At the End of the Day, Who Comes Through For You?

When you start a law firm, you encounter lots of naysayers along the way. Yet while negativity is always unpleasant, at least when it’s out there, blatantly up front and in your face, you can simply walk away.

Contrast the naysayers with another sector that many solos and solos-to-be run into: the well-intended lawyers and clients and mentors who encourage and promise, but never deliver. Back in the day, when I started my practice, a few colleagues assured me that they’d keep me in mind for future matters, but never came through. Sometimes, they’d offer up this promise after I shared, without charge, advice on a specialized FERC or marine renewable energy issue as a matter of professional courtesy. Other times, they’d say that they were glad to have talented new lawyers to whom they could refer cases, but I never received any work – and on the rare occasions that I did, the case was a dog — like a client looking for pro bono help. Sometimes, a lawyer would promise to put me in touch with other colleagues for informational purposes and never sent on a name.

While I’m sure that many of these colleagues made promises with the best of intentions, I eventually learned to distinguish between those who would come through for me and those who weren’t going to follow up (or who, like one colleague, would send me cases that were complete duds). By drawing this distinction, I could plan my workload and predict my future revenue more reliably. More importantly, I could spend my limited resources going the extra mile for those who sent me real business or complimented my work to others rather than those who simply talked about it but never followed through.

So let me throw this question out: who’s come through for you in your practice? Are there lawyers who gave you paying contract work, even when they really didn’t need it or could barely afford the expense? Are there clients from your former firm who went out of their way to convince management to retain you? Are there colleagues who can’t stop saying how great you are and who recommend you every chance they get? I’d love if you would share your experiences, both the positive and the negative, in the comments below.