Relationship Development

Our second quarter of the year begins tomorrow, and for many of us, we’re facing a new normal that didn’t seem possible three months ago. One of my lawyers emailed me last night and said “what a year this past week has been.” I don’t think truer words have ever been spoken.

Lawyers are all in different places at the moment – some firms are exceptionally busy, but may have clients who aren’t able to pay them at the moment. Others are making the difficult decision to lay off staff or cut salaries. Some are shuffling resources to accommodate the influx of questions to practice areas like employment and insolvency and bankruptcy. Everyone is unsure what the future brings.
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As travel restrictions increase, and law firms begin to close their offices and reduce their client meetings, it’s time to get creative about the ways in which we keep in touch. “Collaboration” sounds like the sort of thing that requires you to be in the same room to achieve, but in fact, you can use content collaboration as a way to build relationships with clients, potential clients, and others all while remaining in your office (home or otherwise).

I recently read a great piece on 9 Free Tools to Co-Create Content, which not only included some great resources, but also some excellent inspiration for ways we can be better content collaborators in pursuit of building better relationships.
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Coronavirus.

The hot topic on everyone’s mind at the moment (unless you’re in the US and then it’s pretty evenly split between politics and germs). I almost hate to join the fray and discuss it, but with so many events being cancelled, and travel restrictions being enacted, I wanted to add some suggestions for how to continue networking during this time, so that you don’t lose momentum on your relationship building efforts.

For some of us, travel and events still move forward. Travel guidance varies – it depends on your destination and the size of the gathering. Common sense and good hygiene are essential, and for our group, we’ll be instituting what we’re fondly referring to as “Operation Fist Bump” at our upcoming Annual Conference (which may be further downgraded to “Operation Wave Hello.”
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We may have had a mild winter (most of us) so far, but let’s be honest, 2020 has been a bit of a slog so far, am I right?

I haven’t talked to anyone who isn’t feeling like we don’t already need a do-over for this year. So much for a fresh decade! (Yes, I know, technically, the new decade starts in 2021, so we’ll revisit this again next year).

But there’s no time like the present to feel like we’re starting over. Who’s to say that today ISN’T the day we start again?

How can we do that? By creating some “WOW” in our relationship development, using these two tips.
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None of us are perfect networkers/relationship builders.

Yes, it seems to come more easily to some than to others, but it’s not an exact science. For the most part, it’s an ever-adapting process that we’re constantly refining based on our current goals and our target’s needs.

But there are a couple of areas that we tend to go astray with building relationships, and that’s where we’re going to focus today.
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It’s February 4th, and that means it’s International Networking Week (I know you all had it on your calendars already!)

Apparently, January is a prime time for networking burn out, and that makes sense. It follows on a long season of holidays and entertaining, when we’re trying to fit in the last of our CLE requirements, meet up with family and friends, and rush to finish all of our end of the year work. So as we kick off February, who is really feeling fresh enough to network again in a way that’s going to effectively develop business for you and your firm?

Let’s look at four tips that will ease you into some networking in a way that doesn’t feel too overbearing, but will still help you to accomplish your goals. 
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Now that it’s 2020, I think (read: I hope) that we’ve all come to the conclusion that it’s important to develop a strong plan that identifies the goals that we have for business development, and the tactics and strategies that we’ll use to develop those goals, right? I have a sneaking suspicion that there are still a few people out there who are throwing various ideas up at the wall with the hope that some of them stick, and this is the year to stop doing that. Really, I mean it.

In my post today, I’m going to talk a lot about content marketing, and yes, I know I’m using both the dreaded words “content” and “marketing” together, but stick with me, because we’re also going to look at how these tips impact the message that you’re sending out regardless of the activities that you’re pursuing. Why is that? Because no matter what you do, you’re offering a message about yourself. Talking to someone in line for coffee about how you help clients? I hate to tell you, but you’re marketing yourself (and by the way, that’s a good thing). 
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For better or worse, we’re all uber-connected these days, between our desktops and our smart phones and our tablets. While many of us can and do (and probably should) take technological time outs for holidays and weekends and evenings, responsiveness is a key factor in keeping clients, potential clients, and yes, even referral sources happy when reaching out about business. And yet, it is STILL one of the most overlooked (and easiest to fix) complaints that I hear about relationship building.

It’s a rather HUGE pet peeve of mine when people don’t take the time to respond to emails, and I know I’m not alone. Let’s talk about the message that it sends, and why it’s an easy fix.

I know lawyers are busy. I know that their time, literally, is money. So I can be (somewhat) forgiving of the attorneys who may not read and answer all of the emails that I send them.

However. 
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Among my most popular posts last year were those dedicated to talking about LinkedIn, which tells me that it continues to be the tool that resonates most in the legal industry. I know that it’s in part because it’s become such a robust and useful platform, but I also suspect that it’s in part because some of us are still hoping that there’s a silver bullet out there when it comes to networking and relationship building. I hate to tell you – there isn’t. Even when you’re using social media, which can supersize your efforts, you still need to have goals, develop a plan, and invest time and effort in order for it to pay off for you. 
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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.


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