Jill Rorem, Esq., is senior manager, legal staffing at Blackman Kallick (www.blackmanstaffing.com). Jill oversees the successful recruitment of attorneys, paralegals and contract legal professionals. Jill (and the Blackman team) staffs document reviews using qualified contract attorneys and thus, works with attorneys-in-transition daily. You can follow her at twitter.com/roremlegalstaff.
Bringing in business involves a willingness to humiliate yourself and fail – repeatedly. It’s like that dating cliché: you can’t meet your prince without kissing a bunch of frogs first. Some might say you need a thick skin to handle the rejection that comes with putting yourself “out there,” but as someone who takes everything personally, I say just get yourself some Tums or a Xanax and push forward.
Here is a prime example: I had been attempting to get in to a particular law firm for five years before they finally gave me some work. To this day, I am unsure which of my efforts finally persuaded them to call. Perhaps it was because I personally delivered gigantic orange cookies to their tent at Race Judicata every year. Was it because I regularly emailed them tidbits about the best practices in the document review industry? After repeated invitations, the hiring attorney finally agreed to a swanky lunch with us at Henri, was that it? I’ll always wonder. They politely rejected me so many times that I it became kind of like a running joke amongst my colleagues. I thought that I would never land a document review with them, but then they hired us– repeatedly.
You have to be willing to ask for what you want, offer something in return and be prepared to deliver. Recently, I connected with a lawyer who hired a few of our contractors on a tiny project. I nudged him until he finally agreed to have drinks with me. Over beers, I learned his dad was a powerful litigator at a firm with whom I was dying to work. He learned that I had relationships with GCs in a few corporations with whom he was seeking business. In return for recommending my firm to his father, I helped him arrange lunch meetings with a few of my GC contacts. As a result, his dad’s firm hired 20 of our contract attorneys within 3 weeks. Some people wouldn’t have asked the lawyer for the introduction. Some people would gripe I had a lot of nerve for even asking. This lawyer could have said no and I may have felt snubbed and embarrassed. But he said yes and if I didn’t ask, I would never have known.
I recently made a fool of myself in an elevator on the way to deliver cupcakes to some contract attorneys we have working at a law firm client. I overheard a lawyer talking to someone about Wilco, a band I love, and I chimed in. I even boasted my knowledge of their former band, Uncle Tupelo – trying to wow him. I inquired briefly and learned he was a lawyer at another corporation in the building. Admittedly, he looked at me like I was from a different planet. I could live with that. At worst, I ruined his elevator ride and humiliated myself. At best, I could have connected with someone interested in using our contractors. It was a no lose situation. I located him on LinkedIn and sent him a message – maybe his corporation needed contractors too. If he didn’t think I was too rude for interrupting him in the elevator or thought I had some moxie, he may just hire us. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
New business opportunities usually don’t just happen to you. They involve experimentation and a willingness to put yourself in a vulnerable situation and accept the outcome. So go ahead – make a fool of yourself. I dare you.