Networking helps you build connections and develop relationships. It’s important for a career in law, where it can lead to new business for your firm or give you new opportunities.
Why you should network
There are many benefits of networking, including:
- increasing your confidence
- making you a better communicator
- inspiring you with new ideas for ways of working
- keeping you in touch with what’s happening in other firms and in different legal sectors
Where to network
You can network anywhere you meet lawyers, clients or other professionals. If you work for a large firm, there’ll be internal social events to help colleagues get to know each other.
Professional networking events often have sector- or industry-specific speakers, so you’re more likely to meet legal professionals in that field.
You should also look for opportunities outside the legal field. Look for groups that share your interests or hobbies. It’s often easier to start a conversation with someone if you know you have something in common with them.
How to network
Set some goals
Write down some achievable and measurable goals you want from networking, such as:
- taking on new clients
- working in a different sector
- getting a new job
- finding a mentor
But do not let this be the sole focus of your networking. Concentrate on building new relationships. At your next networking event, plan to speak to a specific number of new people or make a certain number of contacts.
Arrive at events early
Get there early and you'll find plenty of people who’ve yet to partner up, so speak to them first. Then try to join 'open' twos and threes – groups of two or three people who stand facing outward, not in a circle or opposite each other. This body language shows they’re open to people joining their group.
What to say
Networking is not just about talking – it’s about listening, too. Ask people about themselves. If you know who you’re meeting, you can prepare some questions in advance.
Do not just ask questions about law – for example, find out what they enjoy doing outside work. Get to know the person, not the lawyer.
Avoid using legal jargon. Simple terms and plain language make a better impression.
To introduce yourself, you can prepare an elevator ‘speech’. This is a clear 60-second explanation of who you are. To be effective, it needs to be tailored to the person you’re talking to and should:
- explain how your skills or specialist knowledge might be useful to them
- focus on the clients you work with and how you provide what they need
When you talk about your work, do not just tell people what you do, tell them why you do it. It’ll make a deeper connection.
Give out your contact details
Have your contact details ready to hand out to people you’d like to talk to further. Business cards are the norm, even if you're not employed at the moment.
After the event
You’ll need to build trust with people before they feel confident to instruct you or refer you to someone else.
To build trust and deepen relationships you need to:
- follow up on any commitments you made to stay in touch
- spend time with people individually if you met them in a group
- stay in regular contact
- reciprocate, help others when you can