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Networking Makes Attorneys Less Risk-Adverse

by Paramjit L. Mahli

While the legal profession is going through changes, the business of building a successful law practice remains unchanged: good client service, responsiveness and cost-effective representation. These basics get you in the game. It is the networking, or the relationship building, that takes the practice to the next level. It is your professional relationships that will distinguish your practice and law firm.

Intellectually, lawyers understand the need to network, and depending on your target market, combining both offline and online networking to ensure long-term success.

One of the biggest problems confronting attorneys, when they consider networking as part of a business development plan, is their mind-set; most of them are risk-averse. There is the expectation of immediate gains and returns. In other words, attorneys view networking relationships as transactional rather than relational, and therein lies why so many networking endeavors fail.

Attorneys have to understand that tangible results will not be reaped immediately. They have to adopt more of the farming mentality: sowing the seeds, nurturing them and finally harvesting them-all of which require patience and a 100 percent commitment.

In a sense, networking is similar to the internet: the more people use it, the more valuable it becomes. In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says, "It's a constant process of giving and receiving-of asking for and offering help." As airy-fairy as it may sound, having an abundance mentality helps. Believe there are plenty of opportunities for everyone. Help others achieve their goals and the karmic boomerang will come back to you.

The importance of networking was highlighted in a recent survey conducted by Robert Half International. The survey asked lawyers to rank the most effective tactics for job hunting; almost 50 percent of the respondents said networking, followed by a distant second 16 percent who said headhunters.

Networking is an individual responsibility that requires contact. Unfortunately, law school training or the employee handbook does not come with a business development manual. Successful networking requires consistent contact with clients, referral sources, strategic alliances, trade associations and competitors. Once you've made the initial contact, it will be critical to maintain regular contact; otherwise, the old axiom of "out of sight, out of mind" still holds true.

Whatever the objectives of networking, success will be determined by consistency, frequency and commitment.

So where do you start? How do you reduce the attorney risk aversion? How do you become clear on your goals for networking, both short-term and long-term?

Factors to Consider Are:

  1. Identifying organizations, nonprofits, professional groups, etc., that clients, prospects and referral sources belong to.

  2. How much time do you want to spend? Prioritize these groups in order of importance. Which of these groups will you become actively involved in?

  3. How will you increase professional visibility? Expert status take on leadership roles. Identify steps.

  4. What benchmarks will be used to measure success?

  5. Know when to ask for help. Oftentimes, we spend hours trying to understand what went wrong, whereas an hour or two of professional counsel will save time and frustration. So have the wisdom to seek professional advice.
Finally, understand that networking is the foundation of all business development activities and it is time-consuming. Bottom line, it takes years to build a mature network. Like fine wine, networks may take years to mature, but the rewards and opportunities that will arise will be fulfilling.

About The Author

Paramjit L. Mahli of the Sun Communications Group is a former journalist who has worked with international news organisations including CNN Business News, and now helps small to mid-sized law firms increase their visibility, build their reputation and helps them grow their business by using public relations. She also developed popular tele-seminar class, "How To Grow Your Law Practice On A Shoestring Budget".

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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