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Embarrassing Networkinging Stories & Tips For Law Firm Managers Looking To Increase Business

Is your firm considering membership in a law firm network? If you’re already a member, how can your firm achieve more value through your participation?

Formal legal networks, such as Lex Mundi/World Services Group, have long been viewed as advantageous for independent law firms seeking to (1) extend global reach, (2) increase business opportunities, and (3) gain a competitive edge.

But are they worth the cost of membership?

Some firms don’t think so, yet many swear by the enhanced credibility and referrals that membership brings.

But whether your firm is looking to gain clients or associates, networking is only effective if done right. Using a few examples of networking gone wrong—thanks to Intuit QuickBase’s 10 Most Embarrassing Neworking Stories—we have a few guidelines to help:

Make yourself known with a unique introduction.

The problem with networking events is that most people come away without hundreds of business cards and almost no memory of who offered them. Unfortunately, if you’re a Mike, Mark, Melissa, or Mary, common names mean you might be quickly marginalized.

This is why it’s so important to introduce yourself with an interesting anecdote. Make yourself noticed—in a good way:

“I attended a multi-day conference that provided all meals for attendees in an effort to have everyone network during said meals. Breakfast each morning was held in an area accessed by walking down a flight of stairs. I was headed down the stairs, looking into the room to see who was already at breakfast and thinking about who I might eat and chat with. I lost my footing and rolled/bounced all the way down to the breakfast area with my laptop tumbling behind me. Of course, everyone stopped eating and talking and started gasping and staring. Everyone knew who I was after that!”

A trip and fall situation may get you noticed, but for the wrong things. Try to introduce yourself in a way that get’s you remembered in a positive light. For example, if you like to rock climb in your free time, introducing yourself as the 3rd year associate who climbs rocks, characterizes you as somebody willing to take taking calculated risks. It’s also something small, but singular that other people will certainly remember.

Pay attention and remember details of other professionals.

When you’re meeting tons of professionals, sometimes it’s hard to pay attention. While somebody’s pitching themselves to you, it’s quite likely you’ve spent a few seconds dozing off, starting to thing about what’s for dinner, or becoming acutely aware how warm the room is.

Instead, be an active listener. When somebody introduces themselves, repeat their name back to them. “Hi Paul, I’m Patricia. Nice to meet you.” Or, when they mention a specific activity, follow-up with a pertinent question pertaining to it.

If you’re not good with names, don’t risk calling somebody by the wrong one. Here’s why.

“I am very bad at names. I often recognize people, but can’t remember why. I was at lunch one day with a coworker who usually works at another building, and I said to her something about how she knew So-and-So (an older portly gentleman), who was sitting at a table right next to us. She turned and looked, and said, ‘That’s not So-and-So.’ The gentleman, who had heard me, also turned and said, ‘I’m not So-and-So.’ I had mixed him up with another older, portly gentleman. I was greatly embarrassed, especially because he seemed to find the mix-up insulting. From then on out, every time I saw this guy, I made sure to say his name, repeatedly, so that he would know I knew who he was. But a year and a half later, I found out I had still been calling him by the wrong name.” 

Err on being politically correct. 

As in the previous example, it could be said that it’s best to err on being correct—don’t use a person’s name if you’re not sure of it. But, it’s definitely best to be politically correct in a room of professionals. Don’t use networking as the time to try out a new potentially offensive joke. Politics, religion, and personal trials and tribulations are always off the table.

“I signed up for a mentoring program to be matched up with a local executive. I was matched with a guy, and we went to lunch. When I let him know I was pregnant, since it might affect scheduling during the 6-month program, he let me know how much kids ruined his marriage and his wife’s career. Awesome, mentor.”

As a more experienced professional, don’t treat every younger associate as chance to pass on personal advice (that’s what grandkids are for).

Ask questions—lots of questions!

Finally, when networking, it’s important to ask lots of questions. Asking questions is a way to signal your interest in the other person, as well as a method for gathering more information about their professional expertise. Of course, like anything, it’s important to ask the right questions.

“Our bank was in the process of merging with another bank. During the merger process, all the teller managers had to attend meetings with people from other banks going through the same process… I started talking to the woman who was running the meeting. She was the equivalent of a district manager and was around my age (early 20s). I was really impressed with the fact that she was at this stage of her career at such a young age, because I was aspiring to rise to the same level. I asked her how she got started, what were her responsibilities, etc. During our talk, she mentioned how she was thinking of going back to finish up school (she said ‘school’ not ‘degree’). Stupid me asks, “Oh? High school or college?’ Thankfully she just said ‘college’ and moved the conversation to another topic. Even though she didn’t acknowledge my gaffe with so much as a blink, I still was praying a sinkhole would open up below me.” 

Whether you’re 12, 22, 32, 42 and above, referring to age is a tricky issue. If you’re at all confused about a person’s age or status, ask more roundabout questions to get at your answer. Instead of “high school or college,” in the above example (which is not as far-fetched an error as it may first appear), the networking teller should have asked, “are you looking at any specific schools?” or “how much more education would you like to get?”

When it comes to age, never make assumptions.

Networking can be a great tool for law firms and attorneys to meet new clients or hire new talent. However, first impressions are powerful. Make sure your firm’s representatives are well versed in the basics of holding productive conversations.

Need some more concrete advice about how your firm and its associates can start to network productively? Take C4CM’s webinar, “Maximizing Legal Networks to Build Relationships, Increase Business and Expand Firm Reach,” on Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 2:00 PM Eastern.

This information-packed webinar led by a power-house panel of experts offers step by step guidance surrounding:

  • Potential advantages and disadvantages of legal network membership,
  • Best practices for choosing a network that best fits your firm’s goals and objectives, and
  • Practical methods to get your money’s worth once your firm signs on the dotted line. 

During this comprehensive program, you will learn:

  • How to increase the volume and quality of inbound and outbound referrals
  • Ways to get the most value for your association/network spend
  • How to use network membership to build better working relationships and win clients
  • Global advantages and disadvantages for firms as members of legal networks
  • How to retain your firm’s brand distinction, while maximizing broader branding opportunities

-WB

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The 57th Grammy Awards & Benefits Of Blogging For Law Firm Professionals

These days people crave real-time reports.

This week, Beyonce, Sam Smith, and Pharrell Williams top the 57th Grammy Awards with six nominations each. But, the awards telecast has surprisingly little airtime. There are far more categories and performances in the Grammys than regular audiences will see. This is why some sites, such as Monkey See, Vox, and Entertainment Weekly, look to live-blogging during the ceremony.

Although it seems unlikely that law firm professionals will start live-blogging courtroom events (although, anything is possible), there are myriad reasons for lawyers to blog. It may not be as riveting a performance as Taylor Swift, but there are certainly other reasons besides entertainment from which you will benefit. Here are a few:

1. Productive Diversion. Angry birds and Pinterest can certainly fill up your free time. So will tracking this year’s film and music awards shows. However, a personal blog allows attorneys to make more productive use of their lunch hour.

Stuart Brown wrote in his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul writes, “I have gathered and analyzed thousands of case studies that I call play histories. I have found that remembering what play is all about and making it part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being.”

When moving physical locations is impossible (law firms frown upon playground breaks for attorneys), briefly browsing the Internet for fun, diverting subjects, videos, or photos can substitute as “play.”

“The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative innovative person.”

Writing about your favorite sports team, commenting on news items, or reposting interesting videos are each great ways to maintain a positive personal attitude in an often stressful environment.

2. Hone Your Writing Skills. Lawyers write briefs and motions all day, but practice (so they say) makes perfect. In addition to honing your writing skills for legal briefs, a personal blog can also help lawyers to hone their skills in writing communications for clients.

Blogs, by nature, are more informal and cater to a different audience. Practice colloquializing legalese. Clients will be grateful to (finally!) fully understand the status of their case with your newfound informal communication.

3. Brush Up On News. Although many lawyers already watch the evening news or read the morning paper, a lawyer’s professional work benefits from being up-to-date on current events. Brushing up on recent news is fodder for elevator conversation with colleagues, and, now, it can be fodder for editorial content on your personal blog.

4. Discover A Different Area Of Law. Depending on your practice, the day-to-day legal work you are conducting may or may not be your primary interest. So, when you’re tired filing patent applications, use a personal blog as an outlet to read and research an area of law that attracts you most.

As a younger attorney, sometimes BigLaw dominates your time with pages and pages of doc review. A personal blog allows you to return to those challenging student days of mock trial and competition. Not every day at work will be intellectually stimulation. But, everyday of blogging can be.

5. Networking. Ever since the “good old days,” lawyers have had to rely on networking to boost their practice by reputation and name recognition.

Kevin O’Keefe, an avid law blogger, wrote about such old-school practices on his website Real Lawyers Have Blogs, “You went out and mingled. You left the marketing clothing behind. You entered into a conversation with the people you wanted to leave an impression with. You spoke at conferences. You networked at conferences and community charitable events to build trust, build relationships and to build word of mouth.”

A blog can continue this sort of personal interaction with the community. But, according to O’Keefe, many lawyers don’t understand that a law firm blog—more than a website or ad in the yellow pages—isn’t for marketing, it’s for relationship-building.

“Now we have lawyers and law firms who never understood that blogging was networking through the net, apparently giving up on the philosophy of that relationships and reputation build business.”

So, in addition to joining LinkedIn, online professional groups, and social media networks, give personal blogging a try in order to increase your online visibility. But, remember that a blog—much like attendance at a town council or a casual conversation with a neighbor—is meant to endear trust by your clients, not ensnare them in another poorly-disguised legal advertisement.

Need more tried-and-true, old-fashioned advice for lawyers operating in these techy times? Catch one of C4CM’s audio courses, live-streaming, here: http://www.c4cm.com/lawfirm/audioconferences.htm

There may not be as much music in them as the Grammys, but they will certainly be on-key when it comes to law firm management consulting.

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Power In Networks, Not Numbers: The Importance of Social Capital To Law Firms

“It’s not what you know but who you know,” is a common axiom in the marketplace.

Social capital can increase your firm revenue, efficiency, and loyalty of your employees and clients. But, you cannot own social capital, or buy it.

Social capital requires an investment of time and effort to instill trust, expectations, norms, and opportunity at your firm. Social capital has existed as long as small communities formed and people interacted with the expectation of reciprocation and trust.

According to James Coleman’s seminal 1988 work, Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital, social capital is “not a single entity but a variety of different entities, with two elements in common: they all consist of some aspect of social structures, and they facilitate certain actions of actors—whether persons or corporate actors—within the structure.”

Less tangible than human capital, social capital consists of (1) obligations and expectations; (2) information channels; and (3) social norms. In law firms, these three items form between peers as a result of social capital networks and relationships.

In a public school district in the United States, for example, school authorities noticed that numerous Asian immigrant families purchased two copies of each single required textbook for students.

After pursuing the matter, school authorities found that these families were purchasing one textbook for the child and one textbook for the mother, who was charged by the family with helping her child succeed in class.

So, where the human capital of the parent may have been low, the mother’s lack of familiarity with the course material or inherent intellect, the social capital of the child, a willing mother to assimilate the same course material to help her child study, was shown to be quite high.

High social capital leads to success, especially in cases where people or companies are looking to make up for a lacking human capital. For associates, recent research from the University of Iowa reveal the significance of professional social capital networks in obtaining a higher salaries for attorneys in private firms, as well as in bolstering mentor-protégé relationships.

For firms, these same research results show that social capital plays a role in acquiring new clients in small private firms.

To attract new clients, researchers conclude that attorneys in small firms should focus on increasing the size and status range of their overall social networks including, professional, non-professional, family, and volunteer organizations. By expanding the size of their social networks, firms will increase their attorneys’ ability to obtain clients, particularly attorneys with less experience.

However, attorneys in large firms, according to this research, should focus predominantly on the status range of their professional social capital networks—attracting higher-status employees and clients in terms of experience, reputation, or pedigree—in order to gain access to the “important” partners.

So how can your firm increase its social capital?

First, your firm can promote formal networks of trust. Your firm can create value statements that include trust and mutual promotion. Organize a mentor-mentee program. Offer free lunches in the office to encourage social interaction among departments and ranks. Don’t reward the blame game when you lose cases and praise teams for case matter success.

Formal social capital networks include friends from professional organizations or legal associates, former classmates, neighbors, or friends. Make sure your employees have adequate time to cultivate these relationships.

Second, your firm can promote informal networks of trust. Organic and natural formation of networks of trust—for example, inter-office friendships—are stronger than ones that are forced. So, encourage those after-office happy hours. Give your employees time off to attend weddings and family events. These are all occasions where your employee expand and solidify their social capital.

Social capital relies highly on information channels, or communication.

To more effectively master communication methods in the workplace, attend C4CM’s audio conference (or purchase their informational CD) Delivering Highly Effective Feedback: Tips, Techniques, and Best Practice Strategies to Communicate More Effectively on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 from 2:00 Pm to 3:15 Pm Eastern time.

You’ll explore the key skills of delivering and receiving effective feedback:

  • Specific methods to communicate in a more personal and interactive manner
  • Crucial communication steps to take before and after every employee interaction
  • How to make sure an employee understands the feedback you have delivered
  • Rules for feedback frequency, specificity and follow up
  • Listening skills to help you receive as much feedback as you give

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The Smart Woman’s Guide To Winning Office Politics

“It’s seen as sneaky, but it doesn’t have to be. And whether you like it or not, politics are important in any office culture,” said Kari Reston, founder and CEO of Boredom to Boardroom, a company that helps young professionals with their careers, to Ruchika Tulshyan at Forbes.

It’s time women become comfortable with office politics.

Office politics is a game. When people discuss office politics, they’re usually talking about underhanded dealings, backdoor deals, and favoritism. But, office politics is also—put more simply—socially networking within a company.

At your law firm—as well as law firms around the world—there are groups of cliques, people who prefer to interact with one another exclusively in and out of the office. These relationships may form between colleagues, clients, or vendors.

To play the game, you need to know the players. So, admit that social networking and office politics are important. Then, make sure you know who are the lynchpin players in managing and manipulating professional relationships.

When you know the players, it will easier to play and—most importantly—win.

Promotion is a politics game. So, now you know who is responsible for professional promotions or bonuses. The question is, how well do you know them? Do you get along? How often do you interact?

Cultivating a relationship to win a promotion, at first glance, seems sneaky. However, cultivating relationships with superiors or people in important positions just helps you bring to their attention your hard work and accomplishments.

“One of the very best ways to connect with people is to offer to assist them in some way. Especially in these challenging economic times, there is no shortage of people who feel overwhelmed and could use some assistance,” said Nina Simosko from Nike, Inc., to Jo Miller for Women’s Leadership Coaching.

“If you are able to authentically connect with and assist folks with things of importance to them, then they will want to repay the favor and will be available to you when needed.”

Were you the senior associate on that high-profile case win? Waiting for somebody to hand you your promotion? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. People in a position of power are not always apprised of the inter-workings of a case matter.

An equity partner may recognize your name without realizing your critical role on his legal team. When you cultivate relationships with the people in power, they will know, first-hand, how many nights you spent at the office, how little sleep you obtained due to work, or how important your contribution was in winning the suit, settlement, or client.

Leadership is a politics game. Be vocal. Ask for assignments, promotions, or leadership roles. Take credit for your wins. You’ll only be viewed as a leader at your firm if you are already acting like one.

“You might be cheery, friendly, fun and likable at work, which is great. But is that the brand that’s going to get you to senior management? Maybe credibility, great analytic skills and strong communication abilities are what you actually want to be known for,” explains Reston.

Women tend to be afraid to “talk themselves up” for fear of looking like brown-nosers. But, their male counterparts are doing exactly that.

As a result, women tend to stay in firms where they’re likely underappreciated and underpromoted. “In my experience, women tend to stay longer than they should in a culture that is not a match, or in positions where a manager is putting a lid on their career development,” concludes Simosko.

“Building relationships and getting to know people better can do a lot to build appreciation of diverse of values and perspectives, so give that a genuine effort for at least a few months.”

For more information, attend C4CM’s online audio conference, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Winning at Office Politics on Friday, April 4, 2014, from 11:00 Am To 12:15 Pm Eastern time, featuring Kari Reston.

This power-packed session will explore the political challenges women face in the workplace, and will identify the attitudes and skills needed to address them successfully, including:

  • How to change your perception of office politics (it’s not a bad thing)
  • Tips to identify the types of power at play in your workplace
  • Communication techniques to help you gain allies, influence others, and build relationships (even with the most difficult people) ·
  • Important lessons on how to actively take the credit you deserve, and create an impactful personal brand · How and why to build a strong network

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Networking 101: How & Why Lawyers Should (Still) Network

There are two reasons that lawyer network. First, to find a job. Second, to find a case.

However, most lawyers—even when they practice law effectively—fail to network correctly. In fact, your colleagues may tell you out right that they’re attending a function purely to nap a big client or new case.

Other lawyers resist networking and rely solely on social networks (Google searches and Facebook friends). Ultimately, networking is a simple necessity. Here’s how to make the most of it (and, who knows…) potentially millions.

Hide your (or better yet, have no) hidden agenda 

Most professionals network. So, it’s not surprising that before two sentences are exchanged, so are business cards. Even still, sometimes it’s polite to pretend. Pretend you have no alternative motive for meeting another attorney.

Potential clients, particularly, know when they’re walking around with a giant target on their back. The strategy for getting their attention and then their business is up to you. But, if you’re simply genuine and grateful for meeting their acquaintance, they’ll probably remember your nonchalance more than your nine-minute elevator pitch about your practice areas.

Other attorneys, especially firm partners, can see a young out-of-work associate foaming at the mouth a mile away. Instead of shaking hands for the sake of it, try to attend a meet and greet without motive. An overly aggressive attorney is about as desirable in the office as a cat in the hen house.

Hide the fact that you’re networking, and you will find you network more successfully.

Lower your expectations.

So, you have no hidden intentions. Great. Now what?

If you lower your expectations for the evening, you might actually enjoy it. Furthermore, your friends and acquaintances, over time, soon become colleagues and clients—organically. Brian Tannebaum for Above The Law Blog, explains why he currently attends his monthly “lawyers” group meetings:

“Although I became bored and dissatisfied and left for three years after a seven-year stint, I returned to the group which now has 53 members, 13 being lawyers. In addition to a weekly meeting, the lawyers meet once a month for lunch. Why did I go back? I realized that while I was still attending events and developing relationships, I missed the structured networking. I had friends in that room that had done and would continue to do a lot for me, and being around them meant I could continue to expand my network.”

Give it time and find the right group, advices Tannebaum.

Say thank you

Roy S. Ginsburg, author at Attorney At Work, reminds us how to say “thank you” to stand out of a crowd:

“In a networking situation, the email should be very brief: “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.” The follow-up note should repeat this statement, tell the person why you appreciated his or her time, andremind them you are willing to help them as well. Networking, after all, is about mutual assistance.”

Treat everyone equally

This rule is simple. You never know. If networking is about assistance, then accept help where help is offered. And, it can come from anybody, so treat your new acquaintances equally—regardless of his firm’s reputation, individual practice area, or general demeanor.

Persist

Finally, networking is a verb. It continues. Don’t stop.

Networking is about the long-term, so keep at it. The worst way to network is to not network at all.

-WB

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Five Reasons Lawyers Should Write For A Personal Blog

As a lawyer, it may be less obvious what you have in common with Perez Hilton (other than both being fans of Glee).

However, like Perez Hilton, attorneys should learn to appreciate the value of a personal blog site.

Although lawyers should probably avoid celebrity gossip, attorneys would benefit from contributing personal content to an individual blog site. And, here’s why.

1. Productive Diversion. Angry birds and Pinterest can certainly fill up your free time. However, a personal blog allows attorneys to make more productive use of their lunch hour.

Stuart Brown wrote in his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul writes, “I have gathered and analyzed thousands of case studies that I call play histories. I have found that remembering what play is all about and making it part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being.”

When moving physical locations is impossible (law firms frown upon playground breaks for attorneys), briefly browsing the Internet for fun, diverting subjects, videos, or photos can substitute as “play.”

“The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative innovative person.”

Writing about your favorite sports team, commenting on news items, or reposting interesting videos are each great ways to maintain a positive personal attitude in an often stressful environment.

2. Hone Your Writing Skills. Lawyers write briefs and motions all day, but practice (so they say) makes perfect.

In addition to honing your writing skills for legal briefs, a personal blog can also help lawyers to hone their skills in writing communications for clients. Blogs, by nature, are more informal and cater to a different audience.

Practice colloquializing legalese. Clients will be grateful to (finally!) fully understand the status of their case with your newfound informal communication.

3. Brush Up On News. Although many lawyers already watch the evening news or read the morning paper, a lawyer’s professional work benefits from being up-to-date on current events.

Brushing up on recent news is fodder for elevator conversation with colleagues, and, now, it can be fodder for editorial content on your personal blog.

4. Discover A Different Area Of Law. Depending on your practice, the day-to-day legal work you are conducting may or may not be your primary interest. So, when you’re tired filing patent applications, use a personal blog as an outlet to read and research an area of law that attracts you most.

As a younger attorney, sometimes biglaw dominates your time with pages and pages of doc review. A personal blog allows you to return to those challenging student days of mock trial and competition.

Not every day at work will be intellectually stimulation. But, everyday of blogging can be.

5. Networking. Having an online presence—in any form—always makes for good networking.

So, in addition to joining LinkedIn, online professional groups, and social media networks, give personal blogging a try in order to increase your online visibility.

-WB

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A Lawyer’s Guide To Successful Professional Networking

 

Recession or not, networking is vital for every law firm professional.

Effective networking is not complicated, but calculated. So below you’ll find a few, simple mediums that will allow you to network within your industry subtly and successfully.

1. LinkedIn

Leaving The Law Blog writes about LinkedIn:

“Haven’t heard of it? It’s a social networking site for professionals. Actually, it’s like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon on steroids.”

LinkedIn is a great networking tool for lawyers. Like other social networks, LinkedIn allows a person to link themselves with friends and fellow professionals. It’s an online resume that’s searchable by recruiters and employers.

With the paid version, membership also allows a person to request introductions to 2nd degree professionals, send emails to people out of your network, and obtain more information about other members (provided the privacy settings permit).

2. Facebook

Most people use Facebook as a social outlet. However, this social media tool can be used for networking as well.

Many law firms or legal services companies now have Facebook pages, so it’s a great way to find out a little more information about other professionals in your field, in addition to the firms for which they work.

Plus, with appropriate privacy settings, you don’t have to worry about your current job watching your every move, should you decide to move.

3. Professional Organizations

Because a lawyer pays so many dues to the state bar, as an attorney, it’s easy to eschew expensive memberships to other professional organizations.

But, memberships to legal associations and organizations will provide important introductions to the who’s-who of the industry in your area.

Google “American Association of….” and fill in the blank as a start.

4. Parties

Yes, your neighbor’s block party could lead to future employment. Don’t underestimate the power of sociability and third-party connections.

If you’re looking to change careers or move firms, the first step might be stepping out of your comfort zone, and attending a social event or two. Personal recommendations go a long way, especially in today’s sterile, digital world.

Finally, given the opportunity, don’t forget three simple networking behavior tips:

  1. Hand out a business card.
  2. Sell your elevator pitch.
  3. Follow-up with a phone call or e-mail.

Be proactive in your networking. Even if you’re not looking for a new job, professional networking will come in handy when you need a second opinion on a case or a referral for a client.

The key to successful networking is an ability to take initiative, sociability (online and off), and the confidence to introduce yourself and show what you’re about in 30 seconds or less.

-WB

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