This month and next, thousands of law firm partners will fly off to sunny resorts for trade group meetings and in the process spending tens of millions of dollars on airfare, hotels, meals, drinks, greens fees, even some behavior best not mentioned here. While some of the time spent away will create value by earning continuing education credit, it’s mostly an incalculable investment of non-billable time as the mid-winter and spring meetings of bar associations, law firm networks, practice-specific colleges, industry-specific legal associations and professional societies convene.
To maximize the value and potential return on this investment by you and your firm, we recommend you do the following:
- Obtain the pre-registration list for the event. Look it over and identify clients, prospects and referral sources. Write letters, emails or text messages, to a manageable number, say a dozen, of those who have or may be able to send or refer you work. Particularly look for people you once worked closely with but with whom you have waning contact or reduced work flow. Research on business networking shows these are the contacts most likely to respond to you, and the people most likely to have information or be able to provide access to new business opportunities.
- Make sure the message you send to them is not about what will benefit you. Instead, it should be about something to be of benefit to the recipient. For example, if you are a litigator you might say that there have been several recent appellate decisions or trial results in your area which your contact might be interested in because they may affect their business practices or operations of their key clients. If you’re a corporate lawyer, you might explain that there are several bills percolating through your statehouse about which your contact might want to be aware, certain tax incentives or job training credits being created, etc. In short, offer them an update of your local knowledge.
- Tell your contact you’d like to meet them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or have coffee with them. Urge they call or Reply to you. Give them your cell number so you can coordinate getting together while at the meeting.
- If you are a senior partner, buddy up with someone younger from your organization and mention they are coming with you. Urge your contact bring an associate with them. Expand your relationship to the next generation.
Doing this gives you a reason for being at the meeting. It makes it far less likely you will sit in your hotel room half the day billing a few hours of work to lessen the guilt of the meeting’s considerable expense. Lawyers whom we have counseled to do this kind of advance preparation routinely report the meetings they set lead to additional unplanned meetings, new relationships and unexpectedly high returns on the time and energy they invest attending conventions.