June 29, 2015 Practice Points

Make the Most Out of Networking

By Erin K. Sullivan

In her post “Networking Tips for Women Lawyers” on the Lawyers Who Lunch blog, attorney Jill Jester of Minor & Jester, P.C., shares advice for making the most of networking opportunities. Networking takes time and effort, and the benefits are most often neither immediate nor apparent. Jester’s tips are aimed at helping lawyers engage in networking that is productive, efficient, and enjoyable.

She begins by encouraging attorneys not to be scattershot with their networking efforts. “Be strategic,” she advises. Join organizations whose missions you are passionate about and that will put you in touch with the types of clients you want. Networking is time-consuming, so spend that time wisely and in a way that will be enjoyable. “Always ask about the time commitment for any event or organization before you commit,” and avoid “overjoining.” If you have too many networking obligations, each one will be both less enjoyable and less productive. 

Likewise, look for “people you get along with.” Network with the people you would enjoy working with, in order to be happier both with your business development efforts and with the business you develop. And if you do not find people you enjoy right away, keep trying.

Jester goes on to give practical tips to avoid networking pitfalls and making the most out of each networking opportunity. It is key, she writes, to “be polite.” Networking means running into the same people over and over again, so do not burn bridges. Looking professional is also important, because your goal is to convince others to do business with you.

Finally, Jester delves into balancing networking commitments with life both at home and at work. If you have a spouse or partner, talk to that person about your after-hours networking obligations and ensure he or she understands that networking, even if just once a month, is a part of your career. At work, understand that even if networking builds your professional value, your firm may view it as less valuable than billing hours. To that end, “don’t work on non-work-related networking at work without the blessing of your employer.” 

Keywords: business development, networking, law firms, work-life balance

Erin K. Sullivan works at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP in Washington, D.C.

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