UPDATE – here’s a piece from the Connecticut Tribune that also discusses the importance of meeting people offline. Though remember- online contacts can also lay a foundation for offline meetings so don’t cut your Internet service just yet!
Imagine wandering into Staples to purchase office equipment for your new law firm and emerging with a client whose case would eventually land you in Oprah’s O Magazine. Sounds far fetched, but that’s what happened to Southern California based lawyer Brian Kramer who represented Sean Means, a Staples clerk, in his legal battle to secure his rights to the Duke Trust, established by tobacco and energy tycoon James Duke.
Unfortunately, the story from O Magazine isn’t online, but here’s a quick synopsis. A few years back, Kramer was preparing to open his own firm, and stopped by Staples to buy a fax machine. Sean Means, one of the clerks in the store waited on Kramer, and in the course of helping Kramer select a machine, the two got to talking about Kramer’s new firm. When Means learned that Kramer was a lawyer, he mentioned that he had a legal issue requiring representation. Means explained that his father, who’d never married his mother and abandoned them when Sean was young, was an heir to the Duke Trust which meant that Sean was a beneficiary as well (the Trust was set up so that money would be divided between all children of each generation).
Needless to say, Kramer initially thought Means was nuts, but because Means had been so helpful, Kramer agreed to speak with Means further. So the two went down to the Staples parking lot, where Means produced documentation of his claims. Kramer gave Means his card and agreed to represent him, eventually securing for Means his rightful portion of the Duke Trust and helping him reconnect with his long lost father. The Oprah story did not link to Kramer’s website and maybe that was intentional, because he’s now in such demand that he’s being tracked down on Craigslist.
These days, lawyers don’t need to leave the house to open a firm. You could just as easily read up on office equipment reviews and order online rather than stepping out into a store. But if you never leave the house, you miss out on these kinds of chance encounters that might lead to amazing opportunities.
“what I’ve long observed about solo practice [is this]: that the most amazing opportunities for solo and small firm lawyers to soar come not by design but by sheer accident.” The Accidental Practice.