This Valentine’s Day…love your lawyer network

There are two types of people on Valentine’s Day: those who have something to look forward to, and those who don’t. According to Avvo research, about one-quarter of Americans above age 25 are single. If lawyers are like most people (and I’m assuming that they are), about one in four of you won’t have much to look forward to.

Or will you? Love comes in many forms. Sure, we know Valentine’s Day as a day for romance, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Take, for instance, all the people you love in your life. Most (unless you have multiple spouses and no friends) aren’t your significant other. I have been thinking lately about how so many of my professional colleagues–past and present–have become people I cherish immensely, people I hope to know for the rest of my life. They have taught me to be better at my job, been there when I’ve had a rough day, and set me straight when I was headed in the wrong direction.

This got me thinking: most lawyers don’t get to where they are if it weren’t for some other lawyer. Whether a law professor, mentor, colleague, or friend, some lawyer has shaped who you are as a professional in a meaningful way. They may have handed you a lot of business, offered you a partnership, taught you the ropes, or just been there with you at the bar after a rough day at work.

Lawyers have a reputation for being cutthroat; in fact, Avvo research shows that 68% of lawyers describe themselves as highly competitive when it comes to work. But lawyers are also supportive. For example, I recently did a talk at a lawyer conference in Austin, and if one thing stood out, it was how the attorneys there were so helpful, offering one another tips and advice on how to improve their law practice and their practicing of law.

Maybe Valentine’s Day can be the day you give back to those lawyers who gave to you. Here are some suggestions as to how:

1. Send flowers and chocolate, or a gift certificate

There is no research to support that lawyers like any of these things. But you get the idea.

2. Publicly endorse lawyers you love

When you love someone, you want to shout it out from a mountain top. The professional version of this is a public endorsement. Endorsements offer credibility. When you vouch for a fellow lawyer, you’re telling the world that they are so great you’d be willing to stake your reputation on it. That’s a lot of love. Plus, endorsing is easy; it doesn’t require writing a page-long essay. And people do it regularly; we see endorsements on Avvo and LinkedIn all the time.

3. Refer clients to your favorite lawyers

If a client crosses your path but has a case outside of your practice area, refer that client to a fellow lawyer you love. Many lawyers rely heavily on referrals for getting clients, so why not help out? You never know when you’ll get a referral in return.

4. Pass along publishing and speaking opportunities

Keep your eyes and ears open for publication and speaking opportunities that aren’t right for you, and pass them along. If someone asks you to write an article for a local publication, and you don’t want to, don’t just leave it there. If you love a lawyer whose practice can benefit from a little exposure, pass on the lead. They could throw that love back at you in the future.

Yes, lawyers are competitive. All businesses are. Nike wouldn’t send customers to Adidas, and Delta wouldn’t recommend that its passengers fly United. But many companies partner with non-competitors. Take Nike’s partnership with Apple to create the Apple Watch Nike+. Lawyers in different practice areas can collaborate in ways that are equally advantageous. Ultimately, love is about reciprocity. I give to you, you give to me, we forge a connection and live happily ever after. You don’t want to give your heart away to someone who won’t give it back, but when you choose the right people to love, the rewards can be huge. And even lawyers deserve a little love.

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