How to impress your future referral sources: your present colleagues

Building and maintaining good relationships with other partners and associates is a topic that nearly all attorneys struggle with one way or another. Some of our colleagues at the Bar misunderstand this important task and think it means they should spend more time at that other kind of bar—going out for drinks with colleagues. While this may be important, developing a social relationship with your colleagues is not the same as developing a business relationship.

What’s the difference? Social relationships at work are meant to make the time you spend in the office less miserable.  Watercooler conversations, sharing pictures of the kids, team adoration or loathing chats, they all offer a different set of rewards, however, it would be a mistake to believe that these are the strong, knowledge-based relationships you need with your colleagues. Current work relationships, which lead to on-going and future referral sources are built around work-related, knowledge-rich interactions where you can consistently demonstrate added value.

But…even if most of your communication with fellow partners or associates needs to be about work-related topics, as you know, it can’t be everything. Difficult challenge…if the bulk of your interactions is nothing but work, how will you be able to develop the kind of relationship that extends beyond a mere transaction? Remember, there are many competent attorneys out there…those that get and keep work are the ones who people either like or respect. So, certain social interactions may provide access to a deeper relationship with work colleagues that can come in handy when you need them most.

Many of our firms are doing a decent job in this department. They provide us with cocktail hours, office outings, social events for us as well as significant others and family, but what are you doing? What are you doing for your colleagues, your juniors, your associates?

I know of one young attorney who has a monthly pie tasting at his firm. Pie? I know. It is, well, very him…Anyway, he spoke with the owner of a local bakery he frequents, and negotiated a deal with her to get pies delivered at a cheap price. Word got out and other high-end bakeries wanted to display their goodies and some eventually approached him to offer free tastings for his group, after all they see a tremendous potential client base in affluent young attorneys who may appreciate some of the finer things in life! As you can imagine this monthly event has become quite popular, has grown amongst the firm, and it has been named after it’s founder. Privately, he has shared with me that this is one of the best things he has done at the firm. He has added gluten-free and sugar free to the mix, as partners and associates share their personal dietary preferences. Do you think that this was appreciated at the next party when a partner comes by and thanks him for having a gluten-free selection? He realized that the right type of fun for his group had tremendous impact. It has built new bonds between the other attorneys in his practice area, and has also allowed him to meet and speak with other associates from other practice areas in a way he would not have been able to do in the past.

One important caveat before you try your own version of something like this at your firm…my friend already had a reputation for good, consistent, reliable work. He is known as that excellent young transactional attorney who also does the monthly dessert tasting.


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