For many superheros, wearing a mask has its drawbacks — besides the fear of death, injury or the end of the world — it’s kind of lonely. Lawyers should take this lesson to heart. If you hide behind your super-hero mask all of the time, saving and protecting your clients, how can you get to know anyone and develop professional connections? Even with online tools playing a bigger role in the legal industry, one of an attorney’s biggest business opportunities is from word-of-mouth referral traffic from other attorneys. So how do you get on another lawyer’s go-to referral list?
Although living online has its benefits (like earning CLEs through your Second Life avatar); there are some very convincing reasons to meet other attorneys the traditional way. Maybe the most convenient way to do it is at legal conferences, which many lawyers are already attending at least once a year to get CLE credit. Furthering your legal knowledge is clearly top of mind at these events, but meeting people should be second on the list. Where else are you going to meet lawyers from many different practice areas from all over your city or state? And the great thing is that once you get the hang of it, you’ll probably have more fun networking than sitting through another CLE. Most importantly, it’s very possible that the contacts you make could send you some new business (so you can use all of your new CLE smarts on some new clients).
Here are some tips to super-power your legal networking efforts at legal conferences.
1. Get ready to mingle.
There are lots of opportunities to make connections at conferences. If you’ve attended an especially interesting CLE, introduce yourself to the organizer. Make sure you go to a few social activities as well, like tweet ups or lunches. Listen for news of unofficial events on twitter.
2. Practice your pitch.
Before attending any event, craft a few sentences you can use to introduce yourself. Make it interesting, so it opens up conversation.
3. Be a generous conversationalist.
Make sure you get to know the person who you’re talking to, and that means not talking the other person’s ear off. If you do all the talking yourself, you won’t make a real connection with that person, and you could come off like a sales-person. Listening is just as important as what you say.
4. Enjoy yourself and learn from others.
Relax and and learn something about how someone else practices law. Making connections is not just about getting referrals — it’s also about comparing notes about how you can make your practice better and having someone you can call on when you have a question. Talking about legal news topics can be a great conversation starter.
5. Be remembered.
The most important step when networking is cementing the new connection afterwards. You might give someone your business card in person, but an email after you get home will make that person remember you. Make sure you follow your new connection on twitter and interact with them there as well.
6. Keep track of your new friends and do them a favor.
Make a list of your contacts and their areas of expertise. When you have a question or need a second opinion, or if you have a client that needs the help of an attorney outside of your practice area, you’ll have a go-to list of resources at your fingertips. And sending a referral to your new contact may be the best way to get one in return.
Now that you’re ready to get out and get to know some sociable lawyers like you, sign up for the Sociable Lawyer meetup group so you’ll get the latest news on our next event. We’re planning one soon…so stay tuned!