Why Talk to Bar Associations?

By: Sharon Berman,

Published: The Leadership Exchange, Greater Los Angeles Chapter – Association of Legal Administrators

How often have you heard a lawyer say that giving talks to other lawyers is a waste of time because he or she is just educating the competition? On the surface this argument may make sense. But look deeper and you will find several good reasons why you should encourage your attorneys to speak to groups of colleagues…and, how you can help them make the most of it.

One good reason is that, depending on the firm and its practice area, many lawyers get referrals from colleagues who are conflicted out or do not specialize in the same area. Unless your attorneys systematically track where your prospective business originates, you may not be aware of how many referrals are coming from other firms. Even if your attorneys are receiving only a few referrals now, just think how many more they could get if they strategically marketed to an audience of colleagues. And what better way to market to other attorneys than being in front of them as a speaker?

Speaking to colleagues has the added benefit of reinforcing one’s credibility. While most lawyers would argue that it makes more sense to speak to Bar sections outside their own practice area, a strong case can be made for a real estate attorney to speak to the Real Property section, for example. Doing so reinforces his or her positions as an expert because the audience assumes that an invited speaker must really know his or her subject well.

Some professionals are afraid that they will be “giving it all away,” but this is simply not the case. It’s a matter of achieving the right balance to educate others without explaining every detail one has learned through hard work and experience. Besides, although many attorneys attend Bar lectures both to learn and to obtain MCLEs, many go back to their offices and don’t do anything differently than before the presentation.

Another positive outcome of speaking engagements is that they generate more of the same. When an attorney is presenting, it increases the potential that a member of the audience will invite him or her to speak to another section, to the state or national Bar or to another organization. One good thing leads to another once your attorney gets the ball rolling through the first speaking engagement.

Whether your attorney is speaking to a group of CEOs or the real property section of the Bar, you can make the most of the lecture by extending its “shelf life,” both before and after the talk. For example, prior to the talk, announce it on the firm website, ideally even on the home page as the date draws closer. What trends or hot topics related to the talk are there that may be of interest to your clients and referral sources. Consider integrating these into email alert or hard copy communication to clients incorporating some of the points the attorney will be addressing. Add a P.S. mentioning that your attorney will be giving a talk on the subject and invite clients to contact the speaker for a handout or to discuss additional details. If appropriate, you can even post the complete material for the presentation on your website.

A great way to announce a talk is through a press release on your website. Capture one of the more intriguing elements of the lecture in the headline and then list your attorney as the speaker in the subhead. You can also distribute the press release to the media to position your lawyer as an expert. Press releases, articles and presentation materials on your site demonstrate leadership and energy.

Follow-up is also essential to extending the shelf life of a talk. Work with the attorney on appropriate measures, such as a letter or additional information provided to members of the audience. Be sure to obtain the contact information for those in attendance so you can selectively enter them in your database.

Another great way to make the most of a lecture is to turn it into an article. Since your attorney has already done all the work to create the presentation, why not find a home for an article on the subject in a targeted publication or at least on your website. Present the idea to an editor, get a commitment and then work with the attorney to prepare and submit the article. If he or she does not have time to write it up, you can always hire a ghostwriter.

A final benefit of giving a talk, whether to colleagues or other groups, is that a teacher always learns from the students. Whether it’s preparing for a presentation or responding to questions from the audience, every lecture sparks new ideas for another presentation, an article or even a new practice area. Of course your lawyers should not limit their speaking to groups of colleagues, but encourage them not to dismiss the opportunity out of hand. It’s an effective way to become a better rainmaker.

Sharon Berman is principal of Berbay Marketing & PR, a marketing consulting firm specializing in working with professional services firms. She can be reached at berman@berbay.com.
The firm’s website is www.berbay.com.

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