Stay-at-home orders and self-quarantine are impacting our ability to leave home, but they don’t mean our networking efforts have to cease. Having a vibrant network is essential to keeping your law practice healthy.
Lawyers Mutual relies on external relationships. Our claims attorneys and other team members travel across the state offering CLE programs, serve on bar-related committees, and participate in professional networking events. In March, all of those activities ceased as we moved to a remote workforce.
However, our communication efforts continued. We set up a COVID-19 Response page on our website, we sent alerts and updates about our new operating procedures, what was happening with the courts, and relayed messages from the State Bar. We began writing articles about emerging risks and creating new CLE programming for webinars. And we responded to phone calls from our insureds that took a different tone: how to set up remote work environments, how to handle client's fears, and how to manage the fear and uncertainty of being a business owner during a pandemic.
Our bar associations did a great job of pivoting from in-person CLE providers and places where lawyers congregate in person, to virtual places of respite. Lawyers can get virtual CLE credit, but perhaps more important is that lawyers can gather online to discuss wellness tips, tech tips, and to continue to see their colleagues while communicating via chat or Zoom rooms.
Law firms across the state have done the same thing. They are adapting to the new normal and providing their clients and community with advice and counsel on everything from PPP loans to what stay-at-home orders mean. Lawyers have set up Facebook Live events, drive-through document signings, and remote work locations. They continue to volunteer, write, speak and serve.
I have received law firm emails ranging from encouragement to informational videos to consultation offerings. During this same time frame, other law firms heard messages from their clients that they were overwhelmed with information in the opening days of March and they asked their firms to turn off the messaging. Listening to what your clients need and want is important, so turning off communication for a short period is also a great strategy. Let your clients lead the way in communication preferences.
Start by asking, how can I be of service? You need to look no further than your local news feed or emails from community charities and food banks to see we have a tremendous amount of unmet needs in our local communities. Here are a few ways you can help:
Retweet the link to a helpful resource
Share on social what legal associations or other organizations are doing that provide aid
Look for pro bono opportunities through bar associations and the NC Pro Bono Resource Center
Drop food at a local food bank, volunteer to assist in feeding kids
Give blood to the American Red Cross
Send an online gift card as a thank you
Watch and see what the needs are of others and if you can fill a gap.
Email your contacts with a short note, “I wanted to reach out to see if there is anything I can do for you. You’ve been so generous with your time (or your business, your referrals), I want to return the favor if I can.”
Send Positive Vibes
Reach out to let someone know you are thinking of them. This is a great time to check on people with an email or call. Send a hand-written note of thanks. When you see someone doing good, offer congratulations or thank them for their service. It is important to be authentic in your networking communications and especially now when nerves are frayed. You don’t want to send messages that look like hidden requests for business or being tone-deaf to the people you are reaching out to. But this adage is true, the more you give, the more you get.
Use Tech to Connect
Use technology such as Zoom or FaceTime to connect. Extroverts are particularly feeling the pain of work from home. In addition to work meetings, schedule social dates and plan virtual conversations, morning coffee, and stay-in-touch calls.
Now is a good time to strategically take inventory of who you want to be connected to and reach out. Look for online communities such as Facebook Groups or through a platform such as Mighty Networks that match your interests. If you can’t find a group that speaks to you, create your own.
Follow potential clients, colleagues, associations, or referral sources on LinkedIn and other social platforms - connect, follow, comment. Use technology to stay connected and grow your network. This is also a good time to refresh and update your social media profiles.
Use Tech for Wellness
Use this time to start an affirmation, meditation, or other wellness practice through tools such as Headspace, Insight Timer, Breath, Calm. I’m a big fan of Insight Timer which has a huge collection of free meditations and calming music, chants, or sounds of nature that help me with sleep at night or a refreshing break during the day.
Search for lawyers in the wellness space and follow them such as Laura Mahr with Conscious Legal Minds or Colleen Byers with Bell Davis & Pitt. Both Laura and Colleen are gifted in wellness topics and offer CLEs, webinars, and consultations.
Use your Fitbit or other tech tools to remind you to get up and walk around, set walking goals daily, create contests among your friends and family to hit target number of steps. Sitting in my home office with no outside stimulation can be hard, but when my Fitbit alarms at 10 till the hour, I get up, refill my water bottle, and add another couple of hundred steps to my total for the day.
And finally, reach out to your BarCares or the State Bar LAP program if you need to talk with someone. Or find a friend, a trusted advisor, a spiritual leader, or your Employee Assistance Program, to get some help. This might be a great time to see how tele-medicine works for you.
I hope you are safe and healthy during this time. I hope your law firm, organization, business, or association weathers the COVID-19 storm. I look forward to networking from six feet, but even more, I look forward to our next in-person gathering.
About the Author
Camille Stell is President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting and Services, offering succession planning, business development coaching, keynote presentations and more. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.662.8843.