You graduate from law school, start your first job and suddenly you can never seem to find the time to go to the gym, have lunch or even call old roommates. Many young lawyers are so busy with work that they feel they are unable to make time for old friends, new friends, hobbies, etc. This cycle often continues until many lawyers have lost touch with most people except for those they see daily at work.
In addition to the toll this inevitably takes on your personal life, it is also not a great long-term strategy for career growth. While keeping in touch with old friends and colleagues, maintaining interests, and getting involved in your community might not seem like important professional priorities right after graduating from law school, the relationships you maintain, and the new ones you create, can have an enormous impact on your development as a practicing attorney. Creating and cultivating your own network will serve to broaden the scope of your professional and personal life.
Lawyers often hear the word “networking” from business people and they get nervous. Here is the good news: networking does not have to mean a three-hour cocktail party or a full day conference. It can be as simple as meeting former colleagues for lunch, grabbing coffee with a new contact, or even having a 10 minute phone call with an old friend. Remember, it is your network, and you can cultivate it in the way that works best for you.
Maintaining a network of legal and other professionals can assist with your career growth in several important ways:
- Networking can help you find a new job. When engaged in a job search, your network can be one of your most important tools. Former colleagues are great referral sources. Individuals within your network will also be important sources of information. People you know will be happy to conduct informational interviews or have informal conversations about how a certain industry works or how to break into a new market. Moreover, many employers prefer to hire individuals that have a connection to their companies. When you are referred to a position by a current employee or client, your resume may go to the top of the stack.
- Networking can help you hire more effectively. As an employer, your network and your employees’ networks can greatly affect how quickly and efficiently you make your next hire. When employees reach out to qualified individuals that they already know, hiring may happen more quickly. Moreover, this new hire is pre-tested and more likely to stay long-term.
- Networking can help you develop a book of business. While there are many ways to develop business as a lawyer, it is important to remember that the more people you know, the larger the pool of potential clients you have. Keeping in touch with old friends, classmates and colleagues, as well as getting involved in your community, can greatly assist in developing business relationships and expanding your network. If you have lost touch with these contacts or failed to develop new relationships throughout your legal career you may be missing out on important opportunities.
- Networking can help when you need a referral for your client. Law is a service-oriented business. When your client has a legal need, you want to be the first person he or she calls for assistance. While you may not always be the best suited lawyer for the job, it gives clients a feeling of great comfort when their preferred counselor provides them with an appropriate referral.
If networking can further your career, help you find a new job and assist you in better servicing your clients, why don’t lawyers network more often? Many lawyers argue that they are too busy to network, that they don’t see immediate results or that they are uncomfortable with the sales aspect that they believe is inherent in networking. Lawyers (and all professionals) should think of networking as an integral part of their jobs. Every lawyer should strive for a certain number or hours of networking conversations, lunches or volunteering events each month. Networking is about talking to people. It is about learning something new, getting a new perspective or having another individual to bounce ideas off of. Networking does not mean directly asking someone for a job or for business. It is a way to reach more individuals, learn more about a particular industry or community and to create long-term business and/or personal relationships with like-minded individuals.
Try it — who knows, after you have been at it for a few years, you might even start to enjoy it!