By Matthew Paul Krupnick on July 5, 2012 in Advertising, Avvo Legal Marketing Webinars, Avvocating, Legal Marketing, Networking, Practice Management, Public Relations, Recommendations, Reputation Management, SEO, Social Media, Video
When I first started practicing law in 2004, the importance of networking never crossed my mind as I struggled to learn the skills necessary to survive and keep my job as a new litigator. I now realize just how invaluable good networking and solid relationships are, but it took a while. I think most new lawyers, especially in this economy, do not realize how important (and fun!) it can be.
As a new lawyer, it is hard to understand the importance of networking and building strong, lasting relationships with people in our industry.
Most new lawyers are overwhelmed with learning how to practice law (something that, oddly enough, is not taught in law school) while meeting seemingly impossible deadlines and learning the hard way how to litigate and become a trial attorney. The furthest thing from their minds is taking time to network and build relationships. I tell newer lawyers that, despite having to work 80-hour weeks just to stay afloat, they should still make time for meaningful networking; the relationships you build are vital with regard to your overall success in your career as a lawyer. I do not know what I would do without the great friends I have made in this industry, as well as the various acquaintances and entities whose relationships have become tremendously valuable as I fight my way through this dog-eat-dog world of “civil” litigation.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys and the defense attorneys that take their litigation seriously are almost all part of groups, whether formal or informal, that consist of fellow lawyers in their industry. They strategize and share secrets, information, tactics, and information on their opposing attorneys (and the experts they routinely use), and much more. For plaintiffs’ lawyers, we have groups such as C.A.A.L.A., C.E.L.A., and many more. On the defense side… well let’s just say that there are plenty of groups and meetings that take place for the purpose of sharing information with each other to help the defense overcome and prevail against the plaintiffs’ lawyers. This type of networking and sharing of information with your colleagues is crucial, and is a great place to meet fellow, like-minded litigators that are surprisingly more than happy to share their knowledge. Having good relationships with people throughout the industry is essential to building a successful career with a solid foundation of good skills, hard work, and a reliable network of allies that you can count on as you fight your way to the top in the land of litigation.
While I never shied away from networking intentionally, I just hadn’t met any good mentors that I wanted to learn from and that were willing to teach me the skills that separate a great litigator, from a good one. Finally, once I opened my own law firm, I started attending functions and quickly realized that there was a whole world of impressive lawyers eager to help and mentor those who ask. I have built some amazing friendships that I cherish to this day.
I have built mutually beneficial working relationships that I am so thankful to have.
I did not always actively take actions to network and build the relationships that I now have. In fact, the first attorney that I felt compelled to reach out to is my good friend Mike Alder. After hearing him give an outstanding lecture on how to take expert depositions, I emailed him to let him know how impressed I was, and asked if I could come watch him in trial. He was (and still is) one of the greatest trial attorneys I had ever seen. To my pleasant surprise, Mike responded—flattered that I had emailed him and appreciative of my respect for him as an attorney. After a few lunches and meetings, Mike and I became good friends. We are now even litigating our first case together. He has helped me network in ways I never dreamed possible and I am always thankful for his kindness, support, friendship and guidance.
I have made it a point to develop friendships with people I look up to, including Arash Homampour and Pejman Ben-Cohen, both of whom I have worked with on cases. Each person I become friends with seems more than happy to share their knowledge and skills with me. Now, as I have people that approach me to help mentor them, I understand. It feels great to be able to help young, passionate attorneys succeed in this difficult business.
As I look back on my early years as a lawyer, I am proud to see that I have grown—gaining the wisdom to realize that working with other attorneys that I admire and respect has taken me and my firm to a higher level. I am also grateful that I have made the effort to build wonderful relationships with people and businesses involved in almost every aspect of the practice of law. I am always looking for new mentors and friends to learn from and am always open to help anyone else in the industry that want my help.
This is a cut-throat industry and having good allies is invaluable.
It is not a matter of being proud, it is a matter of being smart. There are hundreds of great lawyers out there that remain happy to help those who need it. Seek them out. Tell them how impressed you are with what they do and ask them how you can learn from them. You will be surprised at how many are to the idea.
Networking is also great way to build a good source of reliable, talented attorneys that you can refer any cases that you cannot or do not want to handle yourself. Never be afraid to to ask for a reasonable referral fee, as most attorneys are happy to pay it to get the case. Also, do not be afraid to ask someone if they will do the case with you so you can learn from them by working with them.
Part of being successful at networking is remaining honest and loyal. You can never have too many real friends and allies in this business. Try to set a goal for yourself to go to at least one function a week that is relevant to your practice area. When there, try to talk to everyone in the room. Give them your card, let them know you would love to take them to lunch or grab a coffee, and watch as your network grows by leaps and bounds.
Those in the Los Angeles area, feel free to contact me to learn about good networking events to go to; if they are the type I attend, I am happy to take you as a guest. Either way, the ideas and suggestions discussed in this blog have been a benefit in my career. I am confident they will be a benefit to you as well.