Networking. Just hearing the word is enough to send tremors of dread down the spines of most people. But once you get past the small talk and dry routine of passing out business cards after saying the usual “Hey, what’s up,” networking events can actually be remarkably useful.
The thing with networking is that it completely embodies the concept of getting as much as you put in. If you approach a legal networking event like an obligatory annoyance and do minimal (or no) prep work, your results aren’t going to be that great. So here are a few legal networking tips to help you get the most out of the next event you attend—beyond the glaringly obvious ones like dressing well and bringing a load of business cards (or not).
Tip #1: Do your prep work.
What’s the demographic going to be like? Is this an event for lawyers of a specific practice area? Look up the topics that will be discussed if it’s a seminar or if someone is giving a talk, and research them a little so you can talk about them intelligently later. It’ll probably be more engaging than saying something like, “So… what’s new?
Tip #2: Have a line ready.
It’s as simple as encompassing who are you, what you do, and why you’re here. That should be enough to get the conversation flowing, and to help the people you meet figure out as soon as possible if and how they can help (and vice versa).
Tip #3: It’s not about you; it’s about them.
If you want to experience truly enjoyable interactions where the other person is fully engaged, don’t make it about you. This is true of any conversation, but especially at an event where the sole purpose is to create mutually beneficial relationships.
Tip #4: Don’t just do it when you need to.
Continuously network, go to events, and meet new people. It’s a skill that you build over time and that needs to be honed constantly—and if it’s any consolation, it will only get easier each time.
Tip #5. Follow up.
This should be common sense and we hate being redundant, but somehow, excuses abound for not following up. People meet tens, if not hundreds, of other professionals, and yes, that means unless you have a 3D pop-up business card, it will probably get lost in the shuffle. Even if you’re highly talented at having outstanding and memorable conversations with every person you meet, following up with a quick email will cement your acquaintances’ memory of you and help you begin to cultivate that relationship.
Tip #6: Be wary of creating an impression of an attorney-client relationship.
Everyone wants free advice, but advice is where your ethical duties kick in. Be mindful of how you are presenting yourself and the advice you’re handing out with your business cards.
Tip #7: BUT… Always be willing to talk and give general legal information.
It’s a delicate balance; you want to show your expertise and that you know what you’re talking about, but once people want it applied to their specific problems, that’s when it’s time to leave the cocktail party and take it to the office.
What’s your strategy at networking events? Any favorite legal networking tips? Tweet us, or leave a comment below!