IndyBar: The First Rule of Networking: “You Are Always Networking”

By Abel Contreras, Attorney at Law

Whether you are the networking ninja who can float through a room and easily garner those important contacts to take your practice to the next level or you are the tepid networking participant who understands all too well the basic level of discomfort of putting on your name tag and preparing yourself for the hour (or more likely, 30 minutes because you'll leave early) of introducing yourself and listening to others through possibly awkward and contrived conversations, these networking truths apply to both. I believe most of us fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

In taking an inventory of the last five clients that have come through my door, only one came from my intentional attempt to network and obtain legal clients. The other four legal clients came from past encounters in my daily life, one of which was a contact that I have not even spoken to for almost eight years! In my opinion, if you can come to the realization that the majority of your networking occurs in your daily life and not from your job and/or standard networking events, then you are in a good place to expand and grow your network.

Is it really any surprise that some firms are unlocking the silos of their associates and allowing their young lawyers to spend more time out of the workplace and in the greater community? Because the path to firm growth is anything but a straight line, your path to growth comes from understanding that most of your networking occurs within the circles that you already frequent and without mention of the legal services that you provide.

So you may be asking yourself, "Ok, how do I channel more 'ninja' and less 'wallflower' in my daily living/networking?" See below. Although there is a close nexus between all suggestions, each point has some substantive nuance from the other two.

The Givers Gain Mentality of Networking - At your next networking opportunity ask, "How best can I assist this person with the network of professionals that trust me?" This often will be a refreshing surprise from the basic introduction and the "hat in hand" elevator pitch that most professionals (including myself at times) default to. As a result, your new contact will be more likely to re-pay the favor.

The Young Woman/Old Woman Illusion (and the ability to see the point of view of others) - I first encountered this image while reading Dale Carnegie's "How to Make Friends and Influence People." The point here is simple: Unless you can step in the shoes of another and see their alternate point of view, you'll never establish any common ground with which to build upon.

Building your Network is about Building Trust - Referrals are often problematic because the individual making the referral is putting their stamp of approval on your professionalism or responsiveness. Because this can be a risk-taking proposition for the referring party, garnering trust is the first barrier to overcome even if the first question is of the obvious, "So what do you do?" variety. Sincerely ask yourself, "How best would I gain this person's trust?" and you'll be surprised how fast those referrals may come to your desk.