Terri Pepper Gavulic is the Chief Business Officer or TerraLex. TerraLex started as a referral network nearly 30 years ago and now, they are a membership network by invitation only. Her company has made a conscious effort to morph from being solely a referral network to having a platform for their members to collaborate which gives them the opportunity to have an even larger global footprint.
How Does the Membership and Vetting Process Work?
Within TerraLex, members can go and find others who may be members elsewhere, but many of them also know each other because of all of the ways that they meet throughout the year. Members will inquire about who is the leading person in a specific area and then they will move forward from there to help their clients. The reason it is palatable to the client community is because TerraLex is invitation only and they also go through a pretty rigid vetting process which is then followed by on-going quality control assurances, so it saves their clients a step so they don’t have to go through that vetting process themselves.
TerraLex members have exclusivity in the jurisdiction that is their ‘territory’ which means that they do not have a lot of openings. When an opening becomes available, they will do the research, talk to their members, talk to their clients and find out who the leading firms are in that jurisdiction. Other times they will approach them and they will have conversations with them and then talk to clients and other members. If they still cannot assure the quality by looking at rankings and other things like that, they might give them a try on some matters by having someone refer work to them and seeing the quality there. Once they are sure that they are the right quality and the right fit and right practice-mix, they are invited into membership. TerraLex works very closely with their members and Regional Vice Chairs (board members) conduct a review every 2 years of each member to assure that there are no issues and that they are maintaining the kind of quality that they want. They have a pretty sophisticated team on board that also works hand-in-hand with the clients.
Important Elements of Networking to TerraLex Members
With the way that the network started, referrals are certainly the heart and soul of it, but their members also collaborate and work together on projects and also have a courtesy advice policy. Members also share marketing and business development ideas with each other. The company’s responsibility, as they view it, is to help members understand how to market their firms by leveraging TerraLex. They provide council and facilitate members sharing and collaborating on ideas with each other.
TerraLex has recently taken all of their meetings online and have found that members who are working remotely seem to have more time to join in on those endeavors. They are also seeing a lot more people in the member-firm join in on different projects. While there are some elements of meetings that are really important to their members, the ability to network with other members and have focused discussions around client development and global connections has still remained. They have been able to add other elements that they might not have been previously able to if they were not in a virtual environment such as social activities and keynote speakers. Members are truly close-knit and they like each other. Throughout the invitation and vetting process, they are very careful to bring in other members that fit in with the current members so that when they get together there is a lot of education, there is a lot of business conducted, but there is also a lot of just plain connecting socially and enjoying each other’s company that will build those trusting relationships that lead to people working together.
Ways for New Lawyers to Get Involved in Referral Groups
One thing for new lawyers to learn in the beginning is that you can’t be everything to everybody. You need to figure out how you are going to position yourself and then find some sort of interest group. If Terri were a young lawyer starting out, equally to determining what her practice area would be, she would immediately try to figure out what industry she wants to get more in depth with. Build a best friend’s network, but there needs to be a commonality of what you want to do. You have to, at some point, pick one interest to market yourself and do it well but devote all of your limited time, your limited dollars, and limited efforts in one direction and that seems to pay more benefits to a young lawyer trying to start their career than trying to scatter themselves.