Independent Thinking: Alternative Ways to Network

September 18, 2012

Small Law: Independent ThinkingEveryone who practices law understands the importance of networking, but very few people approach it with anything that resembles enthusiasm.

And why would you?

Personally, if I enjoyed walking into a room of strangers and making small talk while swapping business cards, I would have been a salesman instead of going to law school.

Yet as an attorney, and especially one building a small practice, the necessity of developing interpersonal relationships is unavoidable. So am I destined to begrudgingly suffer through an endless series of awkward bar socials, lunches, coffees, and the increasingly trendy business breakfasts, or is there better way?

I think there is.

To me, developing business relationships is analogous to dating. Are you the kind person who can walk into a crowded bar and walk out with some digits? Or are you the kind of person who would rather meet someone through friends, hobbies, or social organizations? Is it quantity or quality?

Networking is not a one size fits all proposition. The way you network and develop relationships should reflect your own individual personality. If you do not enjoy the kind of social interaction you are engaging in, you will be less likely to do it, and less likely to develop new relationships as a result of it.

By no means exhaustive, here are some examples of alternative ways you can network

  • Recreation and Hobbies:

I love football. Recently I decided to start a fantasy football league at my firm. I invited attorneys from our referral network and extended the offer to other attorneys at their firms. This turned out to be an excellent way of meeting new people as well strengthening pre-existing relationships.

Whether it is football, golf outings, kick ball leagues, or whatever, if you enjoy doing something and gather with people who do as well, it is a very natural situation to develop relationships.

  • Volunteering and Public Service:

I volunteer doing pro-bono bankruptcies. I have not only met other bankruptcy attorneys while doing this, but also the trustees whom I interact with on a frequent basis in my regular practice. The focus here is by doing something constructive, you do not have to worry about self-promotion.

Regardless of the opportunity, when volunteering you will naturally collaborate with other people while at the same time developing good will in your community.

  • Social Organizations and Clubs:

I participate in several clubs and organizations. While there is much cross-over here with my first two categories, I separate this out because of the ready-made social aspect of organizations and clubs. Whether it is the Rotary Club, Masons, or church group, by virtue of being in the group you already have a connection with the other members.

Regardless of your approach to networking, the ultimate point here is that the most effective way to do so is as personal as the relationships that develop from it.