Networking Face to Face
Networking: the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically--the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.
Bar associations often sponsor networking events. Our local bar, the Ingham County Bar Association began 2014 with a networking event, Meet the Judges Reception. Almost 200 lawyers, judges and law students came together to exchange information, business cards, and to socialize. It was an enjoyable evening; we renewed old friendships and made new ones.
The marketing gurus tell us that word of mouth is the best referral system around. A person who needs a lawyer asks a trusted friend for a referral and a name is given. If the legal problem is in the lawyer’s field, the lawyer has a new client, but, if not, the lawyer refers the potential client to an attorney met at the most recent Bar Association networking event.
This form of networking, face-to-face contact with a discreet group is but one of the forms that direct contact networking can take. Other forms include:
- Seminars and conferences: combine learning with socializing.
- Boards of Directors: both profit and non-profit—sitting on boards brings you in contact with groups outside the legal world.
- Community involvement: volunteer for an organization that is of interest to you and meet new people along the way.
- Bar association training meetings: meet fellow lawyers, learn new information in your area of practice, and when you can, offer your expertise and teach a session.
- Public speaking for both legal and non-legal groups develops an awareness of your practice.
- Teach at a local college: look around, colleges need adjunct professors to teach various legal subjects.
What to do if you’re shy, don’t feel comfortable in a group of strangers and can often find yourself in a corner, nursing a drink of some sort and talking to the wall? Remember that most of us are shy. It is hard to walk up to a group of complete strangers and enter the conversation. There is hope, however.
The best-selling book by Susan RoAne, How to Work a Room, Revised Edition offers a number of suggestions and is available on Amazon. RoAne starts with attitude—if you think you will have a lousy time, you will—go with the attitude of enjoying yourself.
I know you’ve been told this before, but in addition to knowing your name, which should be easy, have your elevator speech ready; a brief statement about your practice. It also helps to have in mind some conversation starters, such as “Is this the first Meet the Judges you have attended?” And, bring plenty of business cards, handily tucked in a pocket. Ask for the other lawyer’s card—make a note on the back to remember the lawyer’s area of practice. If follow up is
needed, do it soon.
Conversely, if you are in the group and a stranger appears, take a moment to help that person enter the conversation—turn, smile, introduce yourself and the others—and then say, for example, “We were discussing the…” The stranger will appreciate and remember your efforts and this brief encounter can lead to a new friendship, a referral or someone you can refer to others that need their particular expertise.