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.