Insights From Martha

Lawyer Networking: Don’t Squander Business Development Opportunities

We’ve all seen it happen at networking events — lawyers stick together, not interacting with anyone but their friends and colleagues or, standing alone like wall flowers looking as miserable as they feel. Not only is this behavior common, it’s a huge waste of time and squanders opportunities to meet potential clients and referral sources.

If you feel too nervous to ‘go it alone’ and move through the room meeting new people, here are 5 lawyer networking tips for attorneys who don’t like to network.

1. Stand in the right spot.

According to body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards, the best place to stand is where people are exiting from the bar. The reason? They have had a chance to regroup while getting a drink, and are more likely to be ready to mingle. The next best place to stand is in the line for food or drink. In this situation, it’s easy to start a conversation with another captive guest by asking a non-threatening question about their food preferences or commenting on what food looks appealing to you.

2. Break the ice with unconventional conversation starters.

There are questions you can use to break the ice with a stranger that not only start conversations, but make you more memorable. Instead of traditionally asking, “What do you do?” — have a few other typesof questions handy. The following starters are likely to prompt other people to open up about themselves.

  • So tell me something about yourself.
  • What cases are taking up your time right now? (If the listener is a lawyer.)
  • Working on anything exciting or interesting lately?

3. Touch a hand, forearm, or an elbow.

Touch can be a powerful networking tool because, when used appropriately, it can help build an instant connection with a stranger. Science shows that touch releases oxytocin in the brain which is the chemical that makes us feel connection and rapport.

Touching the hand, forearm or elbow are safe and professional, according to Van Edwards. However, touching anywhere towards the center of the body or head is more intimate and inappropriate for business.

4. Don’t use your cell phone as a crutch.

Networkers who are either bored or feeling too shy to talk often check their smartphones. Van Edwards suggests putting your phone away. Checking it continuously gives off a vibe that you are not interested in what is going on around you — and it makes you look weak.

If you have to check your phone when networking, Van Edwards suggests that you hold your phone away from your body at about chest level.

5. Tilt your head during conversations.

Tilting your head slightly when speaking with others sends the message that you are listening and engaged. You will come across as an attentive person who cares about what other people have to say.

Making connections is what we want to do at networking events, but it’s just as important to facilitate them. It may be, down the line, that you need something from someone you met at a networking event — so, remember to be friendly, helpful and interested in others.

Martha M Newman