It’s my life mission to help lawyers make more money or at least to have more satisfaction in their work.

My number one idea is to cultivate existing relationships. The wins could be fee based work, referrals to prospects, introductions to new contacts, better relationships up, down and sideways at the office, maybe even more salary or better branding for your skills.

Many of my younger clients don’t yet know a lot of people. So I encourage them to network to meet more people they can then cultivate. Networking can be going to events or joining organizations of some sort. Essentially showing up where there are many of the kind of people one ought to know. I sometimes have clients who need better branding. It’s usually to convince themselves they are worthy enough to sell their skills.

Continued cultivation multiplies its benefits. Pauses lead to withered relationships. My most successful clients make cultivating activities a priority every day. Cultivating relationships with people you know is different than going to networking events to meet strangers and it is different than writing articles and giving speeches where brand building is the prime objective.

Cultivating can happen many ways. My preferred tactic is lunch. But in the real world it’s usually not possible to go to lunch every day. So other venues to cultivate can be valuable – breakfast, dinner, coffee, meetings in the hall, uninvited visits to an office down the hall work for different people. My advice about lunch below applies to other cultivating opportunities. They’re just not as good.

Lunch is better because it allows for an unfolding conversation to fit into the prescribed time. There’s time for a casual warm-up to build rapport. There’s time for each person to explore what’s up with their lunch partners – asking lots of questions.  Listening is what builds trust. And asking questions provides plenty of time to listen for opportunities. Lawyers tend to want to be helpers. They too often chime in to help as soon as they hear something they can deal with. It’s hard work to keep listening once an opportunity surfaces. But it is very rewarding to flesh it out with more questions and more listening.

And as lunch concludes there’s time to ask for what you want; if you know what that is and have a comfortable script. It could be a fee bearing file you can work on or a referral or an introduction. One last important thing, there’s time to ask your lunch guest if there is any way you can help them other than with fee bearing work. I mean help them with a problem or opportunity they have. For example it could be introducing them to someone they need to know. Nothing is like helping someone to build the relationship.

Lunch provides a venue to follow up with people you want to stay in touch with. A lawyer, marketing themselves ought to have a number of people they are staying in touch with regularly. I recommend 20. If each of your Top 20 are lunched once a quarter that’s only 80 lunches for the year and considering last minute cancellations if usually comes down to only one a week.

Lunch provides a way to stay in touch with high Expected Value prospects who need continuing cultivation. Those are the ones who are in your Top 20. Continuing cultivation is perseverance. Good marketers know that’s what gets rewarded. Perseverance is hard work because it requires a steady stream of invitations. For some people each of those invitations feels like ‘risking rejection’. And that’s what perseverance overcomes.

Lunch provides a venue to tell your victory stories to the important people you want to hear them. Of course you have to have those stories. A coach or mentor can help get those assembled. Anyone who has achieved being hired, even once, has experience telling victory stories.

Lunch provides an opportunity to keep your name in front of people who get marketed to by competitors. The unfortunate fact is that if your Top 20 are truly valuable your competitors are marketing to them as well. This is where withering comes in. Is there a nice way to say ‘If you snooze you lose’?

A successful lunch provides a way to feel more fearless, optimistic and energized. A successful lunch pumps you up. It provides empowerment in that you’ve planted seeds which could grow to benefit you. Planting seeds is forever necessary and a hurdle that must be overcome. The planted seed is growing in your lunch partner’s mind and also in yours which is what pumps you up.

Much of the time the cost of lunch is subsidized or shared which removes a hurdle. If you’re marketing on behalf of your firm paying for lunch is seen as an investment. That is based on the belief that it will produce results, maybe not immediately, but as part of steady program. I advocate always paying for lunch. The evidence is that the guest feels a social obligation to reciprocate in some way. Yes it is more complicated than that but nothing is more important for the marketer than to create obligation. Pay.

My experience is that most people have lots of people is to have lunch with productively. Of course workload can get in the way so scheduling can be difficult. The other hurdle is how to invite. I have found that having a very short email invitation works best for two reasons. Firstly, recipients generally know the drill of lunch so you don’t have to explain. Fifteen words at most should work every time. Secondly, you want to make it easy to overcome your own fear of rejection so something short is easy to send. You want to make it easy for people to say yes or no. And if they don’t respond at all it’s easy to repeat the first message with ‘just circling back on this’ as the beginning.

Of course, the best part of lunch is that it can be a real pleasant experience and people tend to get better at it with more experience.

Jerome Shore is an Executive Coach in Toronto, Canada. Clients to look to Jerome for help with Marketing, Leadership and Stress Management. He can be reached at coach@coachingclinic.com or 1-416-787-5555.