Whether you are practicing at a law firm or in-house, the importance of building and maintaining your internal network is undeniable. These work relationships serve many purposes – from making the workplace more enjoyable and productive on a daily basis, to broadening your network and creating long-term career opportunities.
Making Friends: Be nice to everyone – lawyers, support staff, internal clients and anyone else you meet during your day. While every person has his/her own techniques/comfort level for making new friends, it all starts with saying hello and finding common interests. Work colleagues may be different from your weekend crew, and that is great! This is the perfect time to broaden your circle. Try grabbing coffee or lunch outside the office once in a while, or sending an email now and then with an article that might interest your new friend.
Adding Value: Like all relationships, your work network requires nurturing and care. You want to do your job to the best of your abilities, and you want to help your colleagues do so as well. Make sure you understand what your colleagues do and how that connects with your position. Try to determine how you can best help your colleagues meet their work goals. If you are in-house, learn the business and start anticipating the needs of your internal clients. If you are practicing at a law firm, learn the needs and cycles of your firm clients and start anticipating when your colleagues may need assistance. Be proactive. Moreover, try to understand the internal and external pressures your colleagues are under and adapt.
What’s in it for me: While there are many benefits to building strong workplace relationships, the most immediate one is a happier and more efficient work place. When a group of people work well together, more gets done and some innovation may even occur. There are long-term benefits as well, the first of which is more career opportunities for you. Simply put, there are more people out in the world that would want to work with you again and have you join their team. Also, former colleagues can be an excellent source of business for attorneys in private practice.
Taking Stock: Because we are all unique individuals, you will find that some relationships come more naturally than others. A good relationship requires an equitable amount of give and take. Reevaluate from time to time to ensure that you are giving as well as receiving in these relationships. Finally, make sure these relationships are positive and enjoyable.