Get Involved in Multiple Bar Associations, Especially at the Local Level
You should definitely join the bar association in the city or county where you primarily practice, especially as a young lawyer when bar dues are significantly reduced. The Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference is another great place to start, as are specialty bar associations for women, groups for racial or ethnic minority lawyers, and practice-specific groups. I have been a member of the Norfolk & Portsmouth Bar Association, the Virginia Women Attorneys Association, and the South Hampton Roads Bar Association, and I have received referrals from each organization.
Participate on Panels, Schedule Speaking Engagements, and Present CLEs
Potential clients are everywhere and speaking engagements are an easy way to help them find you. You don’t always have to be an expert in order to speak about the legal field. It is also important to reach out to the next generation of future lawyers and help them become enthusiastic about joining our profession. I have spoken or presented CLEs at William & Mary School of Law, the Virginia State Bar Minority Pre-Law Conference and Bar Leaders Institute, Heritage High School, Regent University School of Law, Tidewater Community College, Booker T. Washington High School, the Tidewater Paralegal Association, the National Business Institute, Old Dominion University, and the University of Richmond. Many of these engagements led to new clients and other networking connections.
For example, I served on a panel at I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth in 2014 when I was working as a public defender. Four years later, a client came in and hired me because she was friends with one of the teachers who had seen the presentation and remembered my name.
Use Social Media and Blogging in an Appropriate Way
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many other popular social media exist as tools for lawyer marketing today. Many lawyers use social media in different ways and to varying degrees of frequency. For example, you can virtually “check in” at courthouses on various platforms in addition to posting motivational quotes. Potential clients often use legal blogs they find online as a starting point in their attorney search and you can create blog posts at your own pace as your schedule allows. While the urge to constantly post content exists, you should resist the urge to be too gimmicky or comical and make sure you include a disclaimer that results are not guaranteed as each case is different.
Network with Nonlawyers and Other Young Professionals
Keep in mind that potential clients can come from anywhere but clients won’t know about you if they never meet you or hear about you. Reaching out to other nonlawyers will definitely help bring in business in the long run and can include playing in recreational sports leagues, going to under-40 mixers, attending Chamber of Commerce young professional events, and other fun activities. Many nonlawyers only know one or two attorneys or only meet lawyers if they need legal help. Be the lawyer everyone knows and has a good opinion about.
Reach Out to Find a Mentor (Or a Few)
A good mentor can be hard to find but is always worth the effort. Be on the look out for a mentor or two within your practice area. It is also helpful to have a mentor who can help you learn the ins and outs of running a law practice. As the African proverb goes, It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to raise a young lawyer. Take full advantage of the attorney network and other resources available to you.
About the Author
Jamilah LeCruise manages her own practice in Norfolk where she focuses on criminal defense and divorce matters. She is a graduate of the William & Mary School of Law and is the 2020 Virginia State Bar Young Lawyer of the Year. She can be reached at (757) 627-5215.