Do you remember your first one
For me it was an accomplished elderly gentleman who had worked for various contractors on marine projects and was now hoping to start a non-profit organization to support educational activities on ocean thermal energy. We met at a lunch I didn’t want to attend – the venue was an hour away on the subway and I felt under the weather and a little depressed.
Even so, I put on my bright red business suit and went to the event, hoping for the best. I arrived late and baffled and grabbed one of the few available seats at a crowded table. After the speaker, the gentleman next to me started a conversation, and when I mentioned that I was a lawyer, things clicked: he took my business card and promised to call. A week later, after meeting in a stunning conference room overlooking the Pennsylvania Office in my shared virtual office suite, I secured my very first client for the princely fee of $ 100 / hour that was my 1994 billing rate. I was so green I didn’t even think to accept a prepayment.
Fortunately, my first customer was a dream. He paid his bill on time and did not pay the costs. He made me part of his team and invited me to boardroom meetings held by a few former heads of government for the nonprofit I founded for him. He also had a love for fine dining, and during the two years we’ve worked together, I’ve enjoyed some delicious lunches on expense reports at some of the best DC establishments.
Without a client, a law firm is little more than a dream waiting to be realized or an idea that won’t get implemented. That’s one reason this first customer is so special – because they make those dreams a reality. That initial fee – whether it’s more money than you ever made on a job or barely covering your cash fees – is more valuable than any coin you’ve ever received because you made it entirely on your own.
Some lawyers start with the business that is waiting for them. But others – like me – wonder if you could ever find a customer. Let me assure you that you will – and it will be easier than you think. Once that first customer comes through the door, you’re on your way.
But as far as you travel, the first time will always be remembered. that client who made you a real law firm owner.
We are preparing for next year here at MyShingle by celebrating the beginnings. Visit Instagram at @theoneinamillionlawyer or www.facebook.com/myshingle for daily inspiration from new beginnings. And whether it’s finding Client # 1 or launching a new law firm, MyShingle will be announcing a surprise offer and new programs for 2021 later this week. Stay up to date by joining the mailing list here.