On February 4, 2021, members of the ABA Litigation Section’s Woman Advocate and Young Advocates Committees hosted a panel discussion providing tips, ideas, and personal experiences regarding how to attend a conference, or any networking opportunity, from a business development perspective—even in a virtual world.
The panel consisted of the following members:
- Anora Wang, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (moderator)
- Pilar G. Kraman, Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP
- Ava Conger, Kilpatrick Townsend
- Angela Turiano, Bressler, Amery & Ross PC
- Jedidiah I. Bressman, BressmanLaw
Below is a summary of the discussion.
Master the Zoom
In some ways, networking has changed substantially in the last year as we have gone from in person networking in various scenarios (happy hours, meals, sporting events) to networking via email, telephone, and platforms such as Zoom or Google Meet. However, the change from in-person to virtual networking has not slowed the pace with which we receive invitations to networking events, nor should it impede our marketing efforts going forward. Therefore, it is important to follow these tips when virtually networking.
The Do’s & Don’ts of Virtual Meetings
- Look presentable and be on camera. If you are on a call with a client, face time is important and dressing as you would for an in-office meeting shows professionalism.
- Pay attention. When someone is speaking, react accordingly, even if you are not being directly addressed.
- Be cognizant of your background. To avoid background noise, it is a good practice to mute yourself when you are not currently speaking on a call. Also, be aware of the lighting on camera— e.g., if you are positioned near a window, the light may make it difficult to see you on camera—as well as other background distractions, such as a spinning fan.
- Watch for lag. Remember that there may be audio or video delays—take a breath every once in a while when speaking and make sure everyone is hearing you and a conversation is happening.
- Be concise and prepared. It can be hard to have a conversation virtually because you can really only have one conversation at a time. Therefore, it is more important than ever that you speak as concisely and effectively as possible when it is your turn to speak.
- Do anything you would not do in an in-person meeting. For example, don’t look at your phone. The client deserves your full attention. If you would not scroll through your phone in an in-person meeting, do not do it in a virtual meeting.
- Commandeer the conversation. Be aware of the group and, if appropriate, be inclusive of all attendees.
Maximize Each Event’s Effectiveness
- Combat “Zoom fatigue.” Fatigue from being in video conferences for long periods is not uncommon, and you should be cognizant of this fact. If you are hosting a virtual event, get creative with the presentation to entice clients to attend.
- Choose your best option. When attending a networking event, whether in-person or virtual, it is important that you maximize the time spent networking. With the relatively limited time (and energy) we have, you should determine which events are right for you, using the following considerations: time, cost, group size, and makeup of attendees. With virtual events, the availability of breakout rooms to network within smaller groups should also be considered.
- Make a plan. Mastering networking events requires preparation and follow through. Never go into an event without a plan for before, during, and after the event.
- Before: Decide who your potential referral sources might be, who you might want to connect with, and who in attendance might be able to make connections for you.
- During: Make connections and keep notes about the people you meet, e.g., interesting facts, likes, dislikes, etc.
- After: Almost most importantly, always follow up with any connections made (using the information you obtained at the meeting, if appropriate).
Play the Long Game
Overall, networking is not as much about one-time meetings and the “hard sell” as it is about maintaining relationships for the long-term. Any new connection is a good one. You never know who you are going to meet and what it may lead to down the road.
Know You Are Never Too Young to Start
- Think like a Partner. When you get an assignment, think about the long-term goals of the client and how to best achieve the desired outcome. Further to this point, often young attorneys have a new perspective and can offer ideas that others may not have thought of—its important to show initiative and contribute to problem solving, even if your idea doesn’t always get picked. You will always impress your “client” by thinking this way, even if your clients as a junior attorney are senior associates and partners. In this regard, make sure you proactively introduce yourself to partners that don’t know you, whether in the office you work out of daily or the one you are working out of for the day, week, etc.
- Get involved. Just billing hours will not put you on track to be partner. Get your name out there in any number of ways:
- Join associations, networking groups, or committees:
- When doing so, it is important to think not only about possible referral sources, but also, what issues you are passionate about. If you target a passion and join a group affiliated with that passion, it won’t feel much like work because you will be genuinely excited to be a part of the group and attend associated events.
- Don't just join, take a leadership position and/or actively participate in the group.
- Write: For example, author client alerts or articles and practice points via the ABA or other websites.
- Speak: While sometimes difficult to get on panels as a young lawyer, look to get involved in internal presentations or road shows (CLE presentations) for clients. In this regard, take initiative by seeking out these roles.
- Volunteer: Whether in a local organization or as a judge for your law school’s moot court competition.
- Join associations, networking groups, or committees:
Networking, even in a virtual world, is crucial to developing your brand and your business. This is true regardless of whether you are a seasoned attorney or fresh out of law school. If you get involved, are prepared, and make networking a part of your daily routine, you will be one step closer to mastering the art of business development.