I recently heard a very inspiring story about how a client referral came from a conversation that a lawyer had with the cleaning service employee who was assigned to his floor. They had grown somewhat friendly over the course of a year through casual conversations, and it turned out that the janitor’s brother had growing (and very successful) business for which he needed legal representation and he did not know where to look for legal counsel.
The janitor knew that the firm for which he cleaned was a good law firm from his basic Google research and that the people who worked there had steady work (many employees were still there after 6pm when he started his shift) and were nice, especially the lawyer I mentioned above who he would consider his closest contact there, but as far as law firms went, he didn’t know much more other than he liked that lawyer enough to introduce him to his brother.
After having an introductory phone conversation with the brother to learn more about his legal needs (and conducting a good amount of online research into the business and the brother), the lawyer was able to determine that this was something worth pursuing and suggested they have a casual in-person meeting to further discuss things. There were no pitchbooks or lawyer bios handed out, and no suits worn. This was a casual meeting because that reflected the prospective client’s style, which the lawyer was able to glean from his due diligence process. It is tantamount to always make the prospect feel comfortable around you. It is also important to do your homework about them and come prepared to the meeting with talking points about how you can solve their legal issues and be an advisor to them. Going the extra mile at the outset can often help sway them to want to work with you.
The end result was far more than the lawyer could have imagined – the new client needed not only corporate advice, but labor and employment, trusts and estates and real estate counsel. It is likely that the relationship will be expanded down the road to include litigation work as well – and who knows what else may result from this, perhaps additional matters or referrals. Of course not every situation will result in a new matter, but it every now and then it very well may happen if you just take the time to get to know people – all kinds of people.
My point with this story is to remind everyone that every single person you ever meet is someone who is in or will potentially be in a position to be a client or a referral. The person sitting next to you on the train or on the buffet line at a family function or who is cleaning your office could be a potential source of business. Someone else I know acquired a new client by striking up a casual conversation sitting in the bleachers at his son’s Little League game.
So never turn your nose down at anyone. Vow to be less dismissive of others. Never think that it is not worth your time getting to know someone even when to the eye may seem unconventional (like the janitor in this case). You never know to whom they are related or who they know. And always be able to explain what you do in laypeople’s terms (no elevator pitches!) and remember to be genuinely interested in others (meaning listen intently, put your phone away and ask questions versus only talking about yourself).
Also, most of all, be friendly and kind to everyone regardless of how busy you are. Treat each person with whom you come into contact as if they could be a future client/referral. Because you just never know.