Legal Business Development: Are You “Networking”… or Building Relationships?

by Paula Black
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Networking… I hate that term. It conjures up images of “working a room”… smiling, shaking hands and collecting business cards. Business cards that end up on your desk under a pile of papers or left in your suit pocket only to be found the next time you wear that jacket. Sound familiar? What a waste of time and energy, don’t you agree? I think we need to redefine what needs to be done. To build a solid book of business requires strong relationships and that doesn’t happen with the typical networking methodology.

Building relationships takes time, thought and trust.

Time…  Building relationships requires a series of touch points. An introduction, an email, a meeting, another email, a phone call, a lunch, a note with an article, another phone call, a thoughtful gift… and so on and so on. You’ve heard me say this before… Do something every day! I know what you’re thinking… “I don’t have time!” Make time! The legal profession is built on relationships… so, how strong are yours?

Thought… Cultivating a relationship doesn’t just happen because you happen to be in the same organization, conference or networking event. It happens as a result of strategic thinking. How could you help this individual before you ask for a thing? Who could you introduce them to? How can you deepen the relationship? Are you listening for clues to help you accomplish this? Do you really know what they do or have you assumed what they do? Do you know how you can truly help them? Not what YOU think could help them… but what they think would be helpful?

Trust… If you genuinely have something in common, you have something they need and want and you sincerely like them… then trust that the relationship will grow. And the work will follow.

Remember that there are many types of business relationships and they can all have a place in your circle. Even if someone provides a service you may never be able to use, you may have a client who would be thrilled that you introduced them to this individual. So treat every relationship as though it has value… because it does.

People hire lawyers that they know, like and trust. And the only way that can happen is to build a strong relationship. So, take the time that is required to make this individual feel heard and valued. Give the growing relationship strategic thought, how can you contribute to one another? And lastly stay on course and trust that it will develop into work… directly or indirectly. There are two things that are critical to your book of business… your experience and your relationships. And believe me… they are equally important.

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Paula Black
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