As a lawyer, what are the most important tools in your toolbox? Encyclopedic knowledge of your area of specialty? The ability to communicate effectively with clients, judges, juries, mediators, insurance companies, law enforcement, medical professionals, etc.? Business writing? Time management? All of the above? There is another critical skill set to add to the list: Networking. No matter where you are in your career, you can only benefit from making and nurturing connections. Live and virtual networking events for lawyers are an essential part of growth and development.
Top Networking Tips for Lawyers
Networking can be an exciting opportunity to meet, greet, see, and be seen. Make sure you put some careful thought and strategy behind your efforts. Before you get out there:
1. Plan It.
Surely you’ll encounter situations in which you fortuitously meet a valuable connection and dazzle them with your natural charm and keen insights. But… don’t count on it. Have a plan of action. Ask yourself: What do I want to achieve? What’s my networking goal?
It could be to recruit X more clients or to find referrals sources. Or it could be that you want to move into another area of the law or expand your service offerings to better meet the needs of your existing clients. Whatever it is, identify and clarify your objectives you can go out there and achieve.
2. Take a SMART Approach.
Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. As an example, “My goal is to sign five new clients this period” is a manageable goal. It is important that you set goals that you can attain. You can build from there.
3. Plan Your Approach.
How are you going to achieve these SMART goals? A vague plan is just about as good as no plan, so be specific. For example:
- Meet three new people and exchange business cards.
- Note a key fact or two about each of these people to allow me to follow up.
- Follow up!
- Review the attendee list. Research them and see which attendees are most likely to facilitate my goals.
- Make a schedule for three live, phone, or digital meetings with those I have met through this networking event.
Write it down. Do it. Cross it off the list.
4. Perfect Your Pitch.
Think about your elevator pitch. When someone asks you what you do, have an answer prepared. You’ll have 30 seconds or so to engage them before they get to their floor. You probably answer, “I’m a lawyer.” Go beyond that: explain the value you bring to clients (e.g. problems/challenges that you address with effective solutions). If it’s a potential referral source, you can tailor your answer to reflect the challenges that you can help them with.
“I’m a lawyer” can be a conversation ender. Give people something meaty to think about: who you are, who your clients are, what you can do for them, and why they should consider an ongoing relationship.
5. Different Types of Networking.
With the increasing prominence of digital tools and restrictions related to COVID, virtual networking events for lawyers are becoming more the norm. It is important to take advantage of different types of networking events and opportunities, such as:
- Social Media. Great action steps here include following relevant hashtags to see what people are talking about. By following companies on Twitter and LinkedIn for up to date news and trends you can use these platforms to connect to people and organizations. Participate in groups, tag appropriate people in your online content, and engage in conversations.
- Local Activities. Look for events related to your interests outside of the law. Whether it’s cycling or cooking, for example, you can become involved and reach out into your area’s professional community.
- Be Social – In Person. This can be challenging for people who are introverts. Try to make an effort to meet a connection once or twice a week for dinner/lunch/coffee. It could be law school classmates, legal partners, people you met at networking events, or connections you have formed online, etc. Take the time to nurture relationships.
- Extend Your Travel. If you are on a business trip, build in an extra day. You can meet with professionals, contacts, friends, and others in a different area. You never know where opportunity is waiting!
- Anywhere and Everywhere. Remember that networking can happen anywhere and at any time. You might be at your child’s soccer game and strike up an interesting conversation. Maybe you are at the grocery store and run into an old acquaintance who knows people you should know. Whatever the case, be open to networking. It’s not all mixers and dinners.