Lawyers in all areas of practice need to get out and become known. Whether you are a solo or small firm lawyer, it is unrealistic to hide in your office and expect to toil away on billable work. Rather than paying for advertising, you should take advantage of the abundance of leadership opportunities available in your community. By volunteering your time in organizations with leadership positions, you increase your visibility and also gain valuable skills that will help your practice grow.
Most leadership opportunities are going to be volunteer; that does not mean they are a waste of time. You give your time away, but you learn skills you will never learn in a class and gain recognition that could not come from a paid advertisement.
There is always a need for lawyers to stand up and volunteer their time in the community. This translates into countless opportunities for the willing lawyer. You can be a valuable asset to an organization even if you don’t have a ton of practice experience. New graduates and experienced attorneys each bring valuable perspectives to volunteer leadership positions.
An easy way to volunteer is with your local and state bar associations, which are often seeking members for committees. Associations often have sections for substantive practice areas, and they may also have sections for other aspects of practice such as law practice management, technology in law, or solo practice. Associations and sections are governed by committees, and those roles have to be filled. You may soon find yourself the chair of a sub-committee in an association section that focuses on your specialty.
Non-profit groups also need volunteer board members. Look around your city or town for organizations looking to fill board vacancies. Find an organization with work that fuels your passion and see if it could use a lawyer on its board.
How to Get Involved
Volunteering is far easier and less intimidating than you may think.
To get involved, just contact the association, section, or non-profit that interests you and find out how to volunteer. Even if it is not time to be appointed to a formal position, you can show your interest by volunteering. Helping set up an event or lending your talents for other tasks can help you get a formal position later.
Developing Yourself to Develop Your Business
You give away your time to serve in these leadership roles, but you gain experience that is incredibly valuable. The roles you take on are otherwise lacking in your practice.
In a big firm, it can be difficult to get out in front of people and practice speaking in public. A role on a section committee will force you to speak in front of the rest of the group and can lead to giving CLE presentations to larger audiences.
As a solo, you may have no one to manage; on a board or committee, you will find yourself organizing the efforts of others, scheduling meetings, follow-ups, and managing projects for the group. They may be small at first, but eventually you can move up into more robust management roles.
The biggest benefit from a business development standpoint is that you will acquire and hone skills that will make you a more marketable commodity. Perhaps no one will hire you because you were the chair of the education subcommittee of your local bar association, but they will hire you because you speak with confidence. You may not meet your next client at a fundraiser or bar committee mixer, but you are likely to meet a referral source there — especially if you were on the committee that put on the mixer.
If you are missing a sense of personal satisfaction in your practice, volunteer leadership positions are one way to fill that void. In a different way than pro bono work, you give back to the legal community through education (organizing and teaching seminars), outreach (bringing legal services or knowledge to underserved communities) and networking (bringing people together for events). If you are a solo lawyer and your volunteer work brings you in touch with other solos, you can also help get those lawyers out from behind their lonely desks.
Featured image: “Businessman Brainstorming About Leadership” from Shutterstock.