In today’s marketing world, nearly 95% of lawyers are getting business from referrals. This means, if you hope to maintain a successful legal career, you will need to nurture a strong referral network. The trouble is, marketing for women lawyers is different than it is for their male counterparts. Many women lawyers just are not comfortable asking male lawyers to engage in the types of networking opportunities they would be interested in.
But the truth is that to be successful in this industry, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. Referrals can come from anyone. You might have professional colleagues, know other lawyers, and get other referral sources from almost anywhere. Almost any opportunity can be a networking opportunity if you are thoughtful.
Collaborating with other women lawyers to build and/or maintain a strong referral network can help nurture your career and that of your colleagues. You can build each other up by working together to support each other’s career aspirations.
Benefits of Collaborating with Women Lawyers
You know that collaborating with other women lawyers can help nurture your career, but you may not be clear on how. There are benefits to collaborating with women lawyers whether you are an experienced attorney or just starting in your career.
New women lawyers know that they need to find experienced, seasoned lawyers to learn from. As a woman, your networking and mentorship opportunities may be different than the majority of your male colleagues. By collaborating with women lawyers who have years of experience, you have the opportunity to learn and gain valuable insight from other women who have already had to shatter glass ceilings.
Experienced women lawyers then have the opportunity to lead by example and teach the next generation of powerful women lawyers. Some of the other benefits that all women lawyers can experience by collaborating with other women lawyers include:
Developing advanced skills needed to succeed in a competitive legal market
Promote long term loyalty
Make “safe” mistakes
Improve job satisfaction and retention
Learn how to handle crises
Improve client relation skills
Build a strong referral network
Increase networking opportunities
Gone are the days when women had to work against each other to be successful. Today’s women lawyers work together to build each other up so they can each nurture their careers.
How to Create a Strong Referral Network
There are many different referral networks out there that already exist. But for women, finding one that resonates with your career goals may be a challenge. You might find that creating your own referral network is the right path for you.
You can start by searching for like-minded women lawyers. Women who share your same lifestyle or interests and women who have relationships with the type of clients you want to work with are the ones you should be trying to form relationships with. The most important element of any strong referral network are these connections.
You have to keep in mind that your referral sources and referrals are people (and women) just like you. There are ways to connect with your network that limit business talk and provoke real-life opportunities to build connections. But it will take time and effort to establish these relationships.
When you are just starting, there are many different ways you can start building your referral network. The possibilities truly are endless depending on how creative you are. But some of the more common strategies and tips to nurture your referral network from the beginning include:
Give a referral to get a referral
Schedule a meet and greet
Ask clients or referral sources to lunch
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Don’t try to sell yourself; your purpose is to build connections
Get personal with people- remember they are people just like you with families and lives outside of work and their careers
Send handwritten notes
Remember that people like to feel appreciated or thought of
Attend local and state bar association events and section meetings
Get to know your peers
Join a trade association and become an active member by volunteering, sponsoring, writing, speaking, participating, and attending a meeting
Read publications valued by your referral sources and then write for those publishers
Add publications to your LinkedIn and your website
Share publications in a newsletter or social media post
Present at CLEs
Utilize LinkedIn to recognize achievements and engage outside of business hours
Once you are a part of or have established a referral network, you must remain relevant. Some of the different ways you can nurture your women’s referral network include:
Send holiday cards
Keep up on social media
Personal networking at bar associations and professional events
Utilize email marketing to share good news and announcements, speaking engagements, and law firm changes
Reinforce relationships with existing clients
Strategize: make a list of your top referrals and schedule out times to check in with them throughout the year
Engage with them by sending relevant articles their way
How to Be a Good Referral Partner
To nurture a successful referral network you also need to be a good referral partner. Talking about yourself, your accomplishments, and your needs is not going to help you build solid foundations. You need to be interested in your referral partners and be ready to support their ambitions and success as well. If you want to be a good referral partner, make sure that you:
Understand your referral sources needs
Be open and honest with your referral partners about your needs
Offer leads and referrals in advance where possible
Budget your resources
Campaign to educate and onboard new referral partners
Be ready to learn from your partners or provide teaching opportunities
The legal industry may be predominantly male, but women lawyers can stick together and boost each other’s careers to success by collaborating through strong referral networks. Do not wait. Start evaluating your networking and referral options today.
Meranda M. Vieyra is the owner of Denver Legal Marketing LLC. She is one of the most visible legal professionals in Colorado law with over 20 years of service in the Denver legal community. Her award-winning marketing firm has earned a strong reputation as the go-to for impactful, cost-effective legal marketing strategies. She has helped her clients secure coverage by well-known publications and has obtained local, national, and international awards on their behalf. Meranda enjoys working with solo practitioners and small law firms helping them attract recognition, promotion, and visibility to their practices. She also advises medium-sized and national law firms on business development and marketing strategy. Meranda is a lecturer and author on issues related to marketing including how lawyers can use LinkedIn effectively, how to develop a personal brand, and the promotion of legal services through community service. In 2018, she was honored to be named to the 40 Under 40 list by the Denver Business Journal and to be given the 10 Under 10 Award by the Metropolitan State University of Denver Alumni Association (top 10 alum of the decade). In 2019, Meranda was named in the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business by the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce and in the Top 100 young professionals in Colorado through the Gen XYZ Awards published by ColoradoBiz Magazine.