Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Power of Cookies

So today marks 18 years at my current law firm, that seems such a long time...

Although I had been at another firm for the first 5 years of my legal career, the day I started at this firm was the day I really started thinking about client development.  I didn't know much back in those days, but I did know three things:  One, I wanted to do work for charities and their donors.  Two, I wanted to make a living at it.  Three, to do that I was going to need to develop a client base.  Since my new firm didn't have an established practice in the area, I was going to have to figure out how to leverage the existing relationships in that firm and convince the partners that my little practice area would be viable.  In the early days my marketing focus was on public speaking, for local bar associations at first, then for the state bar.  I also was very fortunate to team up with some other professional firms working in the nonprofit sector, and we jointly started offering informal, educational, client-focused "roundtable" seminars for nonprofits.

Coincidentally, today also marked the launch of my 16th year doing those seminars.  I've hosted 4-6 of these seminars each year, generally in the late afternoon on a few Thursdays March through May and September through November.  In the early years it was a lot of work to come up with the speakers, print the invitations, assemble the mailing lists, and copy the written handouts (remember, everything was hardcopy back then).  Today, the operation is pretty seamless, invites go by email, twitter and linked in to a much, much larger distribution instantaneously at no cost.  I've heard many times from my client base that my little corner of the market looks forward to receiving the invitation each spring and fall. My staff has been wonderfully supportive, either because they believed in my mission, or perhaps they were just looking forward to their share of the delicious cookies I always served.

I suppose the current version of a seminar series is the legal blawg, focused on a particular practice area, and were I to be starting a practice today I suppose I might just go the electronic route.  Perhaps that is more effective than an old fashioned meeting with a walking, talking, breathing speaker or two.  But I don't plan to discontinue my roundtables any time soon.  Yes, I am a believer in the new information technologies.  But there is also a place in the client development tool chest for good old fashioned, face-to-face, educational seminars where clients and friends can network and learn something new from eachother.

And share some good cookies.

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