Things You Didn't Learn in Law School:
Effective Networking

social media, social networking, social comput...

(Photo credit: daniel_iversen)

Networking–it’s a necessary part of bringing in business. After all, referrals are the bread and butter of a law practice and connecting with your colleagues is one of the best ways to expand your network and obtain new clients.

It used to be that traditional face-to-face networking was one of the only ways to do this. But with the advent of social media, all that changed. These days, lawyers have more options than ever when it comes to networking.

Sadly, “effective networking” made our list of the Top 10 Things You Didn’t Learn in Law School, because very few law schools even address this topic–especially when it comes to online networking. In fact, most law schools discourage law students from interacting online and often emphasize the risks rather than the benefits.

This is unfortunate, since connections made using social media can be an invaluable resource–especially when combined with good old fashioned face-to-face networking. The question is, where to start and how to best combine the two?

Face-to-face networking is invaluable

First and foremost, understand that social media should never serve as a substitute for traditional networking. Instead, think of it as a way of enriching and supplementing more traditional networking functions such as local bar association events, legal conferences or the always important business lunch. These types of face-to-face meetings are invaluable and should never be overlooked.

Of course, in person networking can sometimes be challenging. Not everyone enjoys small talk. It’s a skill that needs to be mastered in order for it to be effective. And, if you’re not the most extroverted person out there, small talk can sometimes feel like torture.

So, instead of making small talk, try another well known technique: ask questions instead. Why does this work? Because it gets the other person talking, helps you to find common ground, and is a great way to break the ice, as explained in this recent Lifehacker post about small talk and networking:

Finding something in common with someone can instantly start a great conversation. It isn’t about spewing information about yourself or being witty. Let the other person do the speaking. This is about being a good listener.

So get out there in your local legal community and network, network, network! But don’t forget about online networking, too. It’s another great way to connect with colleagues and other potential referral sources.

Don’t overlook the value of social networking

Sure face-to-face networking is important, but by using online networking effectively, you can amplify the reach of your in-person networking–and best of all,  you can do it on your own schedule!  Inconvenient after-hours networking events can be worthwhile, but are time consuming. Social media interaction is far more flexible and can be done no matter where you are, on any Internet-enabled device.

But, keep in mind that once you’ve connected online with other lawyers, don’t forget to take the next step and bring things full circle! Move your online interaction offline by scheduling coffee or lunch or, if the person isn’t located nearby, reaching out by phone. By taking this very important step you personalize the interaction and make it memorable. By taking the online offline, you strengthen the connection and make it worthwhile.

Where to start with online networking?

Two of the online platforms most frequented by lawyers are Facebook and Linkedin. Both platforms are great for connecting and interacting with other attorneys, referral sources–and even potential clients.

One way to network on Facebook is to create a Facebook Page for your law firm. Depending on your firm’s geographic location and areas of practice, this can be a very effective method for expanding your firm’s online reach. For some law firms, A Facebook page can be a very successful endeavor.

For example, Jacob Sapochnick is a MyCase customer and his immigration law firm is based in San Diego. In 2010, he created a Facebook page for his law firm and the firm’s page has been a major source of referrals for his law firm. He explains exactly how built his firm’s page into such a successful business development tool in this blog post. According to Jacob:

Facebook has proven much more effective for our firm than pay-per-click advertising. Pay-per-click clients are usually a one-shot deal, whereas clients from Facebook tend to be more loyal, many of them continue to stay in the family, and refer other potential clients even after their cases are closed.

LinkedIn can also be another useful platform for online networking and it’s very popular with lawyers since it’s billed as the “professional” social network. In fact, according to the ABA’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey, of the lawyers who use social networks, 98% have a LinkedIn presence.

Allison Shields, the author of LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers, explains why LinkedIn can be so beneficial in this recent article. According to Allison, there are 5 factors to keep in mind when interacting on LinkedIn:

  1. Establish your purpose
  2. Identify your audience
  3. Build your profile
  4. Build a strategic network
  5. Participate and stay connected

Also important is ensuring that your LinkedIn interactions don’t violate the ethical rules of your jurisdiction. To learn more about the ethics of LinkedIn for lawyers, check out my recent article “Social Media, Ethics, and “Expertise”: What’s a Lawyer to Do?

And finally, to really drill down and learn even more about online networking, make sure to watch our recent webinar below, where Nancy Myrland explains how to network using LinkedIn to connect with other lawyers and potential clients:

–Nicole Black

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