In preparation for this article, I did a Google search for “lawyers getting involved in community.” The first result was some article about pro bono. Let’s be honest: in 2012, why would a lawyer trying to build a practice spend time doing free legal work for the needy instead of trying to figure out whether Pinterest can be monetized to bring in clients?
Being a lawyer who is involved in the community, I used to be frequently asked, “Hey, I want to get involved in the community, can you tell me how?” I don’t get asked that much anymore. “Community” is considered “the Twitter community,” or “the blawgosphere.” While the tech hacks haven’t yet declared community involvement “dead,” the fact that the result of becoming involved in the community is often organically-developed, real relationships with other like-minded people that may lead to business, is unattractive to those that have bought in to the notion that a collection of followers and friends online is a quicker path to lots of phone calls.
So if there are any lawyers left out there that are still contemplating community involvement, I offer the following….
Community involvement will get you business, but stop asking if it will get you business.
This is the question of the “I only do things that make me money” lawyers, the people who ask, “Does that get you cases?” or “Why do you do all these things in the community, you running for judge or something?” If you are involved enough, for long enough, someone is going to refer you business. I can’t tell you how many “hits” you will get, or set up a separate phone number to track the calls, but trust me, this is the way we lawyers way back in the ’90s used to build our practices — we get to know people and develop real relationships. If your goal is to get business, you will be very unhappy, as it will take a while (like more than a few keystrokes).
Involvement in a Bar association is not community involvement.
I know, it’s the young lawyers organization or your niche bar association. Sure, join them, get involved, but the “community” is not a group of lawyers. Consider a charity, hospital, rotary, Kiwanis, chamber of commerce. Yes, this type of involvement will cost you money — some even have minimum financial commitments. Just lay off the Starbucks, dump the SEO kid, and postpone buying your third iPad. You’ll be okay.
I know the thought of meeting non-lawyers that own businesses or work in industries other than law may be a foreign concept to you, but I assure you that if you put your mind to it, you can have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around whether moving to the “cloud” is necessary, or whether you made the right decision to leave Biglaw.
Involvement is not a happy hour.
I know, you don’t have time to get involved, you have kids. How unique.
Cut the crap, you have time. Stop using your kids or self-importance to avoid getting involved. You have time for one committee meeting a month (or so), and if you insist your time is just so precious and limited, take on a specific project that allows you to schedule meetings or conference calls around your schedule. If your idea of getting involved is showing up for a drink, get involved in a bar.
Find your passion.
Yeah, I know, it’s a cliché, but I find the reason people refrain from community involvement is because they don’t really give a crap about anything. No disease has touched them or their family, children’s issues (other than their own) are not interesting, and of course, they don’t see immediate cash filling their coffers.
If you’re one of these folks, my advice is to look for something off the beaten path. Stay away from the major charities and service organizations and look for something new, small, and under the radar that focuses on a need not served by other organizations. You’ll have a better opportunity to make an impact.
Sorry to interrupt your online marketing efforts. You may now go back to entering good keywords on your website and increasing your Google AdWords budget. I’m headed to a gala that I co-sponsored for a local charity that helps foster children.
Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at email@example.com.