Most people start a new year with thoughts of what they would like to improve upon or accomplish in the coming year. In many cases, with professional service firms, this list includes doing a better job of networking. People make commitments to have lunch meetings, attend events, ask for introductions, target specific individuals or companies, or look for speaking opportunities. All this is great, but what about your co-workers?
So many times there is great untapped networking potential right down the hall or an elevator ride away. If your firm is geographically dispersed, it might mean arranging a call or making a point of scheduling a visit with a few key people in another office.
Having an organized approach to becoming more visible internally and forming stronger relationships with your co-workers can be a very effective networking strategy.
I need you and you need me
The first step is to think about practice areas that can make referrals to you or interact with the same individuals within a company as you do. For example, if you are a labor lawyer, possibly you work with the human resources executive. Who are the lawyers within your firm that have a practice where employee issues may be an outgrowth of their work or who work with the same executives you target? In this case, some areas that come to mind might be real estate or mergers and acquisitions. As companies grow, acquire new facilities and move to new locations, employees are affected. Making sure that these lawyers know what you do and when to involve you in these discussions along with the human resources executive will make these transactions much smoother.
Do you know what I know?
It is really easy to lose sight of how much other people really know about what you do. You do it every day and it seems relatively uncomplicated to you. But, the people who don’t do what you do probably don’t understand it well. When you meet with a colleague, be prepared to give some examples of the types of problems you solve and the work that you do. Help them understand what you know and what you do so when they run into these situations, you are who comes to mind.
Leverage the relationship
Just as you do with other networking, once you have formed this connection then determine how you can make the most of it. What can you do to bring the insight you have just shared to the rest of the practice group? Ask about plugging into existing communication channels such as practice group meetings or client education programs. Let the other attorneys in the group know about your services. If that is too much to tackle, then maybe a brown bag lunch with just a few interested practice members would do, or perhaps the two of you could write an article, provide a client program, or make some introductions that are mutually beneficial.
Repetition never hurts
Even if you don’t make progress with your first conversation, it never hurts to keep trying. You are talking about co-workers after all, so as long as you work with them, it is good for them to know what you do. Keep sharing the stories about how you have helped clients, the type of work that you do, and sooner or later something will resonate or emerge with your internal network, and you will benefit from your persistence.
Make it part of the plan
Just as you set aside time for external networking, make time for internal networking. Commit to having lunch with someone you’d like to get to know better once a month, or make a point of sitting next to someone new at every firm meeting so that you can tell someone who you don’t know well what you do. Then follow up and stay in touch.
For 2017, focus some of your networking energy within your firm. You will be surprised by how effective your co-workers can be in helping you be successful if you don’t keep what you do a secret.•
• Dona Stohler of S2 Law Firm Strategies provides consulting services on business development and marketing for law firms. Stohler has more than a decade of experience in the legal services industry and is the past chair of the U.S. Law Firm Group marketing committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.S2lawfirmstrategies.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.