Should lawyers focus on marketing, selling, or networking? The answer is yes, yes, and yes. The real question is: how do you ask for the business?
That was one of the questions addressed at a WILEF East Young Lawyers Committee event on how lawyers can leverage their networks to enhance their professional careers. Below are takeaways recorded by Bernadette Beekman, Deputy Chair of the WILEF East Young Lawyers Committee.
The panel was moderated by Mark I. Sirkin, Principal of Sirkin Advisors and included J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a Hyper-Connected World; Jamie Diaferia, CEO of Infinite Global; Amy Mayer, associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Emily K. Sheahan, associate at Loeb & Loeb and member of WILEF East Young Lawyers Committee; and Laura C. Turano, associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell and member of WILEF East Young Lawyers Committee.
How do you ask? You can do many things to reach out to your clients, such as inviting them to an event of interest, sending them an article or presenting a CLE. Market yourself as a lawyer who has the expertise your clients seek as well as the personal integrity to get the job done.
External networking is difficult but can be learned: It’s rare for younger associates to have an opportunity to meet the general counsel of a Fortune 500 company and ask for work. It’s also difficult to invite that GC to dinner since they are often booked. However, the lower level counsel in the legal department, such as an associate or deputy GC, may be more available and open to meeting.
Internal networking is important: If you are in a partner’s office and she gets a call from a GC about a new matter, it is totally appropriate to ask about staffing and request to be a part of the team.
Be yourself and do your research: To turn clients into friends who will continue to refer you or give you additional business, you have to be authentically interested in them, know their needs and know what it is that they need right now.
What are the advantages and pitfalls of social media? If you are reluctant to go to an event where you know no one, then try to get a list of attendees prior to the event and look for them or connect with them on LinkedIn before the event. If you are working on a confidential matter, do not make requests of your client until after the deal is done.
How do you balance profitability and productivity? No matter how many hours you put in per week, you should consider business development your “hobby” if you want to make partner. You should allocate time reaching out to clients before you are staffed on another matter.
To sum up, the law is a business. At the end of the day, we all contribute to the bottom line. Learn to relate to the partners with whom you work. Don’t be afraid to get to know partners who work in an area other than your own. Ask to be staffed on matters. Don’t sit at firm lunches next to your peers, but rather seek out senior associates and get to know them. They can be great resources for you to ask questions without being fearful and you can get honest feedback. The senior associates today may be alumni in the future, and be in a situation which is mutually profitable for you both, especially for your own career.