Should you join a leads group, one run by your local chamber of commerce or by a national organization such as BNI or Le Tip?
September 22, 2014
It depends. Lawyers can build solid portions of their practices from such groups, but as often as not quit them in frustration.
The evaluation starting point is the group needs to be cohesive and that’s attained by member being similar in age, educational background, income, occupational prestige, marital status— the research-proven criteria for creating trust and strong professional bonds that give rise to referrals in white collar America, according to networking guru Dr. Ronald Burt, former chair of the sociology department at Columbia University.
Leads group provide mixed results in our lawyers’ collective experience. That’s because chapters or groups are created by simply filling categories, sometimes with less than optimal focus on the characteristics Burt identified in his research as creating cohesiveness. We recommend when invited to go and see if you like the meeting format, it does vary from organization to organization, and to see if you can make the time commitment. Some groups meet monthly, more meet bi-monthly, some weekly. Twice monthly or weekly is the optimal meeting frequency. You have to attend nearly all of the meetings for it to work well, intermittently attending means missed opportunity for all group members, and that’s just not fair and won’t create the requisite trust that leads to a referral.
When you first attend the group try to discern if you will be able to make introductions to your clients and referral sources of the members with confidence, and would expect those present to be able to substantively reciprocate. It’s important to recognize attorneys get fewer “leads” than most members of these groups and that consumer and smaller legal issues will be the most common outcomes. The more business owners, the more decision makers, as opposed to sales people present in the group, the better. In most cases you can attend a group twice before joining and paying dues.
For attorneys, the key categories to have “filled” in such groups are commercial and residential real estate brokers, commercial and personal insurance brokers, a CPA, wealth advisor/trust officer, banker– preferably private banker versus commercial, and/or a mortgage brokers. In other words, people occupying positions (or clearly on their way to occupying such positions) like those who already refer work to your law firm. Oh yes, it likely will be months before you get your first worthwhile lead.