By Justine Daley
Schmoozing. Small talk. Mindless chit-chat.
I know, and I get it. There are a lot of negative connotations to the term “networking.” But whatever you call it, and as taboo as it may seem, building and maintaining a network in your industry is important to your growth as a professional, even in the legal industry.
I’ve heard the excuses: You’re not looking for a new job. You’re too busy and there is just no time. Not to mention, you hate small talk. And it won’t benefit your law firm.
Think again. Collaborating with and maintaining relationships with other lawyers—especially ones who are in the same practice area—can benefit your law firm.
Sustaining a referral business is one thing, but there are other ways that building professional relationships with other lawyers can ultimately improve your ability to market your law firm and help your clients.
From a small business perspective, when you work with the same people every day, what is your collaboration like? How do you keep your ideas fresh and make sure you’re bringing something new to the table?
Make New Friends, but Keep the Old
Start with your current network. You don’t need to find one; you already have built these relationships whether it is from your membership in the local bar association or from your time in law school.
Collaborate Across State Lines
If you’ve been to Lawyernomics or another law firm marketing conference, you probably walked away with big takeaways from the speakers, but for me, some of the biggest takeaways I get from conferences are actually from the people I meet. One of the best things you can do while attending one of these conferences is connect with a lawyer in the same practice area as you but in a different state.
Collaborating cross-state with other attorneys who do the same thing as you and encounter the same issues allows for you to share ideas and communicate, but without the worry about the competitive nature of gaining clients in your area.
When doing this, though, don’t try to compare apples to tomatoes. Remember that you could be speaking with someone who is in a very different competitive market due to their location and practice area. Take it all with a grain of salt before you start asking why their website is ranking a certain way.
(Still wondering why their website is ranking that way? Read Mark Homer’s newsletter piece for some insight.)
Don’t Limit Yourself to Legal
Don’t be afraid to meet with people in other industries. What works for one industry could work for you. At the end of the day you are a small business. Hey, industries like dentistry and medicine need reviews too. What if they have some tactics to share? Have they ever had a bad review? And what is their content marketing strategy like? Do they create guides and post frequently asked questions to target long-tail queries?
Here at GNGF, we’re lucky to inhabit this creative city that is Cincinnati, Ohio. We’re surrounded by creative agencies and innovative startups, and while we work solely with law firms, some of my best ideas have actually come from conversations with people who do marketing for consumer packaged goods or construction companies. There is nothing like a conversation with someone with different experiences in another industry to spark a fresh idea that could turn into action and make an impact.
Build the Right Kind of Relationships
The thing to always remember when you’re thinking about your network is that you should be committing to mutually beneficial relationships. Don’t be that person who is always asking their friends for something but never returns the favor. It is a two way street, and no one wants to answer the call of someone who is going to prod for ideas but never share any in return.
If you’re wondering where to start, and how this time and effort could benefit you, start by communicating with your team internally and at GNGF.