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May 13, 2017 Practice Points

How to Develop In-Person Networking Skills

Take advantage of opportunities to market yourself.

By Stewart Edelstein

In your career, you will have plenty of opportunities to attend social gatherings of prospective clients and referral sources—celebrations, fundraisers, bar association events, organization parties, alumni gatherings, conventions, and the like. You don’t want to come across as an overly aggressive marketer, but you do want to take advantage of marketing opportunities.

Before attending, ask yourself how you can use an event as a marketing opportunity. If possible, get a list of people attending. Which people do you want to meet? Learn about people you want to focus on, using Google, LinkedIn, and other means. Think about topics you may want to discuss and what your goals are for this gathering. Never forget to bring business cards; failing to do so is marketing malpractice.

Think about what you will say when asked: “What do you do?” Prepare a brief, effective introduction for yourself, your “elevator pitch—something effective you can say in 30 seconds or less that is simple, direct, and credible.

At the event, if you have the opportunity, briefly explain what your firm does, what you do, and how you help your clients. Be cautious, though, about what you disclose. Even independent of ethics issues (see Model Rule 1.6), you don’t want a prospective client thinking that you will breach his or her own confidences for the sake of your self-aggrandizing marketing efforts. And listen—actively—far more than you talk.

Here are some other helpful tips to make the most of these marketing opportunities:

  • Meet a number of people, including those you had targeted.
  • Focus on introductions and relationships, not selling.
  • If you see someone who is alone, introduce yourself.
  • Most of your conversations should be to find out about the other person, not talking about yourself.
  • Show interest in what the other person is saying, by your body language and by asking follow-up questions.
  • Discuss subjects other than business—what you have in common is bonding; but avoid politics, unless you obviously share political views.
  • Remember names by repeating them, ask for business cards, and hand out yours.
  • Be proactive, positive, confident, and make eye contact.
  • After the event, follow up promptly, by letters, emails, phone calls, and other means, referring to what you discussed.


Stewart Edelstein, who taught clinical courses at Yale Law School for 20 years during his 40-year career as a trial lawyer, is the author, most recently, of How to Succeed as a Trial Lawyer, 2d ed. (ABA 2017).

Copyright © 2017, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).