How to build up your network early on
Before we look at how to build a network, it may be better to explain why you need to build a network.
As your career develops, the vast majority of the new work you win will either come from who you know or from a referral from someone you know. Your marketing department can build the firm’s profile, increase your visibility, promote your specialisms and give you the content and materials you’ll need to look credible, but they can’t conjure up clients and contacts. That will only come from the personal relationships you establish with your network.
While that may look a little daunting during your first months in the profession, it doesn’t need to be. Despite many preconceptions to the contrary, networking only means getting out there, meeting new people and getting on with them. But who do you need to know?
The good news is that a network is built from 3 sources – your clients, fellow professionals (including your colleagues) and from new contacts – so your network should be built around those 3 groups.
More good news, you’re only starting out so forget new clients. That only leaves 2 groups to tackle!
When it comes to clients, the principal relationship will always be with the partner but if you’re doing commercial work there will probably be a junior personal you have more day to day contact with. LinkIn with them and make sure they are invited to any junior networking/social events the firm’s running. Make a point of chatting to them there and then gradually build the relationship by sending over any articles or links to news you think would be relevant and of interest to them.
As your career develops so will theirs. They may assume more responsibility and you’ll be perfectly positioned to benefit from that. They may move company and remember ‘that nice lawyer from Keebles’ who took the time to get to know them which could result in you getting called in for a chat.
With regards to professional contacts there are countless young professionals’ events you can go to and a quick Google search or a look through Eventbrite will tell you what’s going on in your area. There will probably be a lot though so the filters I’d suggest you apply would be:
1. Time of day: Are you a breakfast person or an evening person? Do what suits you best because you’ll be more comfortable and successful networking requires you to be the best possible version of you and that’ll only happen if you’re relaxed.
2. Structure: Are you a ‘walk into a room’ person or do you prefer an event where you’ll be sat down with a table of people? Do you prefer an event based on an activity so you have some common ground to talk about? There are some brilliant things going on at the moment so whether you like table tennis, darts, cocktail making, gin tasting, Indian cookery or arm knitting (seriously!), there will be an event for you.
3. Audience: Depending on which department your future lies in, you may want to look at events that have a higher attendance from people in the professionals that’ll be most relevant to your practice. Property solicitors should look for events that the agents and surveyors will go to while Private client solicitors may want those with more wealth managers or IFAs.
And if you’re a little nervous going into the first couple of events, remember one thing – everyone in that room is in exactly the same boat. Tenandahalf is a Business Development agency which has some great tips and useful blogs on how to approach networking events and start establishing these relationships.
They are all looking to start conversations with people just like you so that their own personal professional network starts to build. No one will ignore you or cut you off (and if they do they’re not worth knowing anyway!), they’ll all be more than willing to chat and exchange details.
And the best bit is it’s all measurable. After you’ve been to a few events (as long as you’re doing the follow up) you’ll soon see you’re making real progress as your network will be growing in front of your eyes.