The following is a guest blog post by Anabella Q. Bonfa. Ms. Bonfa is a litigator with Wellman & Warren LLP and has built a reputation for handling business and partnership disputes, theft of trade secrets, and unfair competition. She lectures extensively on trade secrets, networking, and using social media to develop business.
The legal job market is fiercely competitive. Learning to network can mean the difference between success and failure. Developing your networking skills can help you advance your career and grow a steady book of business that will give you constant job security. Here are 7 tips to help you become a networking star.
- Meet attorneys in different specialties. Get to know attorneys in every legal specialty. Aside from being potential employers themselves, attorneys will know other attorneys to whom they can introduce you (if they like you). Attorneys are a great source of referral business for other attorneys. Look for lawyers who you think your clients will like. When your clients need a specialized attorney in a different area of practice than yours, you want to make sure they will be comfortable with your referral.
- Meet professionals in diverse fields. Potential clients come from all walks of life. The people you meet may become potential clients, a lead to a potential client, or someone with whom you will work in the future, e.g., as an expert witness or consultant. Knowing different types of professionals will help you introduce your business connections to other people who will be helpful to their respective businesses. A good stress-free way to meet people is to offer your time to a community service organization, public law center, or charity.
- Do something nice for people you like. Are you afraid to network because you don’t want to “sell” yourself and you can’t stand the idea of being rejected? Forget about “selling” yourself. You’ll get business from others when you’re focused on what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. Consider making an introduction, sending information of value, or helping market your new contact.
- Do what you say you’re going to do. If you promise to send an article to your contact or to make an introduction, do it at the same time you send a thank-you note. Nothing is more impressive to a new contact than consistent follow-up. It establishes immediate credibility with your new contact.
- Regularly follow up with your new contacts. Now that you’ve met some really great people, don’t leave them for dead. You’ll have an idea whom you really enjoyed meeting. If you liked them, chances are they liked you too. Make it a point to follow up quarterly. Call, schedule an in-person meeting, and find out what’s happening in their lives, whether they have the same goals, what projects they’re currently working on, and continue to develop your personal relationship. It takes time and effort to establish relationships.
- Write an article for a legal blog or website. A well-written article will get your name out there in a positive light. And the more you write online, the better chance your name will be located on Google. You can write about a new legal development or give a practice tip. If you’re a new attorney and feel too inexperienced to share practice advice, consider the expertise you do have, e.g., in conducting a legal job search, starting a law practice, or using a new technology. Don’t forget to tap your expertise in a completely separate field (e.g., sales, management) which would complement your work as an attorney. You can either maintain your own blog site or offer to author a guest blog for a well-received legal blog. Legal blogs are always looking for relevant, well-written content to post.
- Be yourself and be sincere. People hire other people who they like and trust. Be willing to share some personal information, and you’ll find more often than not people you meet will reciprocate. And be honest; people know when you’re trying to be something you’re not or when you’re trying to exaggerate your background or accomplishments.
Establishing relationships with other people is not an overnight process, but if you stick with networking, you’ll be successful and the professional rewards will be great.
For more on acquiring clients through marketing and other methods, check out CEB’s California Basic Practice Handbook, chapter 1—a great book for anyone starting out in law practice.
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