If you’re like many attorneys, you don’t want to use your limited free time—or worse, potentially billable hours—attending networking events. But while the idea might be stressful, attorney networking is a valuable tool for establishing your firm’s reputation and building relationships that can bring in new business.
In the best-case scenario, networking with other attorneys will help you meet lawyers in different practice areas. Over time, these relationships can become a source of referrals for your firm, allowing you to build more business organically.
If you’ve had your fill of fruitless networking happy hours and are weary of sending yet another unanswered email to a potential lead, here are some creative networking ideas that will help you bring in business without wasting your time.
Engage with your community
There’s no one right way to engage with your community, but keep an open mind and be willing to consider opportunities that are not necessarily related to your profession. Lawyers are natural-born leaders—you could join the local school board or chamber of commerce or simply volunteer to organize the neighborhood block party. By being active in your community, you’ll meet lots of potential clients and colleagues while also establishing yourself as a service-oriented, trustworthy professional.
Use the internet to broaden your network
Whether you love it or hate it, there’s nothing like the internet to break down geographical barriers and help you broadly expand your network.
Before you start thinking you need to become a social media marketing expert, think outside of the box—there are plenty of ways to build relationships online that don’t involve joining the latest and greatest social media site.
Join legal community groups (and become active in them!) to start interacting with legal professionals outside your practice area. After participating in a group conversation, follow up with a LinkedIn invitation to connect and build your relationship further. LinkedIn can be an especially valuable tool for lawyers looking to develop an acquaintance into a mutually beneficial partnership since LinkedIn shows mutual connections between legal professionals.
Use LinkedIn to connect others
The first rule of successful networking is to provide value to the people you meet. In legal networking, this may look like making productive introductions between colleagues and becoming a source of referrals for other lawyers.
Using LinkedIn effectively makes providing ongoing value easy, even after networking events have ended.
Here’s an example: You meet a new acquaintance at a networking happy hour and connect with them on LinkedIn after the event. After reviewing their LinkedIn profile, you virtually introduce them to another legal professional in your LinkedIn network. While this practice doesn’t provide any direct benefit to you (you’re essentially setting up two lawyers you know on a blind date), it does show your new connection that you’re willing to support their business and may yield a stronger relationship (and more referrals!) in the future.
Establish yourself as a thought leader
People looking for a lawyer want to work with someone they find knowledgeable and trustworthy. By blogging, public speaking, or even contributing a small column to your local newspaper, you can establish your relevance as a thought leader in the legal profession and generate more leads. Make sure to provide your firm’s contact information with every piece of contact you produce to make it easy for prospective clients to connect with you in the future.
Consider every social event to be a networking event
Regardless of your legal practice area, almost everyone you meet on a daily basis is a potential client—from the cashier you interact with at the grocery store to the person exercising next to you at the gym, a wealth of leads surrounds you at all times. Instead of thinking of networking as confined to specific networking events, be prepared to build connections in everyday interactions.
To prepare, you need to hone your elevator pitch. To make effective connections on the fly, you must be able to describe your value in a sentence or two. Instead of introducing yourself simply as a lawyer, concisely explain how you help your clients. Practice your legal one-liner ahead of time, so it will feel natural and comfortable when you share it with others.
Make networking work for you
Networking doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or time-consuming, and there’s no one-size-fits-all way to build new relationships. Consider what interests you and how you prefer to engage with others to craft an effective networking strategy within your comfort zone.