Networking essentially implies, meeting people via other people.
A person who is determined to become a lawyer will do whatever is necessary to become one – from clearing an entrance exam, to studying in a law school, getting good grades, and so on. But what differentiates an average lawyer from a renowned and successful one is working and building connections until you no longer have to introduce yourself! Whether you are a student just learning the ropes of the legal industry or an experienced legal professional, networking is an essential skill for establishing a professional presence in the community. It sets one apart from the crowd and is a vital skill to possess, not just for lawyers but for any professional, regardless of their field.
Contrary to what most people think, networking for lawyers is not just about accumulating contacts by adding new visiting cards to your folder of professional contacts, or by adding new friends to your LinkedIn network. It is the art of building connections with other like-minded professionals in the industry, akin to planting flowers for gradually creating a beautiful garden, aka building a huge network. Despite its importance, networking remains a skill that is rarely taught in schools or colleges, and those who wish to network are left to “naturally acquire” this skill. Regardless of how daunting it may seem at first, it is not as difficult as it appears to be. This article seeks to help the readers learn about networking for lawyers and its importance in the legal industry and also answers some of the most commonly asked doubts people have pertaining to networking.
What exactly is networking?
Networking refers to the process of interacting with people within your preferred industry for the purpose of cultivating long or short-term professional relationships. It is defined as a socio-economic activity by which businessmen meet to form business relationships and seek to identify, create or act upon business opportunities. This can be done by sharing knowledge, discussing new ventures, and seeking potential partners for such ventures.
Networking with Interlegal
Interlegal is one of the world’s leading networks that connect selected law firms and lawyers from around the globe and provides them with an opportunity to discuss trivial legal matters and other issues amongst themselves to come out with an amicable solution.
Unlike other networks that run a business of connecting individuals for the purpose of networking alone, Interlegal emphasizes maintaining personal contacts and ensures that its members are aware of other member firms’ expertise, jurisdictional advancements, and strengths and strives to promote networking on an individual level thus allowing room to build long-lasting personal friendships amongst its members.
People First! Interlegal focuses on members more than the business which in fact is the true essence of networking.
Importance of networking for lawyers
There are many ways in which networking can help an individual, primarily by:
1. Creating a good first impression
A person could have all of the essential qualifications and skills to make a good lawyer and still be unable to create a good impression. Despite how good someone’s CV is, a sheet of paper cannot represent a person better than his own communication skills, referrals, compliments gathered, and connections made through networking. Networking creates an environment where the person’s strengths and achievements are visible to people in decision-making positions.
2. Getting business opportunities
The ultimate purpose of a law firm or an individual practitioner is to develop skills and to secure business opportunities that bring satisfaction and good pay. Networking plays a vital role in this as clients find it easier to have faith in the recommendation made by someone in their circle of qualified people rather than relying on a complete newcomer. This is because the referrals are made by individuals who can verify the integrity and competence of that law firm or an individual. Maintaining the right relations may help you get an introduction, or stand out from your colleagues in a sea of other firms.
3. Getting guidance and knowledge of other legal fields
The field of law is vast and complex – with a large arena of new and upcoming niches such as sports law, fashion law, media and entertainment law, technology law, etc. most firms struggle at getting relevant knowledge of the fields, especially if they are in a different jurisdiction. One of the simplest ways to gain knowledge and awareness of other fields is to build connections with individuals across different sectors globally. Having an international network of lawyers who are working across government sectors, corporate firms, niche fields of law, freelancers, litigation, start-ups, etc., will enable you to learn about new fields, evaluate the pros and cons of each, understand the type of lifestyle different legal professionals have and avail the right opportunities.
4. Building a client pool
A large proportion of legal professionals choose to start their own practice, engage in freelance work, or even start their own firms – all of which require clients. The more connections a law firm has, the higher would be their credibility and reliability in the field and the more clients it would procure. Networking helps in differentiating your work from others in a competitive legal market where legal services are being commoditized, instead of being built on trust and genuine connections.
1. What is one important thing to keep in mind while networking?
Keep in mind that networking is not just about increasing the frequency of contacting someone, it is about creating efficient and productive relations. Don’t get overly ambitious or message anyone multiple times without getting a revert. Be respectful of others’ time and have realistic expectations as to how many people will actually respond and be interested in building a connection.
2. How to choose people for legal networking?
While it is a given that the person must be from the legal industry, try to connect with people engaged in diverse legal fields. Ascertain your life goals and target the individuals who can play a role in influencing those career goals. Also, keep in mind that there is no restriction that one must only connect with the highest decision-makers (such as the partners of a law firm). You could choose to connect with other lawyers, business development professionals and the likes of such; as each person has unique life experiences to share and learn from.
3. What skills do you need to be a good networker?
Have the confidence to approach people and engage in a conversation. Be charismatic and build a rapport with people from a variety of backgrounds. Pay attention to your body language and position yourself as a professional, open, and reliable person others can confidently share information. Apart from being a good speaker yourself, it is essential to let others speak. Develop your listening skills and do not speak over anyone else. Lastly, remember that it is not an interrogation session and you don’t have to relentlessly fire questions! Just appear to be genuinely interested so that others wish to continue talking to you.
4. How to be successful at an event?
Firstly, always appear decent, presentable, and formal. You can have some business cards printed as this provides the advantage that after presenting your card, you will likely get their card in return. Perfect your handshake by practising with a friend and keeping it firm and dry. There should be the right amount of grip, neither too much to make it seem like you are squeezing their hand, nor too little to make your hand appear limp. Always maintain eye contact while talking, smile, and introduce yourself clearly.
5. How to do follow-ups after an event?
Follow up on the contacts by either connecting with them over LinkedIn, sending them an email, or leaving a message on their number. Your message must include a quick introduction of who you are and how you met them. Thank them for their time and express a genuine interest in continuing the conversation. Keep all your social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn updated so as to leave a good impression on your new contacts and profile visitors.
A person’s network of lawyers is not just his biggest source of traditional client referrals, but also, a reflection of his standing as a lawyer in the community. Supportive connections increase the individual’s professional reputation, creating a strong personal brand for a successful legal career. One may rightly conclude that in today’s day and age “your network is your net worth.”