In any business, especially in the divorce services business, networking to obtain client referrals is vital. Word-of-mouth recommendations from clients are the best advertisements. However, when you are just starting out, you will need to be your own advocate in getting yourself branded. Moreover, even when you are securing clients (and their testimonials); you will need to continue your “personal advertising” to take your independent paralegal career to the next level.
How do you accomplish this? Networking, networking, networking. Divorce With Dignity helps its Network Providers learn valuable techniques for networking in our initial training sessions and with ongoing coaching. I would like to share five networking tips for independent paralegals that have worked well for us.
Tip #1: Join the Chamber of Commerce or another networking group in your area.
BNI (Business Networking International) is a networking group based on mutual referrals. You can also check www.meetup.com for networking groups. The key is to commit to one or two organizations and become involved and well recognized in helping others succeed.
Tip #2: Notify local attorneys about your business and the services you provide.
Send out some letters that describe what you do, and mention that you are always looking for attorneys with whom you can make mutual referrals. Follow up with phone calls, and ask if they would be open to having, you refer clients to them. If they are, it is very likely they will also make referrals to you.
Tip #3: Volunteer your services through your local Bar Association.
I volunteer with VLSC (Volunteer Legal Services Corporation), which is part of the Alameda County Bar Association, helping people fill out divorce papers and answering questions at Family Law clinics. I meet many new attorneys who are also volunteering with VLSC, and we become referral partners. I also volunteer right in the courtroom; helping people who are representing themselves to fill out their legal papers. When you do this kind of activity, you will start to receive referrals by attorneys and Court personnel, as well as, by judges and court clerks. One piece of advice – always, always have a good relationship with the court clerks! They can be great advocates for your services.
Tip #4: Become involved with a trade association.
In California, CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants, www.calda.org) is a great organization to join. Through CALDA, I volunteer my services at a local law library, and I build relationships with other independent paralegals. When one of us hears of someone needing legal document services in another geographical area, we can refer them to each other. As a courtesy, I give a 10% commission to those who refer clients to me.
Tip #5: Speak to mediators, especially attorneys whose practice is exclusively mediation, to see if they need contract paralegal work.
I work with a handful of mediators who hire me to do the legal paperwork for divorces. Not only do they provide me contract work, they are great referral sources.
- To overcome shyness or feeling awkward when attending networking events, pretend you are hosting the event. Look for someone standing alone and go over to introduce yourself. Ask them questions about themselves to get them talking and put them at ease. And, while you are in the process of putting them at ease, you will feel more relaxed.
- Always have your business cards with you wherever you go. You never know when the subject of what you do will come up.
- When you are first starting out in your business, you need to spend at least 50% of your time marketing and networking.
- If on occasion you do not get the response you had hoped for when networking, remember not to take it personally. One book I have found helpful is The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. The second agreement in his book is exactly this – “Don’t Take Anything Personally”. There could be many reasons why someone does not respond to your networking efforts and the overwhelming likelihood is that it has nothing to do with you.
Anyone who owns a business must do some form of networking to get clients or customers. Do not let networking intimidate you. Remember that one key to networking is reciprocity. Be the first to offer assistance or referrals to others, and most of the time they will do the same for you.
If you have ever thought about adding “peaceful divorce services” to your legal services business, visit our website PeacefulDivorceServices.Com. Here you can learn how joining our Provider Network can help you increase your business success with our initial and ongoing training. Check out our blog on how to market your business and more networking tips.