You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again and again (and again): Networking is one of the most important parts of building your legal career.
That’s true for all attorneys, but especially solo practitioners and lawyers who work for small firms. The ability to market your business is becoming more and more essential to success, and networking is one of the most effective tools out there.
There are plenty of networking tips out there, some better than others. Here’s my list of the best pieces of networking advice for attorneys.
1) If you don’t like the word “networking,” don’t think of it as networking.
There’s something about the word itself that can feel intimidating. If you think of going to conferences and events not as “networking” but as meeting professional acquaintances or even making new friends, walking into a room full of lawyers feels less like a chore and more like a party.
2) Remember that everything you do is networking.
Networking just means making contact. Wherever you go, whoever you meet, there’s potential to meet people who can help with your career, collaborate on a case, or even become a favorite coffee-break partner. During orientation on the first day of law school, one professor told us, “Your reputation starts right now.” My fellow students and I laughed, but the professor was absolutely right. Everything in life is an opportunity to make a good name for yourself. If you have the chance to chat with someone you admire at a birthday party or yoga class, take it.
3) Have a plan.
Another way to feel confident at a networking event? Walk in with a plan. Think about what drew you to that particular event and what you want to get out of it. Sometimes your plan will be specific: You want to meet Ms. Jones of Jones & Jones and talk about a particular case she just won. Other times you’re simply looking to connect with established attorneys and talk about how they got into their field. Either way, you can’t get the most out of a gathering if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Make the event work for you.
4) Make the most out of LinkedIn.
Remember life before LinkedIn? Yeah, me neither. These days, most attorneys have a LinkedIn profile, and it’s helpful to research people before you go to events. Taking advantage of LinkedIn and company bios will help you ask smart, relevant questions. Plus, people are always flattered when you’ve done your research—and you may discover a conversation icebreaker, like a friend or college in common.
5) Prepare your elevator pitch.
Always have a response ready for the “What type of lawyer are you?” question. It can be tough to come up with a short, sweet and informative answer on the spot, so take some time to come up with a spoken bio of who you are and what you do.
6) Be a connector.
A great way to connect with acquaintances and get people to really remember you is to introduce them to others. Take the initiative to introduce a friend or colleague to an acquaintance you’d like to get to know better. It reflects well to remember someone well enough to introduce them. Plus, bringing another person into the mix is a built-in conversation starter.
7) Write everything down.
As soon as you have a chance, whip out your smartphone and make a few notes on who you’ve met and what you’ve learned at the networking event. Meeting new people isn’t going to do much good if you don’t remember who they are. At the very least, write down the names and contact information of potential clients and the attorneys you’d like to connect with.
8) Follow up.
Remember those notes you made at the conference or networking event? Well, once you’ve returned to the office, they’re going to come in handy. Don’t let all the connections be for naught: Send a LinkedIn request, write a quick “nice to meet you” email, write a blog post about your positive experience and post it on social media, or follow up in your own way. That’s how you’ll really expand your network, and you never know how those connections are going to work for you.
Feeling inspired? If you haven’t already signed up for this year’s Lawyernomics conference, set for April 20 – 22 in Las Vegas, click here to register.