Many lawyers are skeptical about networking until they do it and start seeing the results. Below are three examples of how networking worked for three (previously skeptical) family law attorneys.
Teaching a Course
One lawyer I worked with had a strong interest in e-discovery and family law. We decided together that she could leverage her expertise and interest in this subject by teaching a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course at a local bar association meeting. Three weeks later she called me to say she received a referral for a substantive case from someone who was in her class.
What worked: She leveraged her expertise and interest to teach a class that positioned her as an expert in her topic. Teaching a CLE increased her visibility and credibility among her target client and referral sources.
Conducting an Education Seminar
Another lawyer I worked with expanded her network by conducting a seminar for mental health professionals. As a result of her presentation, she got a referral from a mental health professional who did not know her prior to the seminar.
What worked: By delivering an informative presentation on a relevant topic, the lawyer established trust with the seminar participants–a critical factor in securing referrals.
Joining a Board
A third example was one of my clients who had a passion for the arts and wanted to expand his network by contributing his time to an arts related organization. After doing some research on organizations, he decided to become a board member for the local symphony. A few months after joining the board, he received a referral from another board member who needed a divorce lawyer and retained my client and his firm.
What worked: As a board member, he became involved in increasing membership, sponsoring symphony events, participating in fundraising and bringing clients to the symphony. By producing value for the community and the symphony, he established trust with key influencers in the community. He successfully increased both his visibility and credibility with business and civic leaders in his community.
Do What You Enjoy
The common thread in all of these examples is that these lawyers were able to expand their network by getting involved in activities that leveraged their strengths, passions, and interests.
Networking does not work when you feel you have to show up at an event, hand out business cards, or engage in awkward or forced conversation. It does work when you are engaged in activities you enjoy.
Every lawyer from new associates to senior partners can expand their network by focusing on the following:
- Participate in activities that align with your interests, strengths or passions.
- Get involved in opportunities where can you make a contribution and help others. This may include teaching a class, leading a workshop, sitting on a board, or volunteering for a committee or organization you care about.
- Focus on activities that will increase your visibility and credibility in front of influencers, targeted referral sources and professionals who know or serve your target client.
Networking is “Serving” Not “Selling”
Networking can go from being a draining obligation to a purposeful activity when you shift your focus from “selling” to “serving” and align your passions and interests with meaningful activities directed at those who can benefit from your expertise or contribution. By getting involved and giving value to others you will begin to cultivate trust and deepen your professional relationships in a more natural and authentic way, while also attracting more consistent “ideal” clients to your practice.