Networking – can you afford not to?

Our client base has grown further this month with more law firms from the Middle East, North America, Europe and a large group of international accountants joining our client network.

When our network grows so does that of all our clients as we ensure that there are several opportunities to meet and refer work.

We are already drawing up strategy plans to support many in making the most of their attendance at one of the biggest networking events in the legal calendar – the annual IBA conference – held this year in Seoul in September.

‘Networking’ is one of those terms that has been so over used that it has become a bit of a cliché. It can often conjure up images of sweaty-palmed drinks events where everyone in the room is transparently trying to get something from everyone else while droning on for hours about their skills and experience.

In reality, networking is simply a combination of recognising the advantage of being in the loop on information that is perhaps not common currency, and connecting to a wide range of people who wouldn’t naturally be within your normal circle of influence, in order to broaden potential opportunities. When you break networking down into these two key functions, it’s no surprise that learning how to network has become such a central part of the career development of so many legal professionals.

The value of networking

Networking has value for legal professionals in many different contexts. Being able to successfully network within an organisation can result in better job prospects, being in the know when it comes to promotions and being invited to meetings where there are opportunities to gain profile. It can also establish you as the ‘go to’ person for certain matters or expertise – that’s why one of my main roles with any client is to introduce them to the right people – be it journalists, MPs, in-house lawyers or other firms they can work with.

As competition heats up in the sector because of ABS, direct access and a wobbly economy, it’s more important now than ever before to build relationships with the right people and more importantly to have a brand they respect.

In the context of the industry in general, networking can be invaluable with respect to picking up on developments in the market, being the first to know about issues or trends that could affect your career in a positive or negative way, as well as being offered opportunities to build on an existing reputation.

Client relationships

Finally, networking is crucial to one of the most important elements of working within the legal sector: client relationships. Being able to successfully network is a very effective way of generating business and profile with potential clients, resulting in an inflow of work, which is the fastest route to success within the legal industry.

In a move which emphasises the importance of everyone in the firm taking an active part in networking, partners at one of the UK’s leading law firms set its associates the challenge to organise an event with the sole purpose of networking and building relationships. The event was to be run by the associates and no one at partner level would be involved. The event was a massive success with relationships formed with journalists, prospective clients, current clients and associated stakeholders in the industry.

Social networking

Forward-thinking firms understand the importance of everyone in the team taking an active role in securing and building relationships to generate business. Face-to-face networking is just one way to make connections, obtain information and get a general sense of what’s going on in the industry. Social networking has become a global phenomenon, used by everyone from soap stars to banks, and the obvious value of harnessing it is beginning to impact in the legal sector.

Twitter, Facebook and blogging are now being used by a number of law firms keen to make the most of any networking opportunity. The reality of the legal services sector is that the internet is now one of the first places people will turn to search for legal professionals (there are more than two million searches for solicitors each month) but a website alone is no longer a proactive enough approach. Someone who follows a firm on Twitter and reads that firm’s ‘tweets’ about the latest legal developments relevant to their situation is much more likely to take business to that firm.

A social networking presence allows legal professionals to build online ‘relationships’ through having a very prominent voice, making this is a great way of spreading the positive effects of networking to a much wider field of recipients.

Social media has been a prominent part of my business development strategy – one client is proud of the fact that he found me on LinkedIn after we connected because of both knowing another member of his chambers.

Whether digitally, or via the more traditional methods of pressing the flesh, reaching out and linking up with other legal industry insiders, as well as potential clients, is crucial to the success of any legal practice. Making connections in this way will always be a driving force in assisting careers to develop and businesses to gain strength. Don’t get left behind.

If you’re attending the IBA and need help in building a plan to ensure your attendance is fruitful then please drop us a line – it’s never too soon to implement your strategy.

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