social interests? That data (pictures, news, info etc) shared on Facebook allows us to engage people we know and nurture relationships based on common interests. Relationships built on trust. It’s relationships built on trust that are the foundation of business development success for you as a lawyer, whether you’re in a large law firm or on your own. Rather than look at the Internet as law firm websites, alerts, and email newsletters, look at the Internet as an opportunity to accelerate relationships and grow your word of mouth reputation as a good lawyer. Facebook is such an accelerator. As a lawyer, don’t dismiss Facebook as an opportunity for business development. That would be a mistake.
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