Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Art of Networking Part 1

Lawyers are not generally the best networkers.  Something in our analytic nature makes the thought of networking high on the least favorite parts of the job list for most of us.  Or maybe it's the adversarial nature of the law that makes us reluctant to be too friendly.  Either way, it's undeniable that networking can benefit your career tremendously.  Those soft social skills are often what sets apart a successful lawyer from everyone else.  This is especially true in house.  The most successful, and happiest in house lawyers I know have networked their way into jobs they love.

In one case, one lawyer (who would prefer not to be named) found the company she wanted to work for but they didn't have an in house team.  She worked to get their business for her firm, all the while knowing her ultimate goal was to move in house there.  She utilized her network in the industry to meet the CEO socially on several occasions.  Eventually, he agreed to throw some business her way.  After handling a few matters for him, she started suggesting that he should bring legal in house.  She again utilized her network to pitch the same idea to him from different angles.  After awhile, he began to think he needed in house counsel and asked her to join the team as the company's first general counsel.  She now leads up a team of several attorneys and support staff and absolutely loves her job.  This is an example of how targeted networking can get you where you want to be, before they even now they want you.

In another, attorney K Royal got her current job because of a network she didn't even know she was creating.  She says, "The law recruiter noticed my resume' out of the hundreds of applicants because I worked at Concentra. He knew my former chief counsel there, who had left after the merger with Humana. He contacted Mark (former chief counsel) who gave me rave reviews, so the recruiter called me for an interview. And all of that happened without my knowledge. And here I am, first in house privacy counsel, global scope, silicon valley -and I have never really practiced law. "  In K's case, the positive impression she made on her former chief counsel translated into a concrete job lead.  All this without even trying to network.

Networking can have benefits for your employer as well.  While I was at Go Daddy, the entire legal team was encouraged to do as many networking and social events as we could.  We were told to represent Go Daddy well and not to embarrass Christine (our General Counsel).  As a new lawyer, freshly out of law school and a rather shy individual, the thought of networking was the most dreaded part of my day.  However, it was a requirement so I did it.  Over time, it wasn't so horrible.  I found that if I thought of it as making new friends instead of building a network, I actually enjoyed myself.  It helped me to gain some confidence in myself and my ability to successfully represent my client.  When I first started working at Go Daddy, I was a mouse that didn't speak up unless spoken to and had mini-panic attacks when an executive directly asked me a question.  By the time I left, I had the confidence to know that I actually am good at my job and that executives are just people with fancy titles.  The confidence I gained while networking made me a better lawyer.  It also exposed many people who had never heard of Go Daddy to the company, resulting in numerous new customers and a few bigger deals.  All that as a first/second year staff attorney.  The networking that Christine did on behalf of Go Daddy helped create a legitimacy for Go Daddy that translated into Go Daddy being seen as an expert in the internet industry, often being asked to weigh in on regulations and new law.

Networking can be a valuable tool for you and your employer, if you use it right.   Have an example of how networking has helped your career or tips on making networking more fun and less work?  Share it in the comments.  Next time we'll talk about some techniques that will help to translate networking into results.  

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