When I was a kid, my parents, who were both lawyers, were constantly attending events hosted by the local bar association. I clearly remember going to some of these functions. My memories are seas of suits and cocktails, laughter and small talk.
Some people love events like these, and some people hate them. But whatever your pleasure, the good news is that unlike 20 years ago when networking was really about going to events, networking today can be informal, less intimidating, and even include less small talk.
Here are four different opportunities for networking in today’s more fluid environment.
1. Going to Events
Sure, events are still a tried and true way to meet people. But you aren’t expected to exclusively go to legal events any more!
You should go to lots of different events.
- Did you get an invitation to a nonprofit event? Go!
- Is an interesting conference tangentially related to your business coming to town? Go to that, too. (Alison and I did that in the summer of 2013 and, ironically, we met a number of lawyers at a conference full of lifestyle and design bloggers!)
The one thing to keep in mind about building a community is that your true community likely shares your passions and interests. Going to legal and non-legal events alike can allow you to meet people with whom you have something in common.
And when you have something in common with people, it makes it easier to talk to them and make a connection. Since we are simply making connections for connections’ sake — and not just to job hunt or get new clients — then meeting people with whom you have something in common will make it easier to make a connection that will last beyond the event itself.
Gone are the days when networking can be done only at bar association functions while wearing a suit. That being said, though, you should go to bar association events too! Alison and I go to bar association events. If you are in San Francisco and see us at one, feel free to say “hello” and chat us up.
We are always happy to expand our network.
2. Online Networking
Obviously, we believe that online networking is powerful, because it changed our professional paths after we met on Twitter.
Social media has allowed us to connect with people we may never have been able to connect with. There are so many powerful networking tools online:
We will talk more about online networking and how best to use each tool later, but for now remember it is important to think outside the box about how social media and the Internet can expand your network.
We have created many real professional and personal relationships through Twitter, Facebook, and other online connections.
Don’t be fooled — learning how to use them to create relationships is critical to your networking process.
3. Inviting Someone for Coffee
We drink a lot of coffee (even if every now and then, it is decaf). But inviting someone out for coffee to network and build relationships is a great way to engage someone.
Why is a coffee chat so great?
- It doesn’t take all that much time. Coffee outings can be an hour or less. So even if you are trying to meet with an incredibly busy person, you can propose a networking outing that could be as short as 30 minutes.
- It allows you to get outside and perhaps even walk around. Sometimes walking and talking can be less awkward than sitting and talking. If you invite an attorney from your office to coffee, you might have the opportunity to walk to the coffee shop together. This allows you to converse while walking and can eliminate uneasy silences at the coffee shop table. Also, who doesn’t need more time outside?
- You get to treat someone (without breaking the bank). Although a cup of coffee may be more expensive than it used to be, going for coffee still allows you to treat the person you have invited, without feeling as though you are dipping into your savings account.
The coffee date is a great way to follow up with someone that you met at an event, that you were connected to by a mutual friend, or that you met at your externship or law office. So don’t hesitate to ask someone to drink a cup of joe with you.
4. Volunteering (and it Doesn’t Have to be Law Related)
I believe that it is important to be involved in your community one way or another. And by getting out there and getting involved, you will have the opportunity to meet new people and expand your network.
I know folks who have gotten jobs, clients, and even spouses (off topic, but I had to mention it) by doing volunteer work. It is an opportunity to meet like-minded people and do something good for the universe.
Some folks think that they need to do nonprofit volunteering that is law related in order to get networking benefits from it. I would argue that isn’t the case. Instead, just find like-minded folks; you never know who you will meet.
I sit on a nonprofit board with a number of lawyers but the nonprofit isn’t law related at all (it is about leadership programming for middle-school and high-school girls). We have all bonded, not just as volunteers for this organization but as lawyers too.
If you become engaged in your community doing an activity you care about, you are going to create relationships that will be lasting and may in turn help you professionally in the future.
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And check out these other helpful posts:
- Legal Networking 101: How Do You Know What to Talk About While Networking
- Legal Networking 101: A New Definition of Networking
- Legal Networking 101: Don’t Be an A**hole
- Legal Networking 101: Networking Today Isn’t Like the Networking of Yesterday
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