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Unfortunately, most lawyers aren’t particularly excited about the idea of networking. Even lawyers who’ve taken steps to get help with business development will object, inevitably, when it’s time to test their networking ability. Two primary fears seem to be the basis for their lack of enthusiasm and their objections. So let’s take a look at why those fears are unfounded.
As soon as attorneys hear the term “networking,” their imaginations start to run wild. They envision used-car salespeople hawking automobiles, probably with tampered-with odometers. Next comes the objection I’ve heard countless times: “I didn’t go to law school to be a salesperson.”
Well, why did you go to law school? For many, I hope, the reason was to help people. That’s what lawyers do. We help individuals get divorced, stay out of jail, survive bankruptcy and obtain compensation for personal injuries, among other things. For businesses, we protect intellectual property, establish employment policies, provide a defense in court, and guide them through mergers and acquisitions.
Does any of this sound even remotely like a used car? No. We help individuals and businesses with their problems. We attempt to find solutions. At its most basic level, effective networking lets others know that if they (or people they know) have certain legal problems, you or your law firm can help solve those problems. Why are you afraid to tell others that? You should be proud to say it!
Shift your paradigm. Get rid of that mental picture of a parking lot overflowing with used cars. Replace it with the picture of a recently satisfied client. That is why you went to law school.
“This all sounds pretty disingenuous to me. Won’t the other person know that getting together for lunch is simply a pretense for me to try to get business?” Well, kind of. But don’t worry about it. Experienced networkers recognize that effective networking is all about how people can help each other—professionally or even personally.
True, sometimes it is about the legal services you can provide, but not always. You may be able to provide useful information that has nothing to do with your legal acumen. For example, you may be able to provide the name of a trusted service provider. The people who agree to meet with you realize that your knowledge and background can be beneficial to them in ways above and beyond your own legal skills. Because of this, they are happy to get together with you.
Besides, if the person you asked to have lunch is bothered by the possibility that business development is the main reason for the invitation, guess what? The person can decline the invite. Those who accept are those who realize that networking is a process that provides mutual benefits. They won’t think you are disingenuous. Don’t lose any sleep over it.
Lawyers are skeptics by their very nature. So it’s no surprise that many are skeptical of networking. Don’t be one of them.
Roy S. Ginsburg is an attorney coach who works one-to-one in the areas of business development, practice management and career development. He has practiced law for more than 25 years in large to small firms and in a corporate setting. He is currently an active solo with a part-time practice in legal marketing ethics and employment law. Learn more about Roy at www.royginsburg.com.
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