For Virtual Office NYC Lawyer, Vivian Sobers, networking events built around a social activity have been the most productive for her solo law practice.
Since the beginning of the year I have begun to feel as though my own solo law practice has experienced a bit of a plateau. I suppose this is normal after you experience a streak of success.
I am absolutely passionate about my solo law practice and this passion always drives me to make it more successful, so this has become a constant concern in the back of my mind.
I have been thinking about ways to grow my solo law firm beyond where it is now and have noticed that I probably could be more effective with the marketing techniques that have been working for me already. Most importantly, networking with other lawyers.
Finding the time for networking has been a challenge.
The big issue with networking is that it can be time consuming. Since my workload has increased, my networking efforts have sort of fallen by the wayside. This isn’t because I don’t want to network or don’t know how to network. I simply haven’t found (made) the time for it.
But I know that my most reliable source of new business is attorneys, I need to meet more attorneys to build additional referral relationships.
This shortage of time has really made me look at networking events more critically. In the past, I would go to any event that would fit into my schedule (and when I had a lot of time, I went to a lot of events).
But in reviewing networking events, I have found that consistently, certain types of events produce better results for me than others.
Not all Networking events are created equal.
Networking events seem to fall into two categories: learning and social.
At “learning events” (typically CLEs or seminars), I find that the attendees are there primarily to learn and networking is really the last thing on their minds. Even if there is a networking component built into the event, often people don’t participate or are less inclined to meet new attorneys. If I am only going to the meeting for networking, I have found these events to be unproductive.
On the other hand, social networking events have been very productive for me. They are based around a social activity that is usually incredibly interactive. Social networking events feel more natural.
The people attending go mostly for the purpose of meeting others, not to learn anything in particular. So they tend to attract other attorneys who are open to conversation and developing new relationships.
Making small talk at these events is easy, and gives me more potential to build a relationship with other attorneys. I find that I can more easily turn on the charm and be more relaxed at social events. Plus there’s usually some social lubricant, which always helps.
Here are three examples of three “social” networking events that have produced results:
1. Scotch Tasting
It’s no secret that, from time-to-time, I enjoy libations of the brown variety. So it’s no coincidence that when a local bar association sponsored a Scotch tasting event, it was an easy sell for me!
The event attracted other attorneys who were enthusiastic about fine liquors, so it gave us a reason to connect other than shop talk (which can get tedious). The social lubricant also helped eliminate some of the fears of approaching new people, so it ended up being a really fun and successful event for me.
2. The Community Lunch at my Virtual Office
About once a month Law Firm Suites hosts a lunch where everyone in the community is invited. I usually swing by the office a few times a week to pick up my mail anyway, so the week when they are hosting the lunch I plan to get my mail at that time.
They run it sort of like a BNI style networking group, but much less formal. Since we are all “connected” to the space, and there is already a healthy stream of referrals being exchanged between the attorneys, everyone makes an effort to attend so they can make connections with other potential referral sources.
Whether I reconnect with people who have sent me business in the past, or meet new people, it’s always worth the 45 minutes (and I get a free lunch out of it)!
3. “Speed Networking”
Similar to a speed dating event, I recently attended a “speed networking” event. I was a little nervous about this for the same reason you would get nervous about a speed dating event. It all seems a little forced.
But the format ended up being a good one. Once you get started, you don’t have time to get stuck in your own head. You have to talk fast and, after two or three “dates”, I found myself getting into a groove.
At the end of the speed round, there’s a mixer where you can catch up with the people with whom you made a connection. It turned out to be a productive night.
I think that when it comes to networking, you should never ask yourself “should I?” You should always tell yourself “I will.”
However, being more selective about the types of networking events you go to will maximize your results.
Networking strategically is just one way to grow your solo law practice.
Learn more with our eBook “Virtual Lawyers Dish Strategies For Success.”
Vivian Sobers is a commercial litigator pursuing a solo law practice right out of law school. She is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Virtual Office Program. Vivian’s weekly blog series “Young, Hungry and Committed” documents the trials and tribulations of a young attorney navigating her way through the challenging world of self-employed legal practice.