Networking is an important business development tool for all lawyers, but it is especially important for small law firms and solos. At the same time, many lawyers don’t enjoy networking—and especially not on virtual platforms.
Yet ignoring virtual networking opportunities can severely stunt your reach and business growth. So instead, consider these tips for making the process more successful and less stressful.
Networking means communicating
At its core, networking means communicating with others. If you go into a networking event with concrete goals, the process can feel rigid and artificial—not to mention you’ll judge the event as a success or failure by whether or not those goals were achieved.
There are certainly times when goal-specific networking is appropriate. However, most of the time, the value of networking lies in building and strengthening your connections.
For lawyers who really dislike networking, we suggest approaching events from this angle—where the focus is on conversations, not markers of goals achieved—and see if that eases some of the stress and artificiality.
Keep up conversations with your colleagues
As mentioned above, not all networking should be about directly trying to drum up business. Maintaining existing professional relationships and developing new ones—even if they have no immediate or obvious “use” for you—is an essential part of the process.
Build proactive communications with peers and mentors into your networking process. Email certainly works, but good, old-fashioned phone calls have a distinctly more personal touch.
Know what you bring to the table
Your practice area and experiences all add up to something unique—so use it. Know what you bring to the table professionally and incorporate it into your outreach with clients and colleagues.
Consider asking friends and family members who aren’t lawyers what they don’t understand or find confusing in your practice area. Then address their questions in newsletters or live streams. You can also tackle or break down current legal issues.
Likewise, participate in virtual conferences. Conferences are a great way to get your name out there, build connections you couldn’t have anticipated making, and demonstrate how your professional perspective is relevant.
Connect through social media
Social media isn’t just for marketing; it’s also for networking. It provides a great platform to engage in conversations related to your area of expertise and connect with peers in your area and connect with and possibly learn some tips from like-minded colleagues across the country.
Consider joining local Facebook groups in your interest areas, too. As with all social media, visibility provides an excellent opportunity for furthering connections—just don’t forget to stay professional and abide by ethics guidelines.
Follow up with new connections
If you meet someone through a virtual platform or conference, follow up with an email. No, this doesn’t mean dumping them into your marketing email list as soon as you have their contact information.
Instead, show them the respect you would want and simply send a follow-up email telling them it was nice to meet them. After that, you can ask about adding them to your email lists—or you can wait until you know them better.
Pro bono work provides a valuable service to your community. It can expand your network, and it’s good citizenship.
When appropriate, consider harnessing the power of social media to educate others about the program or issues you work for—and perhaps extend a call for more volunteers.
Make connections for others
Although you network with the hopes of building connections that will further develop your own business, one of the best ways to have your connections bear fruit is to help others so they will want to help you.
Making introductions, inviting others to participate in events, and sharing information that might be helpful or of interest to them are all great ways to build positive reciprocity.
From sharing information to volunteering or participating in conferences, there are many ways to build connections virtually.
Stay creative about discovering new networking opportunities, and the sky’s the limit.