Networking Pro Tip: Know Who’s Doing the Favor

by Law School Toolbox

help imageWe’ve talked a lot about legal networking on Trebuchet (including several not to-dos). Why? Because most lawyers and law students hate networking, but we all know it’s important!

One reason people hate “networking” is that it feels like you’re asking for a favor. Which — frankly — you are!

The good news is that most people like doing favors…as long as it’s clear that you know when they’re doing you a favor.

Otherwise, bad things happen, and your networking efforts can fail in dramatic fashion.

For example …

A Networking Not-To-Do

I got an email the other week, totally out of the blue, from someone I’d never heard of. This person wanted my help on a new project they were working on and demanded that I speak to them on the phone. (Note, this should have been red flag number one! If you’re asking a favor, let the person you’re reaching out to dictate how they’d like to communicate, to the extent possible.)

I replied via email, asking for more details, since it didn’t seem like the project was actually very related to anything that I do. Appearances to the contrary, this person insisted it was a good fit, so I agreed to a call. (Why? Because I’m too nice, but that’s a subject for another post.)

So we set the call up…at a not-particularly-convenient time in my time zone. (Another tip: If you’re asking a favor for someone in a different time zone, make the meeting convenient for them not for you.)

Long story short, the call begins and we chat for a few minutes. Things are going more-or-less okay, and — being too nice — I was willing to help on out the project, despite having no particular expertise or interest in the topic. (This project, by the way, would have involved a not-insignificant investment of my time for something highly unlikely to benefit me in any meaningful way. So, a clear favor.)

And then…

“I’m going to need you to get the details of your mailing list analytics — I want at least 5,000 people.”

“Excuse me, you need what? Why exactly would I waste my time getting that for you?”

Cue record screeching to a halt as our relationship dies a flaming death…I’ll leave the rest of the call to your imagination, but suffice it to say it wasn’t pretty.

7 Tips for Not Pissing Off Your Networking Targets

So, assuming you’re clear on who’s doing the favor (Hint: If you’re asking for something, it’s probably the other person), how can you avoid annoying the person you’d like to help you? A few practical tips:

  1. Meet when it’s convenient for them. You’re asking for help — you can get up early or stay up late. And, when you discuss timing, send the options in their time zone. Minor? Yes, but it suggests you’re a thoughtful person.
  2. Supply the number, or make the call. Yes, I have a conference number. No, I shouldn’t have to use it when you want to set up a call with me and your friend. If we need to conference multiple people in, send your conference number (Google “free conference call number” if you don’t have one). If it’s just the two of us, get my number and call me. And be on time — early and late are not okay in this context.
  3. Go to them. If you’re meeting in person, meet at a location that’s convenient for them. When someone has to travel, it should be you. End of story.
  4. Think carefully about what you’re asking for. If you ask for an informational interview, that’s all you get. It’s not acceptable to ask for a job during the interview. Likewise, if you’re asking someone to record a video with you, it’s (barely) acceptable to ask if they’ll help you promote it. (Arguably, this is a stupid question, because of course people will promote things they participate in, assuming said thing doesn’t totally suck in the end.) But it’s definitely not acceptable to demand their analytics data! That’s just a step too far.
  5. Make things easy for them. As a lawyer, perhaps you believe anyone who works on your genius new project should sign an NDA. Newsflash, no one who’s doing you a favor has time to read and edit a long document that doesn’t benefit them in any way. So just don’t send it. If you insist on sending a contract, make it under a paragraph. (And, even then, you’re probably being an idiot.)
  6. Say thank you. If someone agrees to a speak with you (or work with you, or whatever), they’re spending time on your behalf that could be spent on more (personally) productive pursuits. A simple, “I really appreciate you making the time to talk with me today,” can go a long way. As can, “I’d love to return the favor. Please let me know if there’s ever anything I can do for you.”
  7. Be humble. Really, this one sums it up. It’s fine to ask for favors, and people are typically happy to help — as long as you’re humble and appreciative. But you need to be clear on what you have to offer, which — in many cases — is nothing other than your gratitude. If that’s all you’ve got, recognize that fact, and just be clear that you’re asking for a favor, not doing one!

Pay attention to these tips, and you might be amazed at how much help people will give you.

Ignore them, and I’m not sure things will go so well. (Shit lists exist for a reason. People will remember. You’ve been warned.)

Written by:

Law School Toolbox

Law School Toolbox on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.