Despite being a critical skill in any networking for young lawyers, one thing I see younger professionals consistently struggle with is following up on contacts. One of the reasons is that they haven’t thought about the value that having someone’s business card actually gives you.
Making contacts is hard enough. You go to events, functions, seminars, coffees, and you gradually overcome your fear of speaking to people at all. Once you have done that, you find that over time you collect the contact details of a significant number of people.
And then…. nothing.
Do you have a business card holder (OK you might have put all those cards into your electronic contacts lists like I have, but let’s assume you have them in one of those holders that you can flip through).
Tell me this: when did you last actually look at one of those business cards for the purpose ONLY of calling someone to see how they were going?
For many young lawyers, the answer is never.
They’ve collected the card, put it away, and then it sits untouched until they move office and throw it out.
The other option is that they call people for work purposes, while instructions are required or information is needed, but then never touch base again.
That’s Not How It’s Done
If you want to build a network of contacts (and you do) then you need to understand exactly what the business card is for.
Once you understand what it’s for, you then need to take up the advantage and do something with it.
Otherwise you’re just wasting the very small piece of tree that was sliced and diced to make the card which now sits, untouched, on your desk.
You’re also wasting a wonderful opportunity to develop a relationship with a potential client, referrer, mentor, supporter or friend.
So what DOES the Business Card Really give you?
The business card doesn’t just give you contact details. It doesn’t just give you an email and a memory trigger so you can remember that person next time you see them. Instead it gives you something far more valuable…
It gives you permission.
Permission to touch base.
Permission to call.
Permission to arrange a coffee or a further catch up.
Sure, the level of permission you’ve been given is fairly threshold – it’s not like you’re going to go and visit the person’s mother just because you have their business card (hot tip: don’t go visiting people’s mothers uninvited).
But permission is the starting point of any professional relationship – and with a business card, you’ve got a foot in the door and the implicit permission to begin the journey of establishing a professional relationship with somebody. You’ve got permission to offer them some value, to develop trust, and to make yourself known to them more so that they understand who you are, how you function, and why they might benefit from the relationship.
So Don’t Waste your Permission
In a busy world of many crying out for our attention, the gift of permission shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a powerful and valuable tool, and if you’re not taking advantage of it then you are wasting an asset.
A final note, however – permission doesn’t stay warm forever. If you’ve had business cards sitting untouched for 12 months, then chances are your permission has been withdrawn.
So use it before you lose it – take the permission and try to develop relationships faster and stronger. They will last you years to some, and will form a cornerstone of your legal practice.
Got a story about taking advantage of permission has worked out for you? Let us know in the comments – we can use the encouragement!