Cathryn Urquhart, Senior Consultant, Trainer and Facilitator discusses networking strategies for lawyers.
Many lawyers avoid networking like the plague. “I’m too busy” or “I’m no good at it”:- the usual excuses. This may stem from a fear of failure or a lack of skills. You’re not born with networking skills and it’s not taught at law school. But it can be learnt, practised and integrated your professional life.
Getting Strategic: Focus
Let’s assume you know the basics of how to manage the “live” networking situation eg clients drinks, conference/event etc. What is the next step? With limited time and money, how do you get the best bang for your buck, how do you choose what to do and where to go to focus your effort?
Firstly, be clear about what you do and why you do it. The biggest mistake is a lack of focus. Why is this important for strategic networking? If you have a small/medium practice and are trying to work across a range of practice areas, you are stretching your limited resources and nowhere is this more clear than networking. How can you be strategic when you are after Family, Criminal, Conveyancing and Estate Planning work? Each type of work requires a different approach.
Secondly, apply the 80/20 Principle. Let’s sat about 20% of your clients account for 80% of your profit/value. And 20% of your clients cause 80% of your headaches. 20% of your practice areas account for 80% of your profit/value. 20% of your practice areas bring little or no value to the practice. OK, you may disagree with the %’s but your get my drift. Not everything is equal and if you start to identify where the best value is coming from and what is of little value, then your can start to focus your efforts and limited resources in the right direction and not waste them on the 20% that adds no value.
Thirdly, are you B2B or B2C? B2B=Business to business and B2C= Business to Consumer. Are your clients companies/government/legal entities or are they people? Because your approach to networking and business development will be quite different for each.
Fourthly, understand what you are selling. Whilst most lawyers these days still record time and bill accordingly, you are not selling time. You are selling solutions. And your client looking to buy trust/reputation/reliability.
Fifthly, consider your profile and “Points of Contact”. You need to build up about 5/6 points of contact with someone before they get that real connection that tips the person toward instructing you. For example:
- You meet at a function/event
- Be introduced by mutual acquaintance
- They visit your website
- They look at your Linkedin Profile
- They notice your Linkedin Presence..eg something you posted/liked/commented on
- You speak at an event/seminar
- They read your blog/newsletter
- Advertising/Social Media
- Member of organisation
- Be the identified leader in a field
It’s unlikely that one of these on it’s own is enough to bring in a new client. And whatever else you do, the most important thing is usually that the potential client has met you or knows someone who knows you.
Networking is important because without the personal connection, all the other actions and the time and cost involved are not as valuable.
Committing to Action
Firstly, write it down, commit to action, track results and tweak
The best networkers commit to action. They have a method of setting out what they intend to do: a spreadsheet, calendar, white board, electronic or hardcopy. Writing the plan down is the very first step to being accountable and achieving goals. For example:
- 2-4 networking events per month
- 1-2 coffees per week
- 1-4 lunches per month
- Post/blog on social media X number of times
- Present talk 4-6 times per year
- Host client event X number of times per year
- Send newsletters or email updates to clients/contacts X number of times per year
Estimate how long these activities will take and how much they will cost. And then track what is done, and record actual time and cost. And then track results. Set KPI’s for you and your team. Provide rewards/recognition.
Secondly, who do you want to network with?
- Don’t just focus on current/future client’s: referrers are a constant source of work. Where a practice gets one-off instructions from different clients for each matter eg family law, as opposed to repeat instructions from one client eg insurer or bank., then it is really important to build a great referral network, eg accountants, financial planners, real estate agents who are traditional referrers for lawyers. And don’t forget former clients, other lawyers and people you know through social/family/sport/hobby relationships who might recommend you.
- Connectors are gold. A connector is someone who knows lots of people, who goes to lots of events, who is generous with their time and knowledge. Who is this person in your area of work? Do you know them?
- Go where your clients or potential clients might be. I know this sounds obvious but strangely, some lawyers don’t think about this. I’ve seen lawyers wanting to move into tech/start-up work, I suggest they might want to join a share-space facility where tech/start-up businesses operate.
- Maybe avoid going where there will be lots of other lawyers. I’ve been a member of a business association that over time became flooded with lawyers. Once this happened, many of the non-lawyers grew wary of going to networking as every second attendee was a lawyer looking for work. (Unless other lawyers refer you work: in which case network with them).
- Be strategic about which membership organisations you will join. These things cost money to join and then money and time to attend events. Don’t renew without giving it some thought.
- Get creative and investigate different opportunities and events. I’ll often see things mentioned on Linkedin or Eventbrite.
Thirdly, have some guidelines about what you are looking for in an event.
I have a limited budget and don’t want to commit too much time to random networking. So here are my guidelines:
- I like to go to events that have educational value + networking
- What is the talk about?
- Who is giving it?
- Who is going to be there?
- What is the cost?
- Sometimes I invite a client/contact to attend with me or message others to tell them that I am going
- I ALWAYS stay for drinks
- I try to get an attendance list or get there early to look at the name cards
- I have a terrible memory so I make notes (straight after on my phone or notepaper) of who I meet and what we talked about.
- And always follow up in the next couple of days-email a person to make time for a coffee if that was suggested, connect with all the people I met on Linkedin etc
Fourthly, work as a team.
- Don’t all go to the same events or join the same networks
- Review a list of referrers/contacts/clients and allocate individuals to be responsible for that relationship
- Meet regularly as a team : stand-up meetings!
- Track results as individuals and as a team
- Use software to collaborate.
There is no magic to any of this. Networking is about learning skills, practising and then getting strategic about what you do as no one has endless time and unlimited budget. As Nelson Mandela said “I never fail. I either win or learn”.
Cathryn Urquhart studied Law at UWA and was admitted in WA in 1988., She did her articles at Phillips Fox (now Lavan) and then was the, Associate to Chief Justice French when he was a justice of the Federal, Court. Then followed a time at Parkers (now Freehills), 3 children, a, period as Claims Solicitor and Risk Management trainer at Law Mutual, WA, a Senior Associate at Allens and at various times Cathryn has, lectured/tutored at UWA, Notre Dame, Articles Training Program and, College of Law. Most recently she has been a CPD Lawyer at the Law, Society of WA but in mid 2015 left to set up her own business as a, Professional Skills Trainer and Coach. She also works for the College of, Law as an Adjunct Lecturer and is the Facilitator/Presenter at the new , Legal Practice, Management Course. She facilitates in-house training at law firms, , presents to a, wide variety of professional groups and conducts one-on-one coaching. Connect with Cathryn via LinkedIn .