Five Time-Saving Networking Tips for Lawyers

As you’re scrambling to find new originations as the year ends, it might make sense to look at where mistakes were made and inefficiencies held you back.

One critical area that you may have overlooked is within your networking activities. For most attorneys, these boorish events and rambling, drawn-out coffee meetings just lure you away from your billable time at lightning speed. In order to change things up for
2020, here are my top five tips for any attorney looking to drive actual results for the coming year.

Tip #1: Go where the action is.

While there are hundreds of events available that you could attend each month, it’s of critical importance to focus on going where your best connections will be. Think about the people who need your services and where they congregate. For example, if you are a commercial litigator, your end clients are GCs or CEOs. Think about the private golf clubs, conferences and charities where they would be found.

Another element of networking that’s typically overlooked is the potential strategic partner, those who work with the same clientele that you do. Wouldn’t they be an excellent group to target for referrals? For example, where do the CPAs and consultants network? The people who provide different services than you but have the same client base are critical to successful networking.

Keep the end in mind when deciding which events to attend. If you focus on going where your buyers and strategic partners are, you will definitely improve your results.

Tip #2: Try talking less, asking more.

While it’s important to have a prepared infomercial or elevator pitch, it’s even more important to prepare yourself with questions for the people you meet at these events. The goal is always to get someone else engaged in a conversation where you can learn about her, what she does for a living, and find common ground. I’d recommend starting with the easy questions and moving to the more involved ones later on. Here are a few questions to choose from:
– “Is this your first time to this event?”
– “This is my first time here, what do you like about this group (or event)?”
– “What type of business are you in?”
– “Do you live in the city or the suburbs?”
– “When you’re not busy working, what do you do for fun?”
– “What do you enjoy most about your business (career)?”

– “What types of challenges are you seeing in your industry?”
– “What types of people are you most interested in meeting?”
– “What should I be listening for in a good referral for you?”

These questions will allow you to learn more about the person with whom you are speaking, while also helping you qualify whether she is someone you’d like to build a relationship with moving forward. What I hope you are learning here is that talking is an over-rated skill when your goal is to ask, listen and learn. This is called “being present” in the moment and it’s the most effective way to build relationships.

Tip #3: Three words: qualify, qualify, qualify.

One of the biggest mistakes networkers make is not qualifying the people they meet as it relates to next steps. As an attorney, your time is literally money; so don’t agree to meet with everyone you meet. If someone is a potential client for you, a potential referral partner or someone very well connected, there is a direct reason to meet.
All other meetings should be taken with great skepticism.

An acronym that I use when networking is TALNT. Following these points will help ensure you’re investing time with the right people.
– Trust: Someone who is reliable and follows through
– Authority: Knows their subject matter very well
– Like: Someone you’d have a beer with for fun
– Network: Has an established network already
– Top Player: A professional who is in charge

Of course, there are exceptions, but choose wisely. This may include “paying it forward” with younger people who you may help with finding a job or launching a new business. Otherwise, you will find that you have just wasted an hour or two with a “nice person” or an annoying salesperson who will steal time right away from you.

Tip #4: When you do meet people for coffee, it’s best to be prepared.

LinkedIn, Facebook and Google are all available at your fingertips; you must use these tools to get prepared to meet someone new. It is simply unacceptable these days to merely show up and say, “So, tell me what you do?” Have your talking points and questions ready to go in order to make a good impression. This will ensure that you take the meeting in a positive direction from the get-go.

One other suggestion is to establish a “game-plan” with your new friend to ensure your time is best spent when together. Keep in mind, this would only be done with someone new that you met for 10 minutes at an event. This agenda may include:

1. Time: keeping it to an hour or less.
2. Purpose: seeing if there’s a “fit” that will help one another.
3. Expectations: splitting up the talk time so one person doesn’t hijack the meeting.
4. Outcome: assuming there is a fit, suggesting a test of the waters; do
something minor for each other to determine whether a potential strategic partnership exists.

Tip #5: Always have next steps when it makes sense.

Far too often meetings end with the usual, “Great meeting with you. Let’s keep our eyes open for one another moving forward.” It might be a lovefest, but it’s not good business acumen for growing originations.

Think about it this way, if you were sick and visited with a doctor to be diagnosed, would you want the prescription part of the conversation to end with, “keep in touch”? Of course not! You’d get an appointment to visit again to receive the prescription and look to cure the ailment.

When finishing up a networking meeting where the sparks are flying, do your best to set up next steps with your new friend. This could be another meeting, inviting her to a networking group where you belong or inviting her to sit on a panel that you’re organizing. Whatever the case, don’t leave a positive meeting without a specific step forward. Just this one point will dramatically improve your chances of success when networking.

One of my favorite mantras is, “There is no failure, only learning.” This is so true in networking, as it ensures you aren’t making the same mistakes year after year. Try to implement at least one of these tips to wrap up a strong 2019 and lead you right into next year on a high note. I can promise you’ll see the benefits materialize right before your eyes.