Volume 11, no. 1
Net-Linking: E-Building Virtual-to-Personal Relationships
By David J. Abeshouse
Slow to embrace professional networking, lawyers today find it acceptable—even laudable—to participate in ongoing business networking groups, “speed networking” events, and a multiplicity of other such endeavors.
Now a newer form of business networking has appeared on the horizon: online networking. Lawyers are harnessing the power of the Internet and its tools, such as e-mail, to build their law practices through personal relationships initiated on the Web.
Solosez, the ABA’s online list-serve for solo and small firm lawyers, has been around since the mid 1990s. Today, with a membership topping 1,000, lawyers worldwide post to Solosez using it as an electronic bulletin board. Message postings average 100 a day, so it requires a time commitment, but it also allows lawyers who never would have met in person to get to know each other’s law practices, personalities, and backgrounds. From this online interaction, smaller groups within a geographic locale meet for a meal and get to know each other face-to-face. “Solosezzers” also use this online community to arrange professional gatherings at bar functions and schedule special events, such as a group admission to the U.S. Supreme Court. Over time, virtual relationships become personal ones.
And there are now newer online networking opportunities in the general business community, with sites that had their genesis in online social networking services, such as LinkedIn, RYZE, The Square, and Ecademy. These sites provide a wide, often international, network of businesspeople and professionals with whom to connect. Typically, a person first creates a home page, then joins the “networks” of several friends, acquaintances, or colleagues. Either through introduction, surfing, or joining specialty or affinity groups, the individual meets others with whom to link directly. Someone who may be three or four degrees of separation from you rapidly may become part of your network; through this process you expand your circle and become linked to an exponentially growing universe of contacts. And the connection can become even closer, as several of these sites have local coordinators who arrange old-fashioned face-to-face gatherings (essentially networking group meetings or events) so that people who have met virtually can meet in the flesh. At this point, the familiar process of business networking ensues, predicated upon the existing foundation of an online relationship formed through a shared membership in one of these sites. This is modern “net-working” in action.
David J. Abeshouse practices business litigation and alternative dispute resolution in Uniondale, Long Island, New York. His Web site is www.BizLawNY.com, and he can be reached at DavidLaw@OptOnLine.net.