By Kimberly Alford Rice
Special to the Legal
As a new attorney, you are well directed to spend much of your time honing your substantive legal craft. Your in-depth legal knowledge is, after all, the cost of admission to developing a solid client base.
However, being a sharp lawyer is only part of the equation that makes a successful practice. Savvy lawyers know they must differentiate themselves, but how do you do so in a meaningful way?
Given today's legal landscape, which is rapidly changing and ultra-competitive, associates are need to understand the unique role they can play in helping their firms compete and survive.
One of the ways to do this is by staying connected to their law school classmates. Whether you (or they) pursue a law firm life, choose to develop a solo practice, land an in-house position, or decide to follow an alternative career path, the relationships you developed in law school (and continue to nurture) are one of the keys to your success.
Below are a few ways associates can stay in touch with their law school classmates to foster deeper relationships:
• Get plugged into law school alumni association news and activities. Sign up online for alumni e-newsletters and be proactive in attending events and reaching out to former classmates.
• Leverage the web. Join and be active on your alumni listserv, Facebook and LinkedIn. Search out new connections and find reasons to stay in touch. If you travel for firm business, be proactive in tracking your travels on LinkedIn's TripIt to schedule visits with out-of-town classmates.
• Learn effective networking skills to develop a comfort level for cultivating business relationships in social settings. This is a "must have" skill that is more involved than passing out business cards.
• Set up a Google Analytics account to stay current on select issues and law school classmates. This will provide reason for you to connect with your growing network and to offer help.
• Create a list of former classmates, categorize them by occupation -- (non-competing) law firms, solo practice (who may need some help on a case), or firms larger than yours (which may have conflicts) -- and systematically set up face-to-face time to learn their "pain points" and how you may help them.
Become a resource to them and you will find rewards not only professionally but also personally. Today is not too soon to get started.
Kimberly Alford Rice is principal of KLA Marketing Associates, a business development advisory firm focusing on legal services. As a law marketing authority, she helps law firms and lawyers develop practical business development and marketing strategies that lead directly to new clients and increased revenues. Additionally, she provides career management services to lawyers in transition. She can be contacted at 609-458-0415 or via e-mail at email@example.com.