Returning to Private Practice: How Lawyers Can Find Authentic and Valuable Ways to Connect with their External Networks to Rebuild a Book of Business

One way to rebuild a book of business when returning to private practice is by building collaborative relationships with partners in their firm, which we discussed in the article Returning to Private Practice: How Lawyers Can Build Relationships within their Firm to Advance Business Development Goals. Another way to encourage business development opportunities is by finding authentic and valuable ways to communicate your career move with your external network.

1. Consider your existing network.

  • Prospects: people who might have legal problems that the firm can solve for
  • Connectors: people who can introduce or refer you to prospects
  • Alliances: people who might want to do business development activities with you because they provide a complementary set of services to yours

2. Consider how you can reach out to each person in ways that might anticipate how you can add value. Three ways you can find valuable, authentic INs:

  • Extending invitations. While sharing the news and providing new contact information, you should consider if there are firm or professional invitations to share with your contacts. For example, inviting a connection to an upcoming firm CLE, a firm-sponsored networking event, or a relevant webinar can be a great way to introduce them to the firm’s capabilities and experts in ways that serve a purpose for your contact. 
  • Offering to make introductions. When returning to private practice, you don’t just have access to your own network; you now have access to your firm’s network. In other words, the web of connections expands. When letting a contact know that you have returned to private practice, you can include an offer to make introductions to others in the firm’s network, such as clients with similar needs/interests, contacts with overlapping expertise, or firm alliance relationships. 
  • Insights, what you can share and seek out. When returning to private practice, you can reach out to your network – including prospective clients and peer connectors – to share and seek insights. In addition to sharing firm content relevant to a contact, you can also seek out their experience and perspectives. For example, a new partner might ask several in-house counsel contacts for their perspective on their challenges and wish lists for working with outside counsel.

3. As you prepare to connect, be sure to consider your messaging about your move to your new firm. Consider the following:

  • What made the firm stand out to you as a firm you wanted to join and be part of?
  • What problems are you most excited to solve and for which types of clients? Consider the four elements suggested in this blog post regarding internal networking and repurpose them for external conversations. For instance, consider ways to incorporate the following in your communications: (1) the issues your and the firm’s expertise and experience help address, (2) the ideal clients who likely to need your or the firm’s help, (3) the questions a contact might ask to uncover or trigger a potential need, and (4) a key message and “a gift,” something you are willing to provide that might serve as motivation to meet or talk with you further. 

Returning to private practice from in-house or agency work is an exciting change for many attorneys. Though you may be apprehensive about building a book of business at this stage of your career, by approaching internal and external contacts with intentionality, you can advance your business development goals with both sincerity and success.