How to make your association memberships pay off

By Tom Kane

The Daily Record Newswire

When it comes to association memberships for lawyers, the first thing you must do is join the right organizations, those where your clients, referral sources and prospective clients hang out, and be active in them.

It's that simple, right?

There is a caveat, however. Joining a business, trade, civic or charitable organization does nothing for generating business in and of itself. Some lawyers think that by listing 20 organizations they belong to in their bio, they will impress clients and that will lead to work. Forget about it!

So, how should you go about taking advantage of your memberships? Here are a couple of ways:

Choose which organizations to join carefully

The best associations to get involved in are those that will lead to more business. In most cases that does not mean charitable organizations, but obviously you can meet potentially great clients who are involved with those entities. My point is that there are good civic, religious and honorable reasons for being active in such groups, but for business reasons, stick with those where your clients and others like them are more likely to be found.

And don't join too many. It's better to join just a couple that you will be actively involved with and that are actually likely to lead to business.

Be active

Raise your profile within an association you join by:

1) Volunteering to help the organization in various ways to reach its goals.

Offer to serve on committees and subcommittees that other lawyers may not be interested in. Some roles are looked upon as grunt work by some attorneys and not worthy of a great legal mind's involvement. That's nonsense. If the organization is worthy of your participation and your desired clients', there are no unworthy efforts when it comes to assisting it in reaching its goals.

2) Running for a leadership position, if possible.

Of course, some trade groups only permit lawyers as affiliate or associate members. While leadership positions may not be available, the opportunity to head up projects or task groups may very well be. Again, the purpose is to be visible and raise your profile among the group's members.

3) Taking advantage of your membership by benefiting from the organization's networking meetings and conferences.

At such events, work the room effectively by not spending too much time talking with people you already know and see regularly. Remember the purpose is to meet as many potential clients or referral sources as you can. Don't spend too much time in conversation with the same person or group.

Apply the 20/20 Rule -- get there 20 minutes early and stay 20 minutes after the event ends. Remember the old saying: "the early bird gets the worms." By being early you can check out nametags for people you would like to speak with, and by being near the entrance, you will be able to meet and talk with key people as they arrive, when they are not yet engaged in other conversations. Rather than just leave after the event ends, see people off by speaking with them at the conclusion. That is another way to be remembered.

Do your homework beforehand in terms of people to seek out and speak with. If you can get a list of attendees in advance, that is ideal. Review the list and identify people you would like to engage. If that's not an option, do some in-depth research (if you haven't already as member) about the organization -- officers, board of advisors, mission, goals, news events, etc. Check out their website and annual report. The more you know about the association, the more intelligent you will appear at its networking events.

If you do it in the right way, your membership in the right organizations can pay off.

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Tom Kane, Esq. is the author of the Legal Marketing Blog (www.LegalMarketingBlog.com) and president of Kane Consulting, Inc. A former practicing attorney, he has more than 25 years experience assisting lawyers with their marketing and business development strategies and coaching needs.

Published: Thu, Dec 22, 2011

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