I wish I knew this before I opened my law practice

In high school and college I did some entry level work during the summers. I was a stock clerk at a department store, delivered flowers, that sort of thing. In law school, I worked as a law clerk.

By the time I graduated law school, the sum total of my work experience was. . . nothing to write home about.

I opened my own law office about a year after graduating and passing the bar exam. I had very little experience as a lawyer, no clients, and no money. Most importantly, my network of contacts was almost non-existent.

As you can imagine, my first few years of practice were very difficult. If I had known what it would take to start a practice and make a go of it, I might have done things differently.

Yes, I knew it would be rough. But I naively thought I would make up for what I lacked with hard work and determination. Like Mary Richards, Mary Tyler Moore’s character on the 1970’s TV show, I had spunk.

Unfortunately, spunk doesn’t buy groceries.

Anyway, things would undoubtedly have been different if I’d had a network of contacts before I opened my office. When you have relationships with the right people, you can leverage those relationships to get clients, leads, introductions, and advice. You can hit the ground running in a new practice. You’re not starting completely from scratch when you can tap into other people’s established networks.

The lesson is this: build your network before you need it. Or as Harvey MacKay puts it, “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.”

It’s more difficult to build a network when you need it. “Hello, I’d like to introduce myself and ask you if you can send me some business.” And yet, it can be done. If you approach them the right way, and you approach enough of them, strangers will help you. But it’s much easier to get that help from people who already know, like, and trust you.

If you’re thinking about opening your own practice, build your network before you make the move. You don’t need a huge network–a few well-connected individuals is all you need to start. They can lead you to others.

First, identify by category the types of people you would like to know. Then, look for ways to find and meet people in those categories.

If you have already opened your own practice, it’s never too late to start building your network.

The best day to plant a tree is 100 years ago. The second best day is today.

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