Send Out a Reverse APB

by Seth Apple on January 20, 2012

In the law enforcement context, an APB (“all-points bulletin”) is a broadcast, issued from one agency to another, informing officers to be on the lookout for a missing person or thing.  In the practice of law, associates should make every effort to ensure that they are not that person by sending out a Reverse APB.

A Reverse APB is a continual broadcast from the associate to the firm, (not just to their individual practice group), which increases their visibility through Attendance, Participation and Branding.  As law students, your associates often tried, and rightly so, to differentiate themselves from other members of their graduating class.  Perhaps they were involved in a student organization, served as a teacher’s assistant, or were on law review.  Maybe they wrote for the environmental law journal, were a member of moot court, or were involved in the public interest clinic.  Regardless of the honor or activity, the point is, they increased their visibility and distinguished themselves from the competition – which is likely one of the reasons they were asked to join your firm.

However, while many of these associates understood the importance of visibility in building their academic resume, many fail to see the value in doing the same to develop their professional career.  The negative impact can be substantial, especially if they end up acting primarily in a service capacity under a particular partner or group.   Unfortunately, this impact does not become apparent until years later, when visibility and brand are needed to fulfill their own business generation requirements as a result of a promotion or the departure of the partner providing the primary source of their work.

The first step in helping your associates avoid this professional pitfall is to have them send out a Reverse APB. Impress upon them the importance of the following:

Attendance – Firm events and presentations should not be viewed as “optional” when you are an associate.  Ice cream social in conference room 14A – you should go.  A partner in litigation is doing a “lunch and learn” next month – you should go (even if you are in the bankruptcy group).  A summer associate outing on the Hudson – you should go.  A morning CLE presentation given by a bankruptcy partner at a midtown hotel – you should go (even if you are in the litigation group).  The firm holiday party – you should go. You get the point.  Firm events and presentations provide the perfect platform for associates to network with the letterhead and increase their firm-wide visibility.

Participation – If you want to get ahead, then get involved.  Join a firm committee, start a firm committee, assist with a firm program, serve as a junior mentor, etc.  In other words, don’t just be “associated” with the firm – be an integral part of the firm on various levels.  Law firms, like any other business, are always looking for ways to cultivate leadership, profitability, and client satisfaction.  Through participation in programs and committees, you are able to demonstrate your understanding of the “business of law” while simultaneously providing added value to the firm and further increasing your internal visibility.

Branding – Better Brands Build Bigger Books.  As noted above, attendance and participation will enhance (or help establish) your internal brand identity and assist in the development of beneficial opportunities for you and the firm.  While your external visibility and brand are equally valuable, it is important to remember that internal networking, branding and business development efforts with your colleagues is an easier place to start since you are working from an established, albeit limited, level of likeability, trust and expertise – the three primary triggers to external client engagement (in that order by the way).

While substantive lawyering skills are obviously a key component to an associate’s (and by extension the firm’s) long-term success, visibility is equally crucial during the early stages of their career.  By continually sending out a Reverse APB, associates can increase their visibility on the inside while establishing the foundation to eventually build business on the outside.

Seth M. Apple, Esq. is a Practice Development Manager at Epstein Becker Green. He can be reached at sapple@ebglaw.com.

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