Men are From Mars; Women are From Venus. When that book came out in 1992 it was quite revolutionary… Men and women think differently. In wasn’t news to any couple on the planet, but now we had the evidence… and new ways to manage those differences. Networking is an area that those differences can mean the difference between success and failure. In a blog post by Yery Marrero on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys, she explores how women network differently and what women attorneys should do about it.

One of the most important skills you need to succeed in private practice is effective networking. I remember clearly when I left the public defender’s office in 1998, I had a ton of trial experience, but I knew absolutely nothing about business. I remember sitting in my new office waiting for the phone to ring. When I would go to court, I was astounded to see that attorneys with far less trial experience than I still had tons of clients. It was a wakeup call that skill and expertise had very little to do with how you got business. What I quickly realized was that if I wasn’t effectively communicating my experience or expertise than it didn’t matter how much I had, nobody was going to get the benefit of it.

There was a recent study conducted by Athena Vongalis-Macrow published in the Harvard Business Review Blog which evaluated the ways in which women network and why we are still not producing results as successfully as our male counterparts. The article Two Ways Women can Network More Effectively, discusses how networking is still a challenge for many women. Vongalis-Macrow conducted research by surveying women in middle management positions. She”‘discovered that there were two critical actions that were less evident in the women’s networking habits, and these two actions enable more effective network exchanges that highlight expertise, professionalism, and talent.”

Those actions were Collaboration and Articulation of Career Goals. She explains that, although she found that women helped others and showed a desire to share, they were less likely to collaborate with others on work-related projects. “Only 14% collaborated on projects as a way to network, compared to 33% who supported others as a way of networking.” And she stated that there was a “lack of understanding of the networking opportunities offered through collaboration” for women. To me this means that we are still not choosing to work together. We may be willing to create relationships with one another but we are not collaborating in business.

The other issue she found was that “[w}hen networking, women did not articulate and make clear their work or career goals. For the most part, they kept their goals to themselves. Only 4% admitted to talking about their career aspirations to others. Part of the reasoning was that they did not want to appear too ambitious or boastful; some wanted to minimize disappointment or the appearance of failure if the goals were not achieved.” This is a critical flaw in our business DNA. This flawed pattern will ultimately be a deathblow to our future success. It isn’t enough that we prove ourselves in the courtroom; we need to be talking about our successes outside of the courtroom. One does not exist without the other. In private practice, a client still has to hire you before you can defend them successfully.

As women we are great collaborators… so use the skill to develop business and build relationships. And think about it… It’s not bragging when you simply state the facts. 

One might ask how networking tips for brand new associates would be applicable to partners. Stick with me here, because in my experience there are many partners who know what they should have been doing in terms of staying in touch with former classmates, colleagues, people they’ve met, etc. but haven’t.  So, they could gain from Steven Taylor’s interview of Scott Westfahl, director of professional development at Goodwin Procter recently on Attorney at Work.

As Taylor points out, the old saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know” (1951, G. P. Bush and L. H. Hattery in an article on obtaining federal employment in Science magazine) is not applicable to lawyers, of course.  But don’t downplay the value of who you know, and who you know that can help you get legal work.

It’s what networking is all about. And Taylor’s and Westfahl’s tips can be helpful to any lawyer, since it is not taught as part of the core curriculum in law schools.  So, the networking tips mentioned include:

  • Keep in touch with law school classmates (and with college and high schools ones as well – surprising how that little nerd in junior high turned out to be very successful).  You should reach out and touch your contacts on a quarterly or least semi-annual basis to catch up and stay top of mind.  Don’t wait until you need their help with an introduction;
  • Identify groups of good contacts, and build those newer, external relationships as well;
  • Offer to help them with their goals (based on the idea “give to get”); and
  • Use social media as a tool (but don’t forget that networking is personal, and face-to-face meetings are still important).

New lawyers should not overlook the importance of maintaining and developing networks, just because they are busy learning the skills needed to be a good lawyer.  Nor should partners who have not got as effective a network as they would like, since it is not too late to reconnect with those former classmates and other contacts they have ignored for many years.

Lawyers who reject the necessity of networking to one’s career and book of business may forever be dependent on others to feed them. There are many lawyers who bury themselves in work and sometimes busy work just to avoid not having to attend a networking event. Does this sound familiar? Well… I have good news for you from a self confessed introvert and a self confessed extravert, Bill Stewart and Karl Stark. They wrote, for Inc. Magazine,  Networking for Introverts: 3 Tips for Success.

They joke… "How many introverts does it take to hold a meeting? Two… as long as they both have laptops and Internet connections!"  It seems you have lots of company in the legal profession "…more than 75% of people with IQs above 160 are introverts." Now that we know this is common, let’s review the authors’ solutions quoted from the book The Introvert’s Guide to Success by Lisa Petrilli

Network on your own terms.

Commit to networking, but in a way you will find comfortable:

Network one-on-one rather than in groups.

Look to create valuable, deep relationships with a modest number of valued leaders, rather than compiling a long Rolodex of superficial relationships.

Create a comfortable environment for yourself.

Learn about the individual in advance and think through the ways you can help them and vice versa.

Leverage your skills as an introvert.

Odds are, you are a good listener. Prepare some questions in advance that can get the conversation going. 

A great approach… I know that the introvert lawyers that I coach could certainly accomplish these 3 steps. Though I think if we didn’t use the word networking, we could help prevent panicking on the way to the event. Let’s NOT call it networking… how about relationship building? Does that feel better? I would hope so, since that is exactly what you are doing… building relationships.

I know that many lawyers are turned off, if not terrified by the concept of networking. The idea of walking into a room full of strangers and striking up a conversation is truly worse than a root canal. I can’t say that I’m overly comfortable with networking myself.

However, I found an article entitled “Bad Networking Ain’t Networking” by John Snyder on Attorney at Work to be quite helpful. When Synder left BigLaw for a solo practice, he was told “you’ve got to network.” His response to that in the article raises two excellent points:

  • Don’t go to networking events to get business. Rather look at it as opportunities to make new friends; and
  • Think of ways to help those you meet.

He sums it up beautifully: “So here is how I would amend that ‘you gotta network’ edict. It’s not about networking – it’s about being a friendly, generous and helpful person…(and those are) the qualities that clients or potential referral sources seek in a lawyer.”

So, attend networking events with the idea of making friends, not networking.  The results may surprise you.

With the crush of year-end and the busyness of the holidays, I decided to post an encore of a holiday post I did in 2007 on reaching out and touching clients and referral sources by telephone during the holidays.  Personal attention is better than (but not to the exclusion of) holiday cards. Here it is:

December 18, 2007  
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Work Your Network During the Holidays

It’s a good idea to touch base with contacts within your network during the holidays. It’s even better than sending holiday cards. Pick up the phone and reach out to everyone you know (okay, if you are THAT popular, not everyone) and wish them a happy holiday season. It especially makes sense to at least speak to every referral source and client, including those you haven’t done work for lately or received a recent referral.

And talking about networking, I thought I would call your attention to a post I did in December 2005 entitled “Ignore Your Friends At the ‘Business’ Holiday Party.”  The premise of that post was that you can get together with your friends anytime, so use business-related holiday parties as productive networking and business development opportunities that you can cultivate further in 2008. If interested in reading more of my thoughts on that subject, give that post a look.

Again, Happy Holiday(ing) Everyone!

The Rule:  Get to events 20 minutes early, and stay 20 minutes after it is over!!

Simple huh.

I usually do not link to articles or posts by consultants who refer to themselves as gurus, experts, the best or top anything.  I routinely pass their stuff up, because it usually isn’t that good, but …..

After reading  the article on LinkedIn by Martha Newman.  I think maybe I’m just jealous. Because I never thought of Newman’s rule.  It is good, no damn good.   Here is what she had to say:

 “Did you know that the best networking takes place 20 minutes before a networking event starts, and in the first 20 minutes after it ends?


“That’s why it’s so important to be the first one there, and the last person to leave.

“Think about it. If your number-one objective is to make as many valuable contacts as possible then it is wise to always arrive early for meetings, seminars, and business functions – and stay late to maximize the networking opportunities that are available after the events are over.

You may even want to think of yourself as the host of the event – even if you’re just a guest – and make sure that you try to greet and speak to as many people as possible before the event and see them off after the event. By doing this, people will remember you as the person in the sea of people who was thoughtful enough to take the initiative and break the ice by greeting them warmly.

“Remember, the saying "the early bird always gets the worm" was not born out of bad advice.”

Also, those who know me, know that I am rarely at a loss for words, and I usually have no trouble putting my own slant on posts and articles I link to.  That’s what a blog is suppose to do.  However, there is nothing more to add to this one.

Social media is obviously one way to network these days, and it can work. But, it is not as effective as face-to-face events with clients, referral sources and prospects. So, it’s time to get up from your desk, and get out and about. That is the theme of an article on Attorney at Work by Theda Snyder. And I completely agree.

Further, Snyder points out some simple tips on networking that aren’t new, but I have to admit I appreciate the reminders myself; to wit:

  • Go where your potential clients hang out. That is, it is better to spend time with trade groups, business organizations, etc. where your preferred types of clients are likely to be found. Spending time with other lawyers makes sense too, if they are a source of your referrals;
  • Be active in any organization you join. Be a “doer” not a “joiner.” Show that you are a player by volunteering and even seek a position of leadership, if possible, to raise your profile;
  • Mingle at events. Don’t just talk with people you know, or stay with one group. Take advantage of the occasion to speak to as many people as you can;
  • Remember to put your name tag on “your right side so it is easily visible as you shake hands.” Use a magic marker to write your firm name and nickname, if the organization used only your more formal name;
  • Introduce yourself to odd-numbered groups, as it is easier to interrupt than is a twosome;
  • Exchange business cards, and put a note on the back for recall conversation, and to remember the connection;
  • Follow up after the event. As Snyder suggests: “keep the conversation going.” Take a look at my post “Networking: Flawed Fallacy About Follow Up” on suggestions on how to do that.

The important thing is get out there and mingle face-to-face. Don’t just rely on social media for your networking.

Okay, you’ve decided it’s time to do some networking at a conference. The first thing you need to do is identify the right conferences to attend. Those would be ones that your clients and/or referral sources attend. If your main referral sources are other lawyers, you would want to go to bar association meetings, and, of course, CLE is an extra benefit.

An article by Sharon Meit Abrahams on’s Small Firm Marketing and in Law Firm Partnership and Benefits Report newsletter provides good insight into how to approach your attendance at conferences generally. Her recommendations (with some of my additional thoughts) include:

  • Seek out clients and referral sources. Naturally one would spend time with clients to enhance the relationship, but don’t spend too much time to the exclusion of meeting new contacts and potential clients. Additionally, it is a good idea to ask clients for introductions to other attendees whom you would like to meet;
  • Identify key players within the organization and among the attendees/speakers you know will be there;
  • Set up meetings, breakfast, cocktails, etc. with clients, referral sources and others at times that are open or not otherwise scheduled for conference activities;
  • Be prepared by planning ahead. Bring plenty of updated business cards, and write your mobile number on them (if not already printed on) to showcase your accessibility to them. Ask others for their card, and make sure to follow up with handwritten notes, telephone calls or emails to those you would like to build a relationship;
  • Think through ahead of time and practice your approach, including what you will say and how you would say it to those you hope to meet;
  • Ensure that you are on top of your game in terms of issues impacting or likely to impact conference attendees and other members of the organization;
  • Share your knowledge in discussions and Q&A sessions, instead of trying to sell yourself. Follow up after the conference with responses to specific issues raised during any encounters. Also, try to get on future speaker panels where you can demonstrate your expertise to a wider audience; and
  • Finally, plan out your available time during the conference to ensure you meet a large number of contacts.

Although not everyone will follow all of Abrahams’ or my suggestions, hopefully several of them will work for you. The important thing is to use any networking opportunity, especially at conferences, to the maximum extent possible.

Networking… to some just the mention of this word makes them tense up and break out into a cold sweat. Others? Well they make sure they have business cards. I have to admit that I have never been the latter… until I shifted my thinking.

I stopped thinking about networking and started thinking about… building relationships with no other agenda than to get to know THEM. Not… can this guy give me business or can this lady introduce me to more important decision makers? That’s easier said than, done, I know because we are taught that in order to get business we have to NETWORK… so what do we do? We work our way through the room handing out cards and looking over each persons shoulder for our next prospect. Sound familiar? If you haven’t done it you know someone who has.

So what’s the alternative? Go to events with the intention to meet 1 or 2 people… and get to know something about them. Find a connection, something that will create another encounter – an email, a phone call or a lunch. You never know where a relationship could lead. Then you must follow-up… period. That won’t be so difficult since you are only going back to your office with 1 or 2 cards… not a handful that will sit on your desk that you never follow-up with. 

Next I stopped attending 1 or 2 events a year of MANY organizations and started being a regular attendee to only 2 organizations… I went every month. My circle of new friends started to expand and people introduced me to others. Repetition… Repetition… Repetition! It works.

Build relationships by listening and getting to really know people. Shoving business cards into people’s hands will never work no matter how often you do it. YOUR card will be the one sitting on someone’s desk gathering dust.

Black Pearl: For those who need a little help thinking of questions that start conversations my colleague Cordell Parvin has a fabulous list of 19 questions that are sure to get you started.


Too often when working a room, many of us do so with little thought on being organized. As lawyers, we are methodical by nature in many of our dealings, but I expect networking isn’t one of them. Then, I ran across a post Bruce Allen did on his Marketing Catalyst blog during the holidays, that I like for it’s systematic approach and wanted to share it.

Allen talks about working a room in 60-minutes, presumably because during the busy holiday season, people have numerous events to attend. Whether you limit your networking to a fixed time, isn’t the point, what is has to do with being organized to get the most out of what might otherwise be a haphazard approach to networking. So, here’s his suggestions:

  • Get there early and check out the name tags for people you want to talk with;
  • In the early stages, hang out at the entrance to see (people you want to engage in conversation) and be seen;
  • Invite people to join you at the bar or food table, and offer to bring drinks to a group you’d like to join;
  • After the event is in full swing, move to the back of the room greeting people as you go;
  • From the back, survey for additional people, including VIPs you would like to meet; and
  • Then, work your way back toward the entrance greeting people as you go.

Take a look at his post, as I didn’t capture all his points. A more organized approach to working an event makes sense, and after you get the hang of it, improve your chances of success at networking.