Small Law Firms

The Practice: Get a Hobby

From your only source of knowledge anymore Wikipedia:

“A hobby is a regularly undertaken activity that is done for pleasure, typically, during one’s leisure time. Hobbies can include the collection of themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, tinkering, playing sports, along with many more examples. By continually participating in a particular hobby, one can acquire substantial skill and knowledge in that area.”

Although unintentional, a hobby is one of the best marketing tools around.

Oh, now I have your attention?

Does anyone have hobbies anymore, or are we too busy complaining or figuring out our “marketing strategy?” I’m not talking about hookers and blow, I’m talking about those things people used to do before we decided that all our free time was best spent in front of a computer or smart phone.

Anyone play golf, bike, coach youth sports, collect ceramic elephants, or rare books? Or is being a lawyer the sum total of your life? My dear, close, personal friend and contract lawyer Lisa Solomon is a mushroomer. Avvo.com GC Joshua King is a cyclist. I know some of you have hobbies that you probably can only disclose anonymously, and all I can say is: get help, soon.

As lawyers, we often make the mistake of thinking we are fascinating people because, well, we’re lawyers. There’s no time for hobbies, we’re too busy going from lawyer networking event to lawyer networking event talking about how awesome our awesomeness is, or how miserable is our misery. We believe business development is limited to doing all the typical stuff — advertising, “events,” and following all the other lawyers around town to wherever they are going that day, handing out cards and saying “call me if….” Hobbies don’t make us money.

But in this age where everyone is trying to out-do each other on the world wide web like little dogs trying to jump a fence, we are too busy trying to differentiate ourselves by, of course, doing the same thing everyone else is doing. Lawyers are hoping, and being sold on the lie, that if their name appears more on a computer screen than the other lawyer’s, their practices will be more profitable. Although there is this struggle to separate yourself from the rest, and stand out in the sea of potential clients, you continue to just fall in line with the same crap everyone else does.

Is there nothing else you’re interested in other than what you do for a living and selling it on the same platforms as everyone else?

About 10 years ago someone gave me a really good glass of wine. I then began to travel around town to various tastings, learning about wines, and getting to know the people who collect, buy, sell, and spend much of their free time enjoying the types of events and gatherings that involve wine. I studied wine, became proficient, and now spend a nice amount of time educating people about wine and helping them select and enjoy it as well. I talk to them about traveling to wineries and answer those “it’s my anniversary, got a recommendation” texts on a lone Friday night. Recently I was asked to speak to one of these once-a-month-for-dinner business groups. I assumed they wanted me to talk about something law related, “no, we want you to talk about wine.” Do all these people know what I do for a living? Yes.

So man, it must be killing my business that I’m asked about wine about as much as I’m asked about legal issues.

Yeah, maybe I’ll increase my SEO instead.

Like any other “hobby,” wine is a great equalizer. It is enjoyed by doctors, CEOs, celebrities, small business owners, and yes, even a lawyer or two. It would take much too long to talk about the people I’ve met, the relationships I’ve developed, the things I’ve been able to do for others, donations I’ve made around town, all based on a hobby. My intention in getting in to wine, was to get in to wine, to learn about something other than law. The unintended consequence has been to increase my network of referrals ten-fold.
Hobbies make it easier to meet people you would not otherwise meet, or want to meet. When I’m trying to make a connection for someone, saying “she’s a lawyer too” doesn’t sound as interesting as “you are both avid runners.”

When it comes to typical networking or advertising, the same question is asked by those who couldn’t contemplate doing anything that doesn’t directly bring them business — they robotically ask: “does it bring in business?” People never ask me whether my involvement in the wine world brings me business. But I’ll answer that question: yes — tons. Do we all stand around and talk business? Hardly.

While the traveling crowd knows what everyone does, the topic of discussion is almost never about business. The only thing that is happening is real talk about what’s in the glass, or the great new restaurant in town, someone’s recent trip, or what their kid is doing. When we introduce someone to someone new, we’ll mention what they do for a living, but no one really wants to engage in a conversation about “getting business.” Maybe a card is exchanged, maybe a call comes in in a few days, weeks, or months.

Recently I was harshly criticized, I was called “not helpful.” That hurts, and it gave me a sad face because I want to be helpful. If you’re sitting around wondering why doing the same thing everyone else is doing is not working for you, get a hobby. Develop relationships that are guaranteed to turn in to business based on the non-lawyer connection you have to the people involved.

People may actually start to think you’re as special and interesting as you think you are.

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