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American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division - The Young Lawyer November 2009 Vol 14 Issue 2, November 2009: Networking vs. Business Development: What’s the Difference?

The Young Lawyer October 2009 Vol 14 Issue 2, November 2009: Networking vs. Business Development: What’s the Difference?

Kari Petrasek and Keri-Ann C. Baker are members of the ABA YLD Member Service Team. Ms. Petrasek is an attorney at the Carson Law Group, P.S. in Everett, Washington. Ms. Baker is an attorney at Lewis, Longman & Walker, P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida.


Networking vs. Business Development: What’s the Difference?

By Kari Petrasek and Keri-Ann C. Baker

Networking and business development are not interchangeable terms. Networking involves building relationships that are useful and worthwhile to others. The focus of networking should be on how you can help another person not how that person can help you. Business development is relationship building to generate revenue.

Both of these techniques are creative processes, but each requires a different skill set.

Effective networking requires:

  • creating an elevator speech;
  • listening for ways to provide value;
  • emphasizing your strengths (e.g., expertise, experience);
  • avoiding monopolizing conversations;
  • being genuine; and
  • following up (multiple times).

Business development requires an entirely different approach. Effective business development techniques include:

  • providing excellent legal services;
  • targeting your existing clients;
  • listening to clients for business opportunities;
  • developing a distinctive selling style; and
  • planning specific sales advances.

While networking builds relationships, business development involves identifying those existing and potential relationships that can turn into attorney-client relationships. Success in networking can lead to success in business development. To develop business, young attorneys must take a measured approach to using and creating networks, identifying the right business opportunities, and then asking for work. Whether seeking work from existing clients or potential future clients, a good business developer will make an educated pitch for business within their zone of expertise.

These topics and more were explored in a panel discussion called “Networking vs. Business Development” as part of the 2009–2010 ABA YLD Member Service Project “Making Connections: How to Develop Lasting Personal and Professional Relationships.” Watch for announcements of more “Making Connections” programs throughout the 2009–2010 bar year in The Young Lawyer and on the ABA YLD Web site These programs also are available for use by ABA affiliates.