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A day in the life of an attorney is a busy one — let’s leave it at that. So when the topic of networking with anyone outside of the characters in your Netflix lineup arises, you may want to run for cover. We get it. Networking with strangers on a Friday night won’t top most people’s list of weekend plans.
Still, networking in the legal world can pay off. Everyone at one time or another will need a lawyer, and you’re likely expected to bring in new clients to your firm. If you truly embrace the conversations that come out of legal networking, you’ll not only find new clients but also build trust with existing clients and colleagues. The upside is truly worthwhile.
So don’t let the thought of watered-down drinks and an army of button-ups turn you off the idea of expanding your professional network. There are many ways to grow your book of business, and utilizing a combination of those tactics can help you get there. The best part? You don’t have to join every country club or suddenly take up golfing to make connections. Take a look:
Seven Ways to Start Legal Networking
Make and Use Business Cards
In many cases, legal networking starts with a business card. The concept is perhaps an old-fashioned one, but not defunct—at least that’s what various working attorneys had to share when asked about what advice they would lend to legal professionals who were looking to grow their network. Reno Lovison, author of Turn Your Business Card Into Business, agrees, “Keep in mind that in spite of recent obituaries, business cards are not dead, especially in this profession. If I am in trouble, I want your business card in my wallet or a picture of it on my phone.”
And keep in mind that you’ll also want a professionally built and optimized website to match your business card if you own and run your firm. This may be a task that requires a monetary investment and an expert third party to execute, but a quality website where clients can preview information and reviews is an essential component of doing business today.
Embrace the “Always On” Mindset
Live by the motto that any conversation can be a networking opportunity—which is also why having business cards already made up can come in handy. Have a goal to network with people anywhere you go or with anyone you encounter. Think: your morning coffee stop, the Amazon delivery person, the fellow pup parent you stand next to at doggy daycare pickup. “I would talk to people even on the cashier’s line at the supermarket and find a way to weave in my profession,” says Renata Castro, Esq.
Join Bar Associations for Legal Networking
…And be active within those associations. It’s not just enough to have your name on the roster. If you are able to join a bar association, be sure to participate in events and find opportunities to add value to the group. Not only will you gain exposure for your business, but you could also connect with potential mentors. “Mentorship is necessary for many reasons [including] practical issues such as handling difficult client/case situations or seeking guidance on substantive legal questions,” shares Tahmina Watson, founder of Watson Immigration Law.
Attend Formal Legal Networking Events
You knew we’d get to this one eventually, but hear us out. Formal, in-person networking events are not all painful. That can especially be true if you are willing to attend events both in and outside of the legal field. If you feel like most events you’ve attended involve more of the same dead-end opportunities, try attending a networking event that’s not exclusively for lawyers.
“No one is an expert in everything,” notes Austin Smith from Merck Law. “Networking allows lawyers to connect with experts in different areas. It is beneficial to have connections that are a phone call away to answer specialized questions. Also, those same lawyers may reach out to you regarding questions about your area(s) of expertise. This can generate business from developing a reputation in the community for your area of expertise.”
If you’re not sure what other field to even start with, Castro advises that the best way to help you find something is to think of the referral cycle and the steps that prospective clients will go through before they hire an attorney. “If you are a family lawyer, do your clients go first to marriage counseling? If you are a tax attorney, do your clients go first to a CPA or tax preparer? Knowing the behavior path of your client until they reach you makes your networking more effective,” says Castro.
Keep Conversations Going
Once you attend an event and share your business card, be diligent in following up with new connections. Make plans to meet for coffee or lunch. Talk about yourselves, get to know each other, and be genuine in your conversations. It doesn’t have to be all business all of the time when legal networking—or networking in any field for that matter.
Tanieka Thompson-Mungo, Esq. Estate Planning Attorney at Thompson-Mungo Firm urges attorneys who are looking to network, “Follow up, if you come across an article that may be of interest, share it with that person; send a handwritten card to remind them that it was nice meeting them; schedule some time to get to know them; view your business relationships similar to your other meaningful relationships. Most importantly: Be yourself! Lawyers can be viewed in such a way that is so boring sometimes. We all have personalities and have so much more to offer than our knowledge.”
Work Pro Bono to Boost Legal Networking
Giving back some of your time in an arena where you can demonstrate your quality of work can be a great, fulfilling way to network in the legal field. “Work on pro bono cases at legal clinics to build up experience,” relays Watson. “In this process, not only do you work on cases, but you also make connections with lawyers within those programs.”
Volunteer in Your Community
Further, you can also choose to get involved in your community and gain some name recognition that way as well. Volunteering for a local cause that you care about will help introduce you to a group of local, like-minded people who will be apt to give you a call if they need legal counsel in the future.
We know that networking will require an investment of your time, energy, and even money, but it will also be an investment in your personal and professional development. Satisfied clients are your best promoters, especially through word-of-mouth, and reputation still means a lot in the legal profession.
On the other hand, lawyers from your network can recommend good accounting software they use or the insurance broker they are satisfied with. If you still haven’t obtained your malpractice insurance policy or want to learn more about the coverage, check out our legal professional liability insurance guide.
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