If you haven't heard of Meetups you are missing out on a valuable opportunity to not just grow your practice, but enhance your life on many levels.
Let's face it. No one really likes networking events. And more often than not, you are dressed uncomfortably, taking valuable time away from your family or more pleasurable activities. You feel like you have to meet specific goals like 'start up three conversations', 'hand out 10 business cards'. It's artificial, awkward and highly competitive because these networking events are usually a group of people like yourself, lawyers networking with other lawyers or several lawyers circling a handful of unsuspecting
prey potential clients. This is not bad if your purpose is to meet other lawyers, get to know them, create referral relationships or develop possible mentor relationships. It may even be great if your goal is to meet one or two particular people you know are going to be there. But this just isn't really fun, is it?
Let me introduce you to the world of Meetups. I've only just started attending them myself and if I was still practicing, I'd be all over them like white on rice because they are a hidden treasure trove of clients and it’s fun! It allows the busy solo the ability to combine a fun or personally necessary activity with potential client connection. And you're not always dressed in a power suit. You could be hiking or learning to scuba dive, seeking support from others in a similar personal situation or trying to cross a 'must do' off your bucket list. And therein lies the magic. You are doing something you love or are interested in discovering, doing it with others who share your interest and passion and it creates a natural connection. Natural connections are a gold mine for new business. This is the entree into getting clients in a less stilted, conventional, and (often) aggressive way. You're also benefiting on a personal level.
I went to my first Meetup back in January. The ‘Meetup’ was sponsored by ‘StartupGrind’ which is powered by Google Entrepreneurs. It featured Kyle Jensen, Director of Entrepreneurial Programs and Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Yale. (Yes, this started out somewhat related to business but it still was personal time and this was my goal...real personal time!). While I was learning about other people's journeys in entrepreneurship, I was also assessing the composition of the group. Here were at least thirty entrepreneurs in various stages of startup including protection of IP and funding. No one really knew each other. There was no restriction on who could attend. It cost $10 because they supplied pizza and drinks. Attendees were there to learn all the many aspects of founding a business, the emotional and the financial.
There was not one startup lawyer present. Not one.
There was, however, a very smart advisor from Morgan Stanley just hanging out, name tag and company clearly plastered on his chest, and answering questions about startup costs and funding. $10 and no special invitation required. Again, where was the startup lawyer?
So, there I was learning about one man's journey into entrepreneurship because it fed my need to socialize with other 'non-legal' entrepreneurs. I wasn't there to sell. I wasn't there to even meet people to promote my business. It was for the pleasure of learning and I found myself sharing with others about my own entrepreneurial journey. But I couldn't help but see all the untapped opportunities for lawyers. It really was painful to see not one lawyer present.
This particular group translates for patents lawyers, too. But what about the newly divorced family lawyer who joins a meetup for the newly divorced who want to travel together? Think there might be a lot of post-dissolution issues to address? The copyright lawyer who is also a writer joining a group of budding novelists? What about the lawyer-cyclist who does personal injury work for cyclists? The trusts and estates lawyer who joins a meetup for adult children who are now caretakers of their parents because they are now one themselves? You think there aren't trusts, wills and probate matters?
And here is another perk of the Meetup platform. You can start your own. $9.99 per month to create your own Meetup group. Here you can be that copyright lawyer/turned author creating a writing group to share ideas. You can have budding authors read excerpts from their manuscripts, open it to constructive critique. You can be that adult child/caretaker who starts a local group sharing camaraderie and experiences, bringing in therapists to talk. See the possibilities? If you happen to have a conference room, these meetups can take place at your office passively reinforcing you are an attorney, their attorney if they need one and there is no additional cost.
Meetups pull double-duty and if your initial goal is to do something for yourself, something you need in your personal life and it happens to naturally coincide with your practice area, this is an easy, comfortable way to build both your business and address meaningful areas in your personal life. You can join an existing group or you can create your own.
Susan Cartier Liebel is the Founder & CEO of Solo Practice University®, the only educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students designed for those who want to create and grow their solo or small firm practices. A coach/consultant for solos and small firms, an attorney who started her own practice right out of law school, an Entrepreneur Advisor for Law Without Walls, an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law for eight years teaching law students how to open their own legal practices right out of law school, a columnist for LawyersUSA Weekly, the Connecticut Law Tribune, The Complete Lawyer, and Law.com, she has contributed to numerous online publications such as Forbes.com, legal publications and books on this topic as well as the issues facing women in the workforce. She speaks frequently to law schools and professional organizations around the country on issues facing solos, offering both practical knowledge and inspiration.