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Lawyer Networking: 4 Networking Secrets of Successful Lawyers

Massive networking events have been the time-honored way lawyers have networked for… forever. The bigger the better, it seems, with more expensive and time-consuming conventions in exciting cities all the time–hundreds of meetings, seminars, vendors, and parties. But what really gets accomplished? Well, that depends on what you really want from your networking time.

SECRET NUMBER ONE: HAVE AN HONEST PLAN

Decide in advance what you really want from networking and how much time and money you are willing to invest. I imagine that most lawyers who network feel it’s something they are supposed to do, much like getting their teeth cleaned or taking an annual physical, but without actually having a clear goal in mind, much less a strategy as to how to get there.

If your plan is to get more business, say so, and attack the event with that in mind. If the plan is to find an excuse to be in Las Vegas for three days, that is fine too; but then don’t blame the event for not netting you any new referrals or contacts.   

SECRET TWO: YOU HAVE TO INTERACT

Success at a networking event is predicated to your ability to connect with people who are looking to achieve many of the same things you are. The problem is that many others who attend are not there for that reason; some are there to brag about their success, others are only interested in selling you something, and many are not at all sure why they are there.  

I believe that being as clear as possible about what you do and why, finding out what the other person does and why, and then asking how you could do business together is an effective way to interact with a stranger.

Me:  Hi, how are you? My name is Spencer Aronfeld. I own a personal injury law firm in Miami.

Stranger: Hi, I am Billy Stranger, and I practice law in Wichita, Kansas.

Me: What kind of law do you practice–what kinds of cases are you most interested in?

Stranger: I handle cattle ranch litigation. [Usually they mention the most interesting thing they do, but not always their most common area of practice].

Me:  Wow.  I’ve never come across one of those cases in my 26 years of practicing law in Miami, but now I know whom to send one to. Do you do anything else? [They almost always do.]

Stranger:  I handle divorces, criminal cases.  

[At this point, I may not ever be able to send him a case, but maybe I can learn something from him about marketing or management.]

Me: I see.  How do you get your cases?

Stranger: I advertise on billboards. [Could be bus benches, high school football bleachers, or urinal cakes, as long as it’s something I’ve never tried or heard of].

Me: I’ve always wondered if that was effective.

Stranger: Works for me. Been doing it for three years and I’ve gotten 19 cases out of it.  Paid for itself, 10 times over.

[You could spend the next 20 minutes learning about this, and this one interaction may turn out to provide you with a whole new way of marketing. Lastly…]

Me: I represent people who have been injured on cruise ships. Do you have clients who go on cruises?

Stranger:  I am sure I do.

Me: Well, if they slip and fall on a Carnival ship, they have only one year to sue, and they have to file the claim in Federal Court in Miami. Most people don’t know this.

Stranger: That is good to know.

[And now for the important part…]

Me: Here’s my card.

Stranger: Here’s mine. Let’s stay in touch.

This is the perfect interaction.  You have met someone new, learned something, taught something, and exchanged business cards. Now what you do with this is Secret Number 3.

SECRET NUMBER 3: KEEP THE CARD, KEEP THE CONTACT

Most people I know get someone’s card and shove it in a pocket. At a busy convention, I can get a hundred cards. By the end of the day, I have no idea who is who or what we talked about.  

I maintain a record in my firm’s files of who I meet, and I write notes on the back of the card about what we discussed, which I later have put into my electronic database. For example, about the lawyer I described meeting in SECRET TWO, I would write . . .

“Advertises on Billboards, does cattle ranching litigation, but has a general practice. Met at XYZ convention Las Vegas April 2016.”

Numerous apps are available that will scan a business card right into your smartphone, such as Camcard or Evernote.  

SECRET FOUR: THE FOLLOW-UP

As exciting and memorable as you think you are, the person you just spent so much time and money to meet, just shoved your card into her briefcase, too. Most likely, unless you follow up, it will get thrown out with the rest of the cards and other paraphernalia she will be bombarded with over the next couple of days.

If you don’t follow up, either by a referral, an email, social media, a newsletter, or some other form of keeping in touch, you just wasted all the effort and time you spent creating the contact, which is the typical outcome of most networking events.  

You meet someone, you talk, you exchange cards and then… crickets. Don’t rely on or expect the person you just met to sustain the relationship. You wanted it, you created it, and you must nurture it, or just take the four thousand dollars you just spent to fly to Seattle for this conference and flush it down the toilet.

Why ABC is Different

At the Attorney Breakfast Club, we meet monthly–often even more frequently–to keep the continuity and to refresh and renew our relationships with other members. At each meeting, a member is spotlighted so that we can learn more about his or her practice. We often find that we already have clients, family, or friends we can refer, but simply did not know it. ABC group meetings are intimate, and we meet over breakfast, early in the morning, so that we can attend to hearings, depositions, or just still get to the office in time to have a full productive day.  

Join us at our next Attorney Breakfast Club meeting and learn how Florida’s most effective lawyer networking group can help you find new referral sources, and connect with lawyers you will know and can trust to refer your clients to. Click here for more information about how ABC works, and we look forward to seeing you at our next Breakfast.

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