This is an edited transcript of the interview I conducted back on June 1st 2020. If you haven’t heard of Walker Lawrence, you’re going to love this interview. In addition to being an outstanding lawyer, he is one of the most successful networkers in the Chicagoland area.
In case you missed his podcast or that’s not your thing, here are a few of the highlights from our conversation about successful legal networking. Enjoy!
Steve: When did you realize building a book of business was important?
Walker: Approximately three and a half years ago, I was at a firm and realized that if I wanted to have control of both my destiny from an employment perspective, but also kind of doing the work I wanted to do with the clients I wanted, I had to take ownership of that.
Right now I have clients and friends that are lawyers that they’re getting furloughed. The number one reason for that is they don’t have the relationships. If you don’t have the relationships, you’re not bringing the business right now, which means you’re a cost rather than a gain for a law firm.
Steve: How did you go about building your book?
Walker: I started by meeting every good person that I could, finding ways that I could immediately bring value to them, find the synergies between the people that I was meeting, make them connected. It lead to more and more opportunities where people start valuing the connections you’re making so that when they have a problem and they need to find someone to solve that you become their number one guy to call.
You need relationships with clients and you need to bring value. Find ways to be that key man that your clients are calling and reaching out to whenever they have a problem. From there, you funnel relationships, whether it’s other lawyers or other professionals. You want to be that that cog that then distributes additional work and opportunity to all your key relationships and synergy partners around you.
By doing this, you’re having conversations that lead to opportunities for you personally, but more importantly, it gives opportunities to everyone else around me and suddenly become a center of influence that drives more and more referrals, contacts that ultimately, grow my book and my business and my relationships.
Steve: Do you look for quality or quantity in networking relationships?
Walker: The key thing is that you’ve got to find the right point where it switches between quantity and quality because at some point you’ve got to just meet everyone and then it’s got to switch to quality. You’ve got to find that balance. But to really drive your book and drive your client relationships, quality is where you’re going to get the biggest value.
I started with quantity, but over the last 18 months my relationship building is really focused on that specific issue. When I’m meeting with new people, they have to meet a higher threshold. I first do a five to 10-minute introductory phone call with anyone with whom I’m introduced to flesh out if it’s going to be a valuable connection. Another thing I do is after every first meeting is to give a little homework assignment, which is to give me an introductory paragraph. People who are hungry and are looking to develop relationships are very quick to respond that that. I won’t make any introductions until they get me that. If someone doesn’t follow through with that in a timely fashion, I make very quick note of that.
Also, if I’m going to be introduced to someone, I ask that they pass it by me first so I can do an analysis of whether or not I think it’s going to be a good fit. I make sure that the people that are making introductions to me know exactly who I want to know and why. Its been a critical component in clarifying my relationships.
Steve: What is something that you have to do to be successful?
Walker: The first big point is to differentiate yourself from other lawyers, which you can do through touchpoints. Engagement and interaction with your clients or relationships not via email because everyone is being bombarded with digital marketing right now. Find the people you want to talk to and set a goal. For example, I’m at fifteen touch points a week and I’m making sure I hit that and try to overachieve every week.
The second big point is that when you’re calling and talking to people right now, it’s not about getting legal work but being a colleague and friend. Making people understand you are there for them. Caring for others and empathy is going to be the driver of all business. If people understand you have their best interest at heart and you are looking out for them, your going to have opportunities down the line. For lawyers that’s a critical component.
The third point is that I’m giving a lot of guidance and advice on issues that clients haven’t solicited. I’m finding reasons to call my clients. If I know a client has a unique issue, make sure to touch base and say, “Hey, heads up, have you thought about this?” Essentially, finding touch points and bringing immediate value. I’m not charging the client for helping with simple problems they’re worried about.
Steve: Is there one thing that a young lawyer must know coming out of law school or that you wish they had taught you in law school?
Walker: The biggest thing is that relationships are the driver of your business. Doing good work is important and used to be the most successful way to grow a practice, and that’s no longer the case. You need to be the key guy on a particular issue, not because you’re the best lawyer in the world, but because they like you. They know you’re there to help them. So being a great lawyer is very important but being a better person can often lead to better opportunities down the line.