Every successful lawyer knows the value of networking
Networking provides avenues for communicating your expertise to potential clients and to potential referral sources. Networking gets your name out there so that you are remembered when matters arise that need your expertise. For me, the most meaningful networking opportunities come about in three ways.
- Informal get-togethers where you interact with a number of people in a short time frame, such as during coffee breaks or over a meal.
- By collaborating with others in a more intensive way, thereby proving your capabilities in a sustained manner—for example, through committee work.
- By communicating your expertise through writing, including articles, papers, and electronic media.
I am fortunate to have a robust practice representing a variety of clients who require expertise in environmental law. I represent Fortune 100 clients, small family-owned businesses, and many municipalities. Sometimes new clients whom I have never met will contact me. I always ask them how they found me. A case in point is a potential client who phoned me recently. I was unfamiliar both with the in-house counsel calling and with the potential client itself, a large company that is not a household name. It involved a matter that is well suited to my practice. The lawyer told me that in-house counsel who network with each other online had shared my name.
Use networking opportunities to enhance your reputation
This experience cemented in my mind that a lawyer’s reputation for expertise in the broader community is critical in developing new client business. While that may not be surprising to hear, what is a bit surprising perhaps, and what is important to consider, is the myriad ways in which clients, potential clients, and referral sources interact. In the above example, my name came up on an in-house counsel list serve. This is a far cry from the time when in-house counsel who have known each other for many years discussed referrals—either at chance meetings or by phone. The scenario of your name being shared through a list serve is, frankly, much more valuable. Assuming 30 to 50 lawyers participate on the list serve, your name is appearing before dozens of potential clients all at one time. A terrific result that is likely the best form of marketing!
Consider opportunities within the ABA
Therefore, I encourage lawyers, especially younger lawyers, to embrace networking opportunities that might make you memorable to potential clients and referral sources. The Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources offers many such opportunities for its members including:
- Coffee breaks, receptions, social events, lunches, public service projects, and Section business meetings during Section conferences;
- Networking opportunities that come with speaking at Section programs—both in person and remotely (though substantive committee calls and webinars);
- Becoming a Section leader. You can indicate your interest to me or a committee chair in serving as a committee chair or vice chair. You can also consider applying to the Section’s 2014–2015 Leadership Development Program;
- Networking opportunities that come with working on Section projects with others;
- Writing for a Section publication. To propose an article for a committee newsletter, you can find newsletter vice chair contact information on each committee’s webpage. Information regarding other Section publications can be found at www.ambar.org/EnvironPublications; and
- Joining one of the Section’s LinkedIn groups.
Every one of these examples is available to all lawyers in the Section. Regardless of your seniority, you, as a Section member, can find a place to network, and, therefore, to broadcast your talent and expertise. If you are unsure of where to start, click on the “Get Involved” tab on the Section’s homepage and take a short survey to let us know your interests.
Competing for client work is extremely important to becoming a successful lawyer in the environment, energy, and resources law fields. Networking is critical to successfully competing for business. Your membership in the Section provides many valuable opportunities to network in important ways. Please take advantage of them! And please plan on attending the Section’s next major in-person networking opportunity—the 44th Spring Conference: The ABA Superconference on Environmental Law, March 26–28, 2015, in San Francisco!