Building a Book -A few of you have asked for guidance on business development. GP believes that unless you are a fifth or sixth year associate, you should not be worrying about generating business. Focus on your work, focus on your realtionships with your colleagues, participate in firm events, especially training and CLE type events and try to get some unique experience under your belt.
I have been around long enough to know that some of you will ignore my advice, so for those of you still reading, here are a few thoughts. First, in my experience the best way of building business relationships in a firm is perhaps the most obvious - work with someone who already has a significant client relationship. Not just any client though, a client that you believe can lead to further (litigation, corporate, real estate) matters in your lifetime. This is not necessarily confined to Fortune 100 companies, many firms have emerging companies as clients and often times such clients can become a source of significant firm revenue. If you do not know who your office's or firm's largest clients are, you have work to do! Most firms provide their client lists to both attorneys and staff, study it and target clients of interest to you and target the partners doing work for those clients. (Networking with colleagues at other firms or speaking and writing engagements can lead to new opportunities too, but in my experience the returns on such investments are low. You are at a firm with an active client base, build from that base). Second, once you have identified such a client, try to find the right moment to spend some personal time (coffee during a deposition break, lunch after a real estate or corporate closing) with a client contact - not necessarily the CEO or GC, but someone like you who is likely to be promoted to a position of responsibility. (As HP would say, no stalking!) It may take time and the right instincts to find the right moment to schedule such an event, just be patient. Relationships take years to develop. Recognize that you have a tremendous opportunity every time you interact with a client representative or when your work product gets in front of a client representative.Third, for those of you who do not have a partner or mentor providing interactive opportunities to clients, I again suggest patience. However, if it becomes clear to you that you will not be provided opportunities to interact with clients you either have identified the wrong client or you need to work for a different mentor and partner. If that is the case, get out of the relationship while you can, use whatever available firm resources (e.g. Associate Relations Partner) to get work from a partner who you can grow with. (And before you make that request, do some homework - find out who has the client relationships you can help build, determine whether that partner's existing team of helpers has room for you and determine whether working for that partner will be tolerable!) Don't be intimidated by the economy and associate lay offs - time spent with a partner who doesn't provide you opportunties to meet clients (and impress clients), is wasted time!
Finally, and I risk the wrath of the anonymous posters who will make fun of me for this piece of advice, none of the above pieces of advice will replace quality work and work completed on time. Clients, and partners of course, above all want excellent work and want results. Make sure your name is equated with quality and excellence. If you can make that happen, I promise you will have the client's attention and you will be on your way - again, assuming you have identified the right client and have taken advantage of the right opportunties to interact with that client - to building a valuable client relationship.Okay, posters, I await your comments and questions! Fire away.
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