Scott Limmer

20 minutes

When networking or meeting someone new, Be Prepared!

– Practice what you want to say during the initial call

– Learn about and prepare questions when meeting someone new

– every aspect of your contact with another person is part of your “Brand”

Episode Transcript

INTRO:                      Welcome to Reboot Your Law Practice, two lawyers, a podcast, and a plan to help any solo or small firm, hosted by Scott Limmer and Oscar Michelen.

OSCAR:                      Hey everyone, this is Oscar, and welcome back to Reboot Your Law Practice.

SCOTT:                      Hi everyone, this is Scott. So the last few podcasts, we’ve discussed networking. We’ve talked about how to get your personal self prepared to network and how to get your online persona prepared to network. The last episode, we talked about the importance of networking and what it’s all about. We’re going to give you some concrete steps to take at the beginning of the networking relationship.

OSCAR:                      Right and remember that that’s what networking is. It’s building relationships. Just like trial practice, I always tell my law students there are five P’s of trial practice – prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare, and prepare. The secret to building your law practice is to always be ready and prepared. Don’t do anything a half–cocked. Don’t do anything off the cuff. Think about what you’re doing. Think about what you want to achieve. So we’ve talked about preparing yourself, the online presence. Here, I want to start talking about these exact initial contacts and these exact initial phone calls that you have to make. These are hard conversations to have especially if you have never had to do them before and it takes a certain amount of readiness to make sure you come across and do it the right way.

SCOTT:                      Because you don’t get a second chance. You only get a first chance.

OSCAR:                      Right. I got to tell you, something that I picked up and I was talking to Scott about this before we started, I think I heard it from a Mary Tyler Moore episode, believe it or not.

SCOTT:                      She TV does, you know, it does a body good.

OSCAR:                      Or Bob Newhart who said that whenever he has to make a phone call and deliver bad news, he writes it down an index card. He just reads the index card so then you’re not saying it. You know what, I actually took that to heart and it’s something that I have done in my practice for the last 20 something years, whatever, even when I have to give news of some kind to a client, I want to meet someone, or I want to start the process of trying to develop a relationship. I think about what I want to say to that person, how I want to say it, and I write it down. I put it in my computer screen. I read it to myself a couple of times out loud, make sure it sounds natural and like what I want to say. And then when I call, I just read the screen and it gives me confidence that I’m going to say the words I want to say in the right way with the right message, and then once it started, we can get into the general conversation.

So you want to really think about how you’re going to introduce yourself, how are you going to describe why you’re making the phone call. What is the purpose of the call? Are you following up from a meeting you had with the person last week in a bar association? Did your buddy, Scott, gave you the number because you think they might be looking for that kind of business, whatever it might be. So that’s the first step of it is what’s the purpose of the call. Why are you taking up this person’s valuable time and you want to try to get to that really quickly because then you’ll know whether the person wants to hear that message and the person would know you’re not there to waste their time. You have a purpose for the call.

SCOTT:                      Now I’ll take the other angle. Before you call that person, you want to be as knowledgeable as you can be about that person. Don’t call and start peppering him with questions that you could find out off his LinkedIn profile. That’s wasting somebody’s time. Nobody is going to want to talk to you. You need to do a little due diligence. You need to find out about this person. Check out his LinkedIn profile. See if he has a blog. See if he has ever been written up in the media. Find out a little bit about him.

OSCAR:                      Right. No one likes anything more than hearing something back about themselves. They know you have a LinkedIn profile.

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      They know that you’ve been looking. They know that you think you can Google, you can internet search people. Then it comes down to how do you prepare yourself for these meetings that you’re going to have at these general networking meetings. What do you do, Scott, to get yourself ready for them?

SCOTT:                      Well, it’s all how you want people to perceive you. It’s as simple as that. We’ve used the word “brand” again. I always say it. People hate that word but you’re your brand. When people think about you, they think of you a certain way. There are guys in my network group that I think of and I think about them in a certain way and everything I know about them informs the ideas that I have in my head – how they dress, how they talk, what they say, everything.

OSCAR:                      Let me ask you a question. I will stop you there. Is there anyone there that you think is not sending the right message and you talk to them about it or…?

SCOTT:                      There have been guys at the meeting who I haven’t done it personally but some of the higher muckety-mucks have taken aside and said, “Hey listen, this is your profession. You should dress as your profession.” I’m an attorney. I’m not going to come to the meetings in jeans and a T-shirt. It’s not the persona that I want to project to people. I’m an attorney. I wear a suit. I wear I tie. I wear mostly shined shoes. That’s how I try to present myself. That’s how I want people to think of me.

OSCAR:                      Right. Now, if you’re in a rural county that might not be the picture that you want to present.

SCOTT:                      Sure.

OSCAR:                      So that’s going to be up to you.

SCOTT:                      If you’re in Hawaii, no one in Hawaii wears tie. They all wear those nice shirts.

OSCAR:                      Right, exactly. I’d much rather network in Hawaii than in Iowa.

SCOTT:                      Are you announcing something that we have a networking event in Hawaii at some point?

OSCAR:                      That could be good.

SCOTT:                      You’re going to cover my…

OSCAR:                      No, but the point definitely is think about that, think about the perception that you want to present and the message that you want to send. Think about that, even in the business card that you hand out is legible and informative, easy to find your name, number, your address. Does it look professional? All of that is going to end up mattering. I spend a lot of time, believe it or not, checking the stock on the paper and choosing it to give the feel of the message that I really wanted to send. It’s actually really important.

SCOTT:                      Right and you know, the pessimist would say, “Well, why are you wasting your time? No one is going to hire you, Oscar, because you have nice cards or your card stock is thicker than others” but the realist says, “It’s all part of the package. It’s all part of everything you’re trying to put out there. You show that you are professional, you have something well done. It gives off a perception.”

OSCAR:                      And even that, I want to tell you, I learned something when we had a meeting recently with an Asian trade counsel with a client. I looked online before I went to that meeting. I wanted to research what their business meetings were like. I had no idea how somebody in Hongkong develop a business meeting or Singapore, etc. I learned something very important there that when you meet people in that community, they give you their card and accept their card with two hands.

SCOTT:                      Right.

OSCAR:                      I saw that in four, five different sites. I presented my card with two hands and they accepted it with two hands even, by the way, the 100% non-Asian American executive who was part of the counsel that worked with the group, but more importantly, I learned something that I used in other networking groups and that is it is slightly insulting, believe it or not, I learned in this community to take someone’s business card and not read it.

SCOTT:                      That’s interesting.

OSCAR:                      They expect you to, at that very moment, read the card. I started doing that at other meetings that were not Asian. When someone hands me their card, I say, you know what, that is respectful actually.

SCOTT:                      That’s interesting.

OSCAR:                      And you know that I made them do? I made them read my card because what else are they going to do, while sitting there and staring the business card? They are going to read my business card. But the point of it is, is that I was then glad that my business card sent a message, professional, showed the offices, had a good look to it because I was prepared for those meetings. I thought about it and that’s the type of, I’m going to say thought process or preparation that you want to go into every time you enter one of those types of situations.

SCOTT:                      Without a doubt, you want to be as prepared as you possibly can be.

OSCAR:                      Right and then the other thing, the next step is how am I going to talk about myself when that opportunity arises?

SCOTT:                      Well, you need to, again, there is no more important word I think we’ve used throughout this podcast than “prepare”. You need to be ready to talk about yourself, talk about what you do. You need to actually more importantly though be prepared with questions. Your goal in any sort of networking meeting with someone is you want to find out about them. If they are a good networker, they are going to ask you questions. So you have to be prepared but you need to be prepared the same way. You need to have questions for someone. What do you do? What do you like about your business? Do you like your business? How long have you been doing it for? Anything that, you know, to get somebody talking about what they do.

OSCAR:                      Just do not ask them, “Do you need a special education lawyer?”

SCOTT:                      That’s right, exactly. “Hey, I was just wondering. Have you been arrested lately?”

OSCAR:                      Let it happen organically.

SCOTT:                      There will be nothing, nothing worse, nothing that will turn somebody off more than after three minutes, you look at them and say, “Well listen, if you happen to need a criminal attorney, I’m here. Here’s my card.”

OSCAR:                      “If you know somebody, this is what I do” whatever.

SCOTT:                      That’s not the goal of any of these types of meetings.

OSCAR:                      We are strongly, strongly, strongly pushing the soft cell here. It takes a while maybe, it takes a little bit longer, you’re going to get something better out of it in the long term but you have to think about ways that you can get that into the conversation naturally. Again, maybe it’s because talking about it from a business point of view as opposed to a lawyer point of view, but think about who you’re going to be meeting, who you’re going to be speaking with, who is going to be at that group? Is there going to be a natural segue into talking about your business practice or talking about yourself? You want to kind of develop that comfort and the way to make it seem that it’s just because it’s a part of you. You’re not looking for the work. You’re just talking about, “This is who I am. This is what I do.”

SCOTT:                      That’s exactly it. I’ve been a Criminal Defense attorney for 17 years. I’ve been practicing Special Ed law for the last couple of years. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. It’s what I talk about. It’s interesting stories about criminal cases and special education issues that come up that I deal with that are very pertinent to a lot of people’s lives. It’s what I enjoy talking about. It just comes natural.

OSCAR:                      Right, which is why it’s important in our earlier podcasts that we talked about try to find the passion of what drove you to practice law because then, that’s the conversation driver. If it’s going to be something that interests you, that you’ve read up on, that you’re going to be familiar with, it’s going to be natural for you to talk about it and to find the opportunities to bring it into the conversation naturally.

SCOTT:                      If you look at networking, if you look at relationship building, and you look at it like anything else you’ve ever done in our life, that you need to practice and you need to prepare, then you’ll be successful at it. If you have these stories in your head, if you’re ready to talk to people, if you know questions you want to ask people, if you’re dressed right, if you feel it, there’s just something to it. You put yourself out there and you get into conversations with people. Again, it’s not about getting work back. It’s about building relationships. We are not taught to build relationships in law school. Nobody taught me that I had to do this. I thought I’d be a good lawyer and that would be enough. I think we said that in the first podcast.

OSCAR:                      You got to do more.

SCOTT:                      You got to do more.

OSCAR:                      It’s funny, I’ve always said that trial practice is the closest I’ll ever get to professional sports. I would say it was only talent that held me back from being a pro ball player. I had the drive. I had the ambition. I just lacked the talent.

SCOTT:                      Well, that’s the problem.

OSCAR:                      Yeah, but it’s the same way because any athlete will tell you that the preparation is the most important part of the game. When the game is on, you’re prepared and you’re ready. It’s the same with trial practice. Once the prep is over and the actual trial starts, I’m comfortable, I know there’s nothing more that I can do. I’ve planned and I’m prepared. So it’s the same way when you start going at it and trying to develop business, if you’ve planned for it the whole step of the way, these five or six podcasts that we’ve actually built up talking about all of this, once you start doing it, it’s going to become easier and natural for you but only if you’ve put the right time, thought, and preparation into it.

So we’re going to be calling that first person, right? We’re going to find out what we can about that person. We’re going to think about what we want to say as our introductory ice breaker in that phone call and then we’re going to follow them up. Now it’s a business call and then we’re going to develop it into either, “When can we meet again or can I send you an email or whatever it is that you make sure you follow up on it. Don’t just pick up the phone, call, and say, “You know what, I met that guy who sounds like he might have business for me. Let me just call him and see what’s up.” Every step of the way is planning and preparation.

SCOTT:                      Again, do not think of your law firm as a practice. Think of it as a business. Speak to other business owners that you know and they will tell you that the rules and the instructions that we’re giving you are established business practices. This is what business people do. They make connections with each other based on relationships and they do business together. That is it.

OSCAR:                      So how do we do that as lawyers specifically for our areas of practice?

SCOTT:                      Now that’s the question.

OSCAR:                      So it’s really incumbent on you to think about the areas that you want to practice and what are the natural segues, if you will, to get into that discussion?

SCOTT:                      Who are you looking, you know, if we can get more specific, who do we want to call? Who are we looking to make connections with, to learn to be led somewhere else? Who are those people? That’s what you need to find out depending on what you do.

OSCAR:                      Right, every practice area may be different. If you are going to start driving a real estate practice, you might reach out to architects, title companies, surveyors. There’s a whole host of folks that are involved with closings that real estate brokers are kind of obvious but most of them have their lawyer connections and they are going to want listings, but you can always find accompanying professions and businesses that work along with your practice that are probably the first source for you to try to see if you can build into that area by distinguishing yourself in some way from hundreds of other lawyers who might be in that area, by the way, or by being at the same meeting and going to the same networking group, and then following up with a phone call, and of course thinking about that person saying, “Hey, you know what, next time I do get a closing, I’m going to call that title guy that I met at the Chamber of Commerce and give him the business.” That’s the start. Things of that nature will help when you start thinking about your practice and who else can kind of get business out of your practice area.

SCOTT:                      If you get discouraged and as Oscar is talking, “Yeah, there are a lot of guys out there doing what you want to do whether it’s real estate, whether it’s criminal, whether it’s family, or whatever it is, there’s a million guys that you want to do it with. We’ve established that. It’s not as easy to make a living as it was but there is a certain amount of business that is out there. There is no reason that you can’t go out and get a piece of that business. You meet who you need to meet. You network with who you have to network. You show your face. You ask someone for a chance. You say, “Hey, refer me one case. I’ll show you what a great job I can do.” Anything, it’s worth taking a shot.

OSCAR:                      Well because it’s the personal relationship and the value that you have given back is the reason why the business will come back to you and flow to you. Yeah, there are a 100 other lawyers but there is one that I always see at my church meetings or at my group. Theirs is another one that I always see at my chamber talking about this problem or that problem.

SCOTT:                      Right, who asks an interesting question, who have a nice conversation with every once in a while.

OSCAR:                      Right. That guy seems bright. That woman seems to be going through the same issues that I did. “I never really thought about law as a business practice but at that last meeting, James spoke very heart to heart. It sounds like me talking. That’s exactly what I went through.” “You know what, she mentioned that she does real estate. Let me give her a real estate case” because it’s the personal connection that builds the referral chain back and forth and that’s why you have to go out there and do that. When we talk about specifically preparing and we spoke a little bit about real estate, there are things like that in every area of law that you can think of ways to bring up what you do and what you did recently without it sounding like bragging or touting for yourself, just an anecdote or a personal connection, something that will kind of explain your practice to that person without you going out there and say, “This is what I do. I’ve been doing it for…” That’s not the way to do it. It has got to come in through the conversation.

We want to just wrap this up. We’ve done a couple of kind of 20-minute podcasts specifically on preparing for networking. We want to get some feedback from you guys and if you’re out there trying to get out there and develop a practice, you can certainly reach us by email. Mine is

SCOTT:                      And mine is The phone number is 516-900-4842. We’d like to thank everybody again who has called in so far and I ask that you keep the calls coming. Also please if you could, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please leave a review on iTunes. You can find us on iTunes and Stitcher but iTunes is really the only place where we’re looking for some reviews. So if you can give us some review love, we’d really appreciate it, everyone.

OSCAR:                      Finally before we cut off for next week and next time, what you’re going to be doing is thinking about things in your practice, yourself, your business life that you can use to promote and develop a conversation and a starting dialogue over your business practice. Thanks for listening everybody and we’ll see you next time on Reboot Your Law Practice.

SCOTT:                      See you next week everyone.

OUTRO:                     This has been Reboot Your Law Practice with Oscar Michelen and Scott Limmer.

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