By Kimberly Alford Rice
Special to the Legal
Do you feel awkward and wrestle with what to say in networking situations? Would you like to avoid them at all cost? You are certainly not alone. Most lawyers (and business people, for that matter) are not fans of targeted networking and often do not feel comfortable with meeting and talking to new people. Consider it one of the occupational hazards of the legal profession, and work to overcome your reticence.
Below are a few tips to overcome "networking negativity."
- To calm some of your networking jitters, assume the role of a host even when you are a guest.(so it's not good old "you" that is fearing rejection). Don't wait for someone to make introductions for you or show you around the room. Behave like a host and do it yourself.
- Give before you receive. Meeting new people at events isn't enough to build your practice. Instead, approach networking with the mindset of "What can I do for you?" Be interested in the people you are talking to and offer advice or assistance whenever possible (even with small things). Although this attitude won't necessarily immediately pay off, in the long run you will develop lasting, solid relationships as well as a reputation for being a go-getter and a sought-after contact.
- Listen actively. You can learn a lot when you actually listen to other people. You learn how to help them, with whom to put them in contact, and if they might be a great networking partner for you. Your mother always told you why you have two ears and one mouth … she was right.
- Avoid "icebreaker block" by developing a few questions in advance that you are comfortable asking strangers and then listen with curiosity to the responses. Often, follow-up questions can spur a natural conversation and keep it interesting.
- Networking has the word "work" in it for a reason. Networking events are pointless endeavors if you don’t actually "work" the room. Before you arrive to an event, make it a goal to meet and talk with a certain number of people (say three to five for your first event). Don't leave the event until you have reached your goal. Be sure to follow up with the contacts you have made to help the relationship continue to grow and develop.
Overcoming your initial shyness and networking regularly will go a long way to building a successful practice. Remember, the viability of your practice relies upon the success of relationships, so get out there and network your way to the top.
Kimberly Alford Rice is principal of KLA Marketing Associates, a business development advisory firm focusing on legal services. Rice helps law firms and lawyers develop practical business development and marketing strategies for bottom line success. Additionally, she provides career management services to lawyers in transition. For more information, find Rice on LinkedIn at
http://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberlyalfordrice or concact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.