Friday, September 12, 2008

Community Relations Networking

Successful law firm networking through Community Relations was the topic of the South Florida Legal Marketing Association luncheon I attended yesterday .

By Community Relations, we mean working your way up through the committees and board of local, national or regional non-profit associations as a volunteer for the purpose of making strategic community contacts. Here are some "do's" and "dont's" that could be helpful in your networking efforts.

DO view your role in community programs as that of a "problem solver" first and foremost, according to panelist Charles Jones of the Miami PR firm Wragg & Casas.

DON'T arrive at 12:05 for a meeting that starts at noon, then leave at the first possible opportunity without making time for strategic networking, cautioned moderator Susan Greene, Director of Marketing at Becker & Poliakoff.

DO find out how the organization can make best use of your legal skills. Panelist Dr. Jennifer O'Flannery, CEO of the Broward County United Way, mentioned that they rely on lawyers from a variety of practice areas to help negotiate contracts with each agency they fund.

DON'T force attorneys to arbitrarily volunteer at an organization not aligned with their natural interest, warns Greene. Finding the right community program for an individual attorney is a two-way street between the firm and the lawyer.

DO use the law firm's active participation in community programs as a competitive advantage when it is significantly greater than average, suggests Shareholder Grant Smith from the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler (RRA).

DON'T forget that cumulative "word of mouth" can be an extremely formidable business development tool, advises RRA "Chief Relationship Officer" Jeff Stay. He suggests providing all the attorneys in the firm with agreed upon talking points to create a consistent, memorable word of mouth campaign.

The Rainmaking Lady would like to add that getting involved in a community program is a very productive way to reach out to industry leaders who are also prospective clients. You can use the community group as a legitimate basis for contacting a prospect while remaining in compliance with otherwise restrictive state bar advertising guidelines.

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