The Importance of Networking for Lawyers
Alisa Grafton is writing a series of articles for Lawyer Monthly on developing specific networking skills and creating personal brand for a successful legal career.
In the first part of her series, she touches on the importance of networking as a skill, and why all lawyers should work on it and refrain from relying on AI when it comes to human connections.
Very few professional development concepts are as divisive as the subject of networking. Most of the lawyers – newly-qualified, as well as the veterans in the profession – agree that a well-developed network of contacts is vital for effective personal marketing. Yet very few people admit to being enthusiastic about networking. Defined as: “socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognise, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures”, networking remains a skill that is often never taught, left for those who wish to network to “naturally” acquire it.
Such purposeful creation of connections can be seen by lawyers as part of the dreaded “sales tactics” and therefore perhaps more artificial in achieving the result of finding new clients and creating potential business referrals.
However, how justified is our continuing scepticism about the business of connecting? In my view, the answer is two-fold, and based on compelling reasons for believing that a lawyer’s strong ability (and desire) to connect will be the determining factor of his or her professional success.
It is worth investing in developing these skills now, especially networking, as the more focused effort we dedicate to this topic, the more future-proof we become as professionals.
We are of course under no illusion that AI and similar technological advancements will change the modus operandi of the profession in the very near future, and the process is already well underway. This is both welcomed and awaited with trepidation, and the consequences for the profession as a whole, as well as for specific branches within it, are difficult to envisage in any reliable detail. What we can, however, state with utmost certainly, is that our abilities that we inherent as human beings will be most prized. In other words, how well we are able to communicate with one another will be one of the best predictors of professional success in the future.
Have you ever tried asking Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home to crack a joke? It falls flat on its face (if it had one!), so to speak. And this may be a good analogy to where the strengths of technological progress lie; no doubt, in time even the basic AI will learn how to be not just clever but also funny, yet it will not be able to compete with a human in our innate ability to relate, to communicate empathically and effectively, and therefore it will be unable to connect on a deep level. This is why I believe it is worth investing in developing these skills now, especially networking, as the more focused effort we dedicate to this topic, the more future-proof we become as professionals.
One’s network of outstanding in their field and – crucially – mutually trusting professionals will become not only one of the biggest sources of traditional referrals but also a reflection of his or her standing as a lawyer.
Secondly, a network consisting of strong, enthusiastic, wide-ranging yet mutually supportive professionals is the necessary element of launching a successful personal brand. Previously viewed as something that only belongs in the glossary of a creative type, development of a well-thought-out personal brand is becoming a necessity rather than a social media-lead indulgence. In the words of a Forbes contributor and “Oprah of LinkedIn” Goldie Chan, “in both our look-at-me cultural shift and evolving job market, it’s both helpful and necessary to stand out when applying for a job or starting your own company”.
Jayson Gaignard, a Canadian entrepreneur, networking specialist and author who founded MastermindTalks, an invitation-only conference for entrepreneurs, once said “I believe you can get credibility through association”. One’s network of outstanding in their field and – crucially – mutually trusting professionals will become not only one of the biggest sources of traditional referrals but also a reflection of his or her standing as a lawyer. On the highest level one develops a circle of ambassadors who will be the credit to the person’s professional reputation and thus creating a strong professional brand desired by employers.
Alisa is a Partner at Cheeswrights, a reputable firm of Scrivener Notaries, legal professionals specialising in cross-border transactions. Being only the second female partner in the 240 years’ history of the firm, she credits her professional success to her proactive approach to business development and networking.
Formerly an active member of the Board and the Director of Marketing & Communications at City Women Network, she has a passion for establishing and nurturing connections with a wide range of professionals inside and outside of the law and on creating a positive personal brand.
In 2015-2018 she ran the City Blog for BBC Russian Service where she spoke candidly about the challenges of being a busy City parent. She frequently speaks on the practical aspects of effective networking and the effective use of empathy, creativity and emotional intelligence as career and business tools.