Are we feeling that holiday spirit yet??

No matter what you celebrate, or don’t celebrate, this time of year feels like a CRUNCH. We’re all rushing around, trying to finish end of the year projects, and planning for next year is already underway. You probably have seen a lot of “end of the year” posts already, and I’m adding this one to the mix.

As you’re rushing around, take a few minutes to read this post from several years ago on The Bloggess – I promise, it will make you feel good, and remind you what this season is all about.

Talk about a Christmas miracle. On so many levels.

It also inspired me to write about what’s at the heart and soul of what I do professionally – relationships. You may have noticed that that ILN’s tagline is “where lawyers become friends.” It sounds cutesy, and many of our lawyers start out asking “what does that have to do with a) being a lawyer and b) participating in an association of law firms? But it’s actually quite important, and after being in the ILN for a little while, they come to understand how essential that tag line is to relationship development, and indeed, business development.

Let’s begin at the beginning (I promise, this won’t take long). When I joined the ILN 15 years ago, I decided to do a branding exercise. I wanted to know, what does “ILN” mean to our lawyers?

I surveyed our members, and the overwhelming response that I got was that “it’s about relationships”.  The members laughed at me a little when I first introduced the results at one of our conferences, but over time, they’ve realized that it’s true.

31 years ago, a group of lawyers started this Network so that they would be able to service their clients internationally, using people that they trust.  And the ILN grew.

Over the years, they’ve developed deep and lasting friendships because they’ve met each others’ spouses and children, traveled the world together, sat next to each other getting fish pedicures (really!), stayed up until 5am to watch the USA-England World Cup match, tried unusual and exotic foods together, hosted each others’ children for studies abroad, been invited into each others’ homes, been invited to each others’ weddings.

When our founder and former Chairman, Lowell Lifschultz, retired from his ILN duties ten years ago, he told us that his greatest joy was the friendships that he’d developed.  Not the clients he’d serviced or the places he’d traveled, but the deep and lasting friendships he’d made. Our current Chairman says that the highlight of his professional career has been the ILN.

These friendships can and do lead to business – our members refer work to each other not because we vet the member firms for quality (which we do, on an ongoing basis), but because they get to know and trust each other.  So they trust each other with their clients. It’s about the relationships that they create through our organization that enable them to refer work with confidence.

I’m not just touting the benefits of the ILN. All of these things – social media, associations, alumni networks, etc. – are all just tools to facilitate relationships.

So as you’re busy this week finishing up projects at work, buying last minute presents, sending out your cards and baking cookies, take a moment to remember who you’re most grateful for.

For me, it’s the people in my life who have given me so much support and joy this year. You know who you are.

And while you’re remembering them, maybe take a moment to let them know – including your network connections – not just with a law firm card (don’t get me started on those). Here are some quick suggestions to get you started:

  • Identify your top referrer of work this year and invite them to the firm’s holiday party, or better yet, have a holiday lunch with them. Not to discuss business, but as a thank you and a way to connect and wrap up your year. Things are typically so hectic, it can be nice to hit pause and connect in person. If it’s tough to schedule, get something on your calendars for January.
  • Choose three of your partners or associates (double points for associates) who really made a difference in your work this year – who did you work with on projects that were particularly successful? Which associates do you see a lot of promise in? Which partners were really thoughtful and strategic about passing you referral work? Send them a note to let them know how much you appreciated their work or support this year, and how much you enjoy working with them. Only personalized notes count – not form cards.
  • Do the same with your top clients. Be very specific about why you really enjoy working with them. Client relationships are about more than just doing the legal work and getting the bill paid, and I know so many of our lawyers really like their clients – so tell them! I know how I feel when I get a note from one of my clients letting me know how much they value working with me, and are specific about why, so let your clients know how you feel – you don’t have to tell all of them, but pick a couple of top ones and reach out.

Happy holidays!