“Networking is the Number 1 unwritten rule of success in businesses.”
Most people have a misconception that networking is only for businessmen, freelancers or individual lawyers who are looking for referrals and clientele. This could not be further from the truth. Even well-established law firms and organizations need to build their presence, both online and offline, so as to gain recognition, respect and referrals from the legal community. To present an analogy, there are many good corporate firms in any country but if you meet someone who aspires to become a corporate lawyer, he would most likely name the same 5-6 top firms as his ‘dream place’ to work. It is not always necessary that these 5-6 firms breed the best lawyers, pay the highest, or teach freshers better. There can be a wide array of smaller corporate law firms that offer better packages and work-life balance or invest more in the training of their associates. The only difference is that the seemingly ‘top’ firms have branded themselves as such, whether it is by posting their achievements and cases on LinkedIn or by hosting conferences or attending legal networking events. They are constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance their credibility and build their reputation in the legal society.
It is clear from the above discussion that in today’s day and age, networking is a must for law firms. Networking is basically marketing; marketing yourself, your firm’s values, what makes it unique and everything that sets your firm apart from the rest. This article seeks to provide you with the best networking tips for building your firm’s presence in the community.
10 best networking tips for your law firm
The following are some of the most useful, yet simple techniques that you can employ while participating in any legal networking event or promoting your firm online:
1. Have a goal in mind
Go to the event with a specific purpose in mind in order to prevent getting sidetracked. This goal can be anything: engaging with people from a specific field of law, informing others about your new department or initiative, getting ideas, finding new clients or even interacting with partners from a specific law firm of your interest.
2. Do your research
If you have access to the list of participants, look at it prior to attending the event. Identify people you might have something in common with, such as having gone to the same school or sharing common interests. These commonalities can serve as ice-breakers for initiating a conversation with them. Read about the background and cases recently handled by the companies and firms you wish to network with. You may even look up the bigwigs of that firm (such as the managing partner or Head of Department) so that you can identify them at the event.
3. Don’t go straight to the top
While it is useful to meet the bigwigs, the fact of the matter is that you will often get more out of trainees and new associates than you can out of more experienced professionals. Recruiters also choose to ask their young associates if they have any potential candidates in mind instead of directly posting the vacancy online, which often leads to a pile of applications in their inbox. Hence, getting acquainted with the younger or relatively inexperienced crowd also has its benefits.
4. Don’t network, befriend
A Harvard study identified this as a useful networking tip. Choose to talk to strangers as someone you intend to befriend, rather than use for furthering your career. Talk about shared interests, show a genuine interest in them and have a “connector’s mindset”.
5. Ask more questions than you answer
This helps in getting to know the other person and building a rapport. A few questions you can ask are:
- Which projects are you working on right now?
- How long have you been in this role?
- Which marketing technique works best for your law firm?
- Which tools do you find most useful to do legal research?
- Where did you grow up?
- What do you enjoy most about your work?
6. Have high quality business cards
Quality cards can set your business apart from the rest. It gives the impression that in this age of social media, your firm still cares about making a good impression, adding a personal touch, and reflects good taste.
7. Stay off your phone
Even if you have no one to talk to or are feeling anxious, don’t start scrolling through your phone. Being on Facebook while everyone else is interacting at a conference creates an “I don’t want to be here” or “I am terribly bored” type of image and will make you look unapproachable.
8. Have a blog for your law firm
A large proportion of firms nowadays have their own blogs. The purpose is to show your expertise in certain legal fields, attract more readers and make them aware of your firm’s practice areas and skills. A good blog pertaining to the problem the reader is facing has the potential to convert that person into a paying client for your firm. Invite your new contacts to subscribe to the blog. This way, your legal network group will come to know of your firm’s expertise and they may refer clients to you, ask for a legal opinion or collaborate on a case in the future.
9. Establish a social media presence
The first thing most people do when they come to hear of a new firm or business is to google the name of that place. Make sure to have a well-designed website that talks about your firm’s experience and lawyers. It can even have separate sections for showcasing the awards and achievements of your law firm. Ensure that there are no negative remarks on Google reviews and rating features. Have a LinkedIn page that is active and establishes credibility.
10. Don’t stop networking once you leave the event
This is the most common mistake people make. You could have done everything right during the event, yet if you fail to connect with your legal network after the event, it is most likely that they won’t remember you in a few weeks. As soon as you get back, send any potential clients or lawyers a follow-up with a personal message that relates to your conversation. Look up the person on LinkedIn or if you have their business card, connect with them on their given number and tell them how much you enjoyed conversing with them and that you hope to take this connection forward. Schedule follow-ups and don’t get disheartened if some people don’t respond immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. At what events and places can you network?
- Legal conferences, seminars and paper presentation events
- Alumni events of your law school
- Job fairs and recruitment events
- Moot courts, debates, youth parliament, trial advocacy and other mock legal events
- Bar association activities
- Educational programs and seminars
2. What should you wear to networking events?
At legal events, most people will show up in the outfit prescribed for lawyers only. However, in a more casual setting such as a graduate meet or breakfast with a group of lawyers, you can choose to wear semi-formals or go for business formals instead of the traditional lawyer’s clothes.
3. How to introduce yourself and your firm?
Plan how you intend to introduce yourself and your firm beforehand. Establish yourself as an authority in the field or show genuine passion for your work to pique other’s interest. Don’t speak too little (I am a lawyer) or speak too much (telling your entire life story, from which law school you attended to how you ended up working here). Use the format of “I am ___, I work as an [position name] at ____ and I help my clients achieve ____.
4. What should your body language be while interacting?
Be attentive, don’t yawn or portray any other signs of disinterest. Have a firm and confident handshake. Don’t cross your hands while talking to someone as that is considered an aggressive stance. Maintain eye contact while talking and smile occasionally.
5. What to avoid while networking?
Never expect to receive benefits from others before you give any to them. Remember that you are here to make connections and help others, not just to sell your services to them.
The relationships you establish while networking not only produce new clients, contacts and referrals, but also have the potential to become lasting friendships with like-minded people of the same industry. Having a legal networking group is the bedrock of winning new business and keeping it. As the popular columnist David Brooks remarked in the NY Times newspaper, “It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs anymore. It’s relationships, relationships, relationships.”