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IBA: Take the 'Work' out of Networking with the Indy Attorneys Network

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iba-networkBy Liz Shuster and Chuck Schmal, Woodard Emhardt Moriarty & McNett & Henry LLP

Like most attorneys, we always enjoy meeting lawyers from other practice areas and interests, but while it is easy to say “go network,” we found it somewhat a daunting task.

While the IndyBar offers a wealth of opportunities to meet other attorneys, usually meetings tend to focus toward specific areas of law or particular topics of interest, which are not always conducive for networking. We’ve all been to CLEs where most attorneys stick to the schedule, arriving just a few minutes before the presentation begins and leaving promptly when it ends, leaving little to no time for networking.

There are other sections and committees within the IndyBar that provide opportunities to meet other attorneys; but not everyone can join the same committee or actually wants to join all the various sections. While cold calling other attorneys to network is another option, most attorneys we know aren’t comfortable with calling other attorneys out of the blue because it can be somewhat awkward.

To address this problem, we wanted to establish a group that solely focused on networking amongst attorneys. While we thought it was a good idea, we weren’t certain whether other attorneys would agree so we decided to conduct a survey to see if our hunch was right. The survey was used to determine if there was in fact an interest in such a networking group and, more importantly, what activities attorneys would be most interested in for the networking group. The results of our survey showed that there was an overwhelming interest in forming such a networking group, and most expressed an interest in one-on-one type networking meetings rather than large group type meetings.

We felt that the IndyBar would be the perfect fit to establish this group. We presented this idea to the IndyBar board, and they approved the creation of a new section with the sole focus on networking amongst IndyBar members. The newly created section, the “Indy Attorneys Network,” will hopefully build professionalism, promote collegiality, and provide opportunities for networking with other members. It is envisioned the membership will be diverse, including judges, in-house counsel, members of law firms, solo practitioners, law professors, and other law practitioners.

The Indy Attorneys Network is a voluntary group that IndyBar members can choose to join by paying an annual section fee. All members of the IndyBar are eligible and welcome to join; however, only those IndyBar members who join the group will have access to the networking events.

Our initial focus for the group, based on our survey results, has been establishing a program for facilitating one-on-one meetings. As part of joining the Indy Attorneys Network, you will be randomly paired with a different attorney each month. Every month, you will receive an email that introduces you to the member you have been paired and provides you with his or her contact information. Each matched pair then decides when and where to meet. The nice part is that this format of networking will be flexible on time, location, and activity. For example, the pair can arrange to meet over coffee, breakfast, lunch, or however they see fit. These one-on-one meetings remove the discomfort or stigma associated with networking because both of you go to the meeting with the full knowledge that the other is there to network with you as well.

In addition to making networking easier and more fun, the Indy Attorneys Network also allows you to network with someone new on a regular basis. Plus, there’s even greater flexibility to the group—there might be certain months when networking might not fit into your schedule because of holidays, trials, or vacations. If this happens, simply contact a committee member to temporarily remove your name from the pool of participants for that month. An initial committee was formed and we are currently working out the bugs in this one-on-one meeting program by performing test runs with committee members, and our current plan is to role out the program in January 2013.

We are also planning future activities for the group such as social events and CLEs with an emphasis on networking. While some attorneys are natural networkers, we understand that typically networking is a learned skill. In view of that, we are working on creating some exciting programs that will help attorneys hone their networking skills. It is our hope that the Indy Attorneys Network will not only build new friendships but will foster long-lasting relationships within the IndyBar, so the next time you attend a bar event you won’t see a room full of strangers—you’ll see a room full of friends.

The Indy Attorneys Network section can be joined by adding the group on your member profile online at www.indybar.org.

If you have any questions about the Indy Attorneys Network, please feel free to contact us. There may be a few bumps to work out as the group gets off the ground, but we are hopeful that members keep the momentum going and keep networking!•

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