Unless you have been living under a rock you will have heard that networking is a vital skill for solicitors, who must invest time developing a network of key contacts.
At our firm the marketing committee are currently excited about a large, firmwide networking event in the pipeline, which influenced me to share tips on why we network and how to do so effectively.
Networking is a means of developing a law firm’s business by building contacts who recognise the firm as an expert in law. Networking can increase the visibility of a firm and develop a range of key contacts, for example, through attending business networking groups and industry events. This can be effective regardless of seniority, as sociable and eager trainees can utilise their enthusiasm by becoming ambassadors for their firms. It is useful to foster connections with potential clients and professionals alike, in the hope that this will eventually translate into instructions and referrals.
From the outset, it is important to enter a networking event with a goal, recognising who you are trying to connect with. For example, I work in the company commercial team and our ideal client would be owners of small and medium sized businesses in the Battersea area. It is prudent to think about the issues your target market face and how you could assist them – conducting some research beforehand is useful.
At the event itself you should introduce yourself confidently. Once conversation has begun, it is vital to explain succinctly what you do and how you can help them.
For example, what my team does is assist small businesses, many of whom have commercial agreements with other businesses or customers but don’t enter into formal written agreements or, if they do, don’t read them and are concerned that they may be exposed as a consequence.
Accordingly, I would explain who I am and that I work in commercial law. I would say that we work with small and medium sized businesses assisting them with all their legal needs. For example, I would say that we find some clients face difficulties with contracts with customers and suppliers and would like to secure business relationships to help grow and expand their business.
This way, through my introduction and opening line, they take away my name and what my team can do for them. Later on in conversation you can, of course, mention what differentiates your firm’s services and how you can add particular value to clients.
As clichéd as it may sound, people do business with people they like so it is vital to demonstrate you are someone that could work with. Talk to as many people as possible. Don’t fret if you end up speaking to someone who doesn’t fit your target demographic, it is perfectly adequate to say ‘It was a pleasure to meet you, I’m just going to go and mingle’. Don’t forget to take a stash of business cards, swap them with potential contacts and follow up after the event with an email or invitation to connect on LinkedIn.
Most significantly, remember that you won’t build a network overnight so don’t have unrealistically high expectations. The idea of networking is to socialise in order to source potential leads for work and networking is no place for the ‘hard sales pitch’. Rather, it is a subtle form of marketing, which affords the chance to build solid future relationships.
Embrace networking early on in your career and enjoy the opportunity to socialise with new people and share what you and your firm have to offer. Now go ahead and work that room!
Sej Lamba is a trainee solicitor at Hanne & Co. Read all her Business of Law blogs for Lawyer 2B.