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Networking Tips for Lawyers

Most of us aren’t a fan of networking. No matter how much you love chatting with people and how confident you are, networking can fill you with dread. That’s normal! But without pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you’re never going to find it less scary.  

We’ve put together our top tips for networking in this blog post to give you a helping hand and a boost of confidence.

Be prepared

There’s no such thing as too much preparation when it comes to networking. You don’t need to use all of the information you’ve researched, but it will help you to feel more confident and reduce any awkward silences.

Take a look at the attendee list – if you can get your hands on the attendee list, have a look at the people who are attending. Consider having a little stalk on LinkedIn to see if there are any common interests, which can help provide some conversation starters. This could be job roles, companies, universities, or extra-curricular activities.

As well as this, have a look at current affairs, such as what’s going on in the news, any new rules, regulations or legislation and any new initiatives law firms are doing. These are great conversation starters and will increase your knowledge of the topics too.

Dress appropriately

Make sure to follow the dress code and if there isn’t one, ask for it. Doing this will help you feel more comfortable if you are worried about standing out too much, overdressing or underdressing. Planning an outfit out beforehand will mentally prepare you for the task ahead.

Get there on time

It’s much easier to be one of the first in a room than one of the last. You can suss out the dynamics, work out who already knows each other and start making conversations with people first. That way, people have to join you rather than the other way around.

Be brave

There is nothing more daunting than walking up to a group of people who are already involved in a chat, but this is one of the best things you can do to get stuck in there. Set yourself a goal of joining two or three groups to start with. This will help to ease you in and build your confidence too.

Remember that everyone is here to network and meet new people, so it’s not odd to walk up to someone you don’t know. 

Make sure you look like you want to be there

If you’re not feeling comfortable enough to approach a group yet, make sure you are making yourself look approachable. Don’t hide in the corner, stand on your phone, or avoid eye contact with people. All these signs will tell other people in the room that you don’t want to be there, are unapproachable, and they likely will steer clear of you. Put a smile on your face, shoulders back and make eye contact with as many people as you can.

Figure out how you are going to introduce yourself

Apart from approaching a group, this could be one of the most daunting aspects of networking. What are you going to say about yourself?! We recommend putting together a 60-second elevator-esque pitch that you’ve prepared. State your job title and your firm and explain how you help to solve the problems of your clients and how you would add value to the firm. This will inevitably lead to more questions and shows off your skills and expertise to the person you’re talking to.

Set some goals

Having some set goals to complete throughout the networking event will give your mind something to focus on and help you to stay calm under pressure. Are you checking out other firms? Looking to widen your lawyer network and stay in touch, or are you recruiting for your own firm? This will help to steer you in the right direction conversation-wise.

Come up with some questions

This is a great way to make you feel prepared. Have a list of five to ten questions to ask people if the conversation doesn’t flow naturally.

But don’t forget, you won’t gel with every single person, so if the conversation seems to have come to an end, let the person know you’re going to find another group to chat to. Say something like:

“‘It’s been great to chat to you, but we don’t have a lot of time, so I’m going to move on and give you a chance to talk to some other people. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me.’

Don’t get too comfortable

Once you’ve found a person or group of people you’re enjoying speaking to, you might be tempted to stop your networking experience there. But it’s important you still make your way around the room. A five-ten-minute chat with a person is usually sufficient time. So don’t get too comfortable and spread your presence around!

Don’t make it all about you

Make sure your planned questions will be used to open up the conversation and find out things about other people. It’s likely they’ll ask similar questions in return, but make sure the conversation doesn’t focus solely on you and what you do.

There’s no such thing as a dumb question, but…

…Avoid the obvious. If the person is wearing a name badge asking what firm they’re from and you can read it, ask about how they find working at the firm instead; and if you’re familiar with the firm and know what areas they specialise in, don’t ask them to recite this back to you, instead, ask them why they chose this firm or the particular area of practice they are in. Questions like “what is your job like” are fine to ask, as simple as it sounds, but it’s likely that everyone will have a different opinion and day-to-day workload.  

Give out your contact details

This is the best way to stay in touch and make networking valuable. Whether it’s a digital or physical business card or a LinkedIn profile – be prepared to swap details.

Connect with them on LinkedIn

And don’t forget to connect with everyone you’ve spoken to on LinkedIn after the event. This will help to build relationships, and they might introduce you to your next job or additional networking opportunities.

And remember…

…Your first networking experience might be filled with some awkward pauses, and you might feel totally out of your depth, but practice makes perfect! So, make those LinkedIn connections and go in with an open mind to your next event.

How can I find networking opportunities?

Now you’re ready to network, you might be wondering where these opportunities come up. Have a look at your old employers, university alumni networks, bar associates, LinkedIn, and law society websites for opportunities.