Networking for extroverts . . . and introverts

Ellen Keiley
BridgeTower Media Newswires

A good network can be powerful and can open doors for lawyers. From securing a new client to securing a new position at a law firm, your network can help.

Networking beyond events

It’s important to note that networking isn’t just attending events with a large group of people you don’t know. Networking opportunities exist everywhere you go, from the playground to the office. You should always be on and have your antenna up. You can network simply by being a connector.

Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, just be yourself, be positive and approachable, and make a conscious effort to meet more people. You will end up meeting people who can open doors for you, while also opening yourself up to opportunities that otherwise may not have existed, such as on boards or speaking engagements.

What’s the point?

Networking is important for so many reasons. It certainly is a critical business development source for lawyers who need to build their client base. A great amount of business can be secured through referrals from your network. Therefore, you should build a diverse network of contacts, and make sure they know exactly what you do.

Even your neighbor can be a referral source. Remember, often people reach out to their networks for recommendations when looking to hire a lawyer or a service provider.

Where and how to network

Networking can take place in any setting. Anytime you are in contact with another person, there is a networking opportunity. When networking and telling others about what you do, don’t just say, “I’m a lawyer.” Be very clear about the type of law you practice, and provide examples, so others have a true understanding of what you really do.

It’s very important to be self-aware when interacting with others. Do a lot more listening and show curiosity about the other person instead of just talking about yourself. Conversely, some lawyers don’t talk about themselves at all, because they feel like it’s bragging. But it’s not. It’s something lawyers need to get comfortable doing.

Although networking can take place anywhere, attending events is a good way to meet new contacts or potential clients and build your network. The more you get out there, the more you will start seeing familiar faces. It’s important to be visible for various reasons, including personal brand-building and reminding people you are around.

For those who are introverts and find attending events overwhelming, know that networking often does not come natural to most. It’s a skill that you can build and get more comfortable with over time, and there are various “how to work a room” tips that you can learn and use to feel more comfortable in a networking setting. There are also different types of events, from cocktail receptions, to programs with a networking component, to book clubs.

When choosing events and organizations, do your research and be strategic. Think about your interests, practice area and target audience, and focus your efforts. With each organization you get involved in, you will meet a whole new set of contacts. You never know where a connection can lead. If you just stay at home and don’t attend events, you are going to have a smaller network and miss out on opportunities.

One mistake I see lawyers make is that they forget that anyone can be a potential client or referral source. If they don’t think the person they meet is an immediate potential client, such as in-house counsel, they don’t give the other person the time of day and don’t bother following up.

The next step

Follow-up in general is often something that gets neglected, so be sure to follow up with the people you make a connection with to ensure maximum return on the investment of your time. Many lawyers tell me that they go to events, collect business cards, and then put them on their desk and do nothing with them.

It’s a good practice to identify any important contacts that you need to stay in touch with, particularly current clients, past clients, high-potential clients and referral sources/potential referral sources, and develop a follow-up system. It’s also a good practice to track your activity.

There are different ways to stay in touch, such as reaching out to your contacts for reasons ranging from saying happy birthday, to congratulating them on a promotion or award, to inviting them out to lunch to catch up. Scanning updates on LinkedIn is a good way to stay informed as to what is going on with your network.

In addition to staying in touch, always be a connector. Look for ways you can help others and extend kind gestures. It can be as simple as inviting someone to attend an event where you have a table, or if you know someone who has a relative looking for a job, think about who in your network might be able to help.

A work in progress

Building and maintaining a good network is a continuous process. You should regularly add to your network, but make sure you also focus on relationship building and staying in touch with your existing contacts.

The most effective relationships are those that are mutually beneficial. If you want to really build your network, you need to get out and meet people. And be yourself. If you do that, a variety of opportunities will come your way.

Over time with practice, networking will become second nature, and you will be networking without even thinking about it.

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Ellen M. Keiley is president of EMK Consulting Group, which offers business development coaching and consulting, public relations, and training for law firms. She can be contacted at ellenkeiley@emkconsultinggroup.com.
 

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