There are many things I wish I’d done earlier, and one of them is starting to build my network of contacts.
Now, let’s make sure we are talking about the right thing – networking and marketing are not the same. They are related, certainly, but really networking is a subset of marketing.
So when I’m talking about networking here for young lawyers I”m really just talking about expanding your reach: having a larger group of people that you could pick up the phone and call and expect them to speak to you.
With that in mind, there are a number of straightforward things you can do now which, if implemented into your weekly habits, are likely to start expanding your horizons.
Make Phone Calls
We default to email often, but the reality is that making phone calls is a great way to build your networks. The people you’ve only emailed are only a peripheral part of your network, but once you’ve spoken to them on the phone and started to develop personal relationship, they are far more a part of your team.
Volunteer for Something
Events, organisations, charitable causes, functions – volunteer to do something, with someone. At the very least you will meet the coordinator of the event and likely a few more people connected with the team running it. More likely you will have a chance to attend the function/event/thing in question and make a number more contacts in the process.
Collect Business Cards
I know that they are getting out of fashion, but after you’ve met someone at a function and had a little bit of a chat, it’s not really a problem to offer to exchange business cards with them. It’s the best way to get their details and remember who they are. Make sure you do something with it though…
Invite People to Invite People
One of the best ways to expand your network is to use your existing network. Once you have a few established relationships, why not have casual lunches, coffees, catch ups or whatever and ask 2 or 3 people to bring a person along with them. It’s a pretty simple way to expand your network, just make sure you remember who was there and where they were from (or get a business card – see above) otherwise you haven’t really accomplished anything. If you particularly “hit it off” with someone you might then want to invite them yourself to the next occasion.
Join An Association
The obvious choice here is an industry association that’s connected somehow with your work – you know, the local Association for Angry, Demented Litigators or whatever. But that’s not necessarily the best choice, nor is it the only choice. Find something you are genuinely interested in – after all, it’s pretty likely that if you have a hobby you enjoy you’ll have a chance to catch up with people from all walks of life. Again – networking isn’t just about targeting “prospects” it’s about expanding the list of people you can call, and who can call you.
Don’t Forget your Internals
In a firm of any size, chances are you don’t necessarily know everyone. Networking doesn’t just include externals – why not get to know 1 or 2 new people inside your firm each week? Just swing by their office, say hello, shake a hand, and let them know what group you work in. It doesn’t have to be a complicated process. In many areas internal referrals are, in fact, a great source of work for individual lawyers. However, beyond that, remember that networking is about expanding your reach, more so than directly increasing your work. Each of those people you meet and then follow up is another piece of the puzzle.
So Get on with It
This is just 6 of many possible ideas, but particularly I’ve chosen ones that you can do pretty quickly.
Networking is just something you “do” however, it’s something you get in the habit of doing. So keep an eye out for opportunities, and don’t be afraid to go and grab them. The more you practice, the more natural it will feel, and as a result the better you will become at it.
Good luck, and Happy Lawyering!