How to and Why You Should Network Face to Face

Clear & Convincing Feature Article

Marketing

For the past few weeks I've been writing about building relationships using the Internet. We've looked at your blog, website, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and how to be the star of your own video. We've stressed the importance and the advantages of using the digital marketing arena. It's convenient, you don't have to dress, smile, or try to remember your manners. And, the Internet is where trends are happening.

However, and this is huge, lawyers, like the rest of humanity, are social beings.

That means getting out of your office and going out into the world.

Meeting people face-to-face, sharing experiences, ideas, and interests is a valuable opportunity to keep your name and practice a step ahead. Meeting in person lets your online acquaintances put a face to the name they see on the blog, e-mail, or website, and helps build trust while creating a positive rapport for future discussions.

In person networking does require a bit of effort. It takes time and there is a slight risk you will be off your game that day. Regardless, face-to-face meetings are an opportunity to build stronger and mutually beneficial relationships. And, don't forget, professional networking can take place at dinners, social events, your child's football games or dance recitals, and even in elevators.

Once the decision to network in-person is made, the next questions are: "Who is your ideal client? And, what trade, industry, or civic groups would they join?"

For example, if you're an animal law attorney, you might attend animal law conferences, volunteer at the local zoo or animal shelter, or offer a workshop on establishing a trust for your pet. Perhaps you have a niche practice in equine law, like former SBM President Julie Fershtman, who writes books, a blog, gives speeches on the topic, and has expanded her practice beyond the state to a national level.

You can't be everywhere, so research to find associations that permit meaningful involvement and have active committees you can join. Simply joining the group isn't enough—think about where your interests lie and what skills you can offer. Come to be known as a person who can add value to the group.

Once you've attended an event, think about how to make the most of your time:

  • Pinpoint your networking goal.
  • Discover who will be there, decide who you want to meet and ask yourself what you want to know about them.
  • Have a 10 second introduction ready. People want to know both your name and area of practice.
  • Think about what you have to give to others.

Now you're at the event, it's the cocktail hour and everyone is milling around. Some of you are naturals at these events—you can schmooze with the best. However, most of us could use some opening lines, such as:

  • How long have you been a member of this organization?
  • What keeps you busy outside of your practice?
  • What got you interested in ________________?
  • I read your book, blog, article, etc.
  • I just saw on LinkedIn that we went to the same college.

Leave the conversation gracefully. You can do this by introducing the person to a new arrival or simply comment on how much you've enjoyed talking with them and excuse yourself. Then move on.

You aren't done simply because the event is over. If you promised a follow-up, do it or you will lose credibility that you may never get back. Within a week of the event, follow through with your new or recharged contacts. If you provided them with promised information, or introduced them to a new contact, check to see if things worked out.

A healthy network is made up of contacts from all parts of your life. Be sure your family, friends, acquaintances, vendors at the office, your staff, and court staff all know what type of law you practice. Face-to-face networking, added to your Internet campaign and your professional profile in the SBM member directory will help your practice grow.

Roberta GubbinsRoberta Gubbins has served as the editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides services as a ghostwriter editing articles, blogs, and e-blasts for lawyers and law firms. She is the editor of Briefs, the Ingham County Bar Association e-newsletter, and The Mentor, SBM Master Lawyers Section newsletter.

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