Many lawyers loathe the idea of networking. Making small talk while sipping wine, nibbling on finger foods, and fake smiling at the end of a long day sounds dreadful to many people.
But there are two critical things attorneys should know about networking:
In today’s digital age, networking is scalable. There is a networking tactic that will meet just about everybody’s comfort level, from the bookish introvert to the former fraternity president.
Networking is an important, powerful, and necessary marketing tool for increasing business because it helps attorneys build and maintain strategic relationships.
Getting Started: Basic Networking Tips
Whether online or in-person, there are some basic networking best practices to ensure adequate preparation and successful interactions:
Create and use an elevator pitch: Before attending the next conference or sending the next LinkedIn connection invite, write and memorize a concise and descriptive explanation of what you do and who you do it for. Learn more about creating an effective elevator pitch by clicking here.
Get involved: You know you need to network but you don’t know where to begin. Since you just wrote your elevator pitch, think about your practice, interests, and passions and find organizations that focus on those. Whether it’s a local bar association, a professional trade group related to the industry you serve, or non-legal or business volunteer community organizations — these groups all offer formal or informal networking opportunities.
Be engaged in the conversation: Whether face-to-face or via direct messaging, be genuine, responsive, and a good listener. Show interest in their experiences, ideas, and perspectives. Ask open-ended questions and follow-up queries to encourage deeper discussion. Authenticity goes a long way in building trust and fostering lasting connections. Importantly, find opportunities to offer value to the other person. Share your knowledge, offer help, make introductions, or provide resources whenever possible. Networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships.
Maintain the relationship: Networking is not just about making connections; it's about nurturing and maintaining them. Keep in touch with your contacts periodically by reaching out, sharing interesting articles or updates, and congratulating them on their achievements. Here are some actions for attorneys to take after meeting a connection in person to ensure the relationship continues.
Online Networking Tips
All the above networking best practices for attorneys apply to online networking. Social media, digital marketing, and even email and texting have taken networking into the virtual space. Attorneys who cringe at attending small-talk events often find the right networking fit online. Meanwhile, attorneys who don’t embrace digital interactions are missing out on valuable opportunities to connect, build relationships, develop business, and even recruit top talent.
Here are ways to get started with and maintain online networking:
Create an online presence and persona: Having a professional website with your bio is the first step in successful online networking, as it is likely those you interact with will want to learn more about and vet you. Branding, target audience, identifying niche services and practices, and showcasing your expertise creates credibility and strengthens your reputation. This information begins with the law firm’s website and carries over into all your online networking activities.
Social media: Like your law firm website, your social media profiles should be professional and informative. Most lawyers use LinkedIn, but the right social media platform will depend on your target audience, especially for attorneys who service consumers. Creating a profile is not enough for successful marketing — you must post regularly, seek connections, and engage with their posts to build relationships.
Join legal networking platforms: Join legal-specific networking platforms such as Martindale-Hubbell, LawLink, or Legal OnRamp. These platforms connect you with other legal professionals and provide opportunities to build your reputation and create referral sources. Many also offer awards or profiles that strengthen credibility and your online reach.
Join online forms: Many professional and industry organizations, like those mentioned in the general networking section above, offer online networking opportunities via listservs, chats, or social media groups. Just as you would at a seminar or on a blog post, you can be a part of a relevant conversation that allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and skills.
Attend virtual networking events: Those professional and industry organizations also often hold online virtual networking events. While Zoom fatigue is real and most people are returning to in-person networking events, there is something to be said about the convenience of networking without taking time to drive or wear uncomfortable shoes. Be sure to take advantage of features like breakout rooms or virtual networking lounges to engage with other attendees in smaller groups or one-to-one.
Content marketing: Writing articles and blogs may seem like a solo activity, but all content supports networking. Sharing your thoughts, good news, and expertise with your connections via newsletters, social media, and even email or text builds not only your reputation but also your relationships. Content is a good excuse to reach out directly to someone who will appreciate that you thought of them and had ideas that could benefit them. Content also provides the basis for sharing wider in social media or on listservs and other online forums.
Networking builds business only if you do it. With so many ways to network as an attorney, there will be one that makes you feel comfortable. Like with everything, the more you do it, the better you’ll get!