Making Valuable Legal Networking Contacts: Start with the B.I.L.L.

When you attend events with the mission of making valuable legal networking contacts, remember that asking people questions about themselves is absolutely essential. Keep in mind the “80/20 Rule” for business development conversations: you should spend 80 percent of a conversation listening and only 20 percent of the time speaking. Call me directly at (847) 602-6911 for a consultation if you’re having challenges connecting with people at networking events.

To help my attorney clients, I’ve developed a simple acronym for recalling the best topics to discuss during networking events: it is always a good idea to “pay the B-I-L-Lwhen developing new relationships.

Business: Ask questions about the person’s business.

After approaching someone and finding out his or her name, open up the conversation by asking your new contact questions about himself or herself. Be curious and be on the lookout for common interests, or “natural affinities,” you share with this person. If you’re at a networking event, asking questions about the individual’s business is a logical discussion topic. You can expand on this topic by asking how the individual came to be in his or her particular line of work, and then ask additional questions to gain an understanding of the person’s history.

The flip side of asking about the joys of business is to inquire into the professional frustrations your contact has encountered. This is an important question, because this may reveal a problem you might have the potential to help this person fix, which is key to discovering if this is potentially a valuable legal networking contact.

Interests: Inquire into the person’s interests.

It’s human nature to enjoy talking about our personal interests and hobbies, which is why you can’t go wrong when asking what a person does for fun. According to an article in Scientific American, a Harvard University study measured blood flow of subjects who were talking about themselves and determined that thinking and talking about oneself increases neural activity and indicates an “intrinsic reward” that a person experiences and that increases with the addition of an audience. So, getting a new legal networking contact to talk about themselves is a great place to start.

These background questions afford you the opportunity to learn about connections you may have in common with the new person — neighbors, former classmates, and family and friends — which leads to the first “L” of our acronym: loved ones.

Loves ones: Talk about the person’s loved ones.

Asking whether the person is from the “area” is an organic lead-in to discussing family-oriented topics. Be cautious though regarding the person’s marital status or children due to the sometimes sensitive nature of those areas. Be observant before asking and notice whether the contact appears to be wearing a wedding ring as well as the person’s apparent age. However, this topic can help you steer the conversation toward revealing information that exposes natural affinities with you.

Life purpose: Last but not least, ask about the person’s “life purpose.”

Asking people about their personal passions is another way to find common ground and create a foundation for a business relationship. Many people are truly passionate about their favorite charity, brilliant children, or favorite football team. If you can get them talking about their one true passion, you’ve forged a meaningful and memorable connection that builds trust and likeability.

I can tell you from experience how paying the B-I-L-L can pay off. While attending a networking event, I struck up a conversation with “Max” (not his real name) who owns a small marketing company. I started steering our conversation through the steps of the B-I-L-L and discovered quickly that his life purpose was focused on the Boy Scouts of America organization and helping boys grow into responsible and respectful young men. Within minutes of “hello,” Max delivered a soliloquy regarding the state of our children in this country and how they need to get back to nature and toughen up.

In conclusion, the idea behind “paying the B-I-L-L” is to get to a more personal level with the person you’ve just met to determine if they are a valuable legal networking contact for you. Forget about yourself and your services for a short time and focus instead on asking great questions and really tuning in to the answers. The person who shares some personal information with you may become a new best friend, strategic partner, or future client.

The skills of developing meaningful business relationships are learned with time and practice, and I have helped many lawyers in these areas and more. To learn more about how I can help you, visit or call (847) 602-6911.