Top 8 Nuggets of Wisdom from TWLL’s First Ask-a-Mentor Session

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Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) advisory board member Sheila Murphy, a former Fortune 500 Associate General Counsel, served as guest mentor during the inaugural virtual Ask-a-Mentor session earlier this month.

Sheila offers her best guidance on how she handled her most difficult career moment, how to keep-in-touch with critical career connections, and how to communicate value. Read her Top 8 insights:

1. How to Handle a Difficult Career Moment — Sheila shared a challenging career situation when as a private practice attorney, she lost most of her connections at a valued corporate client through a re-organization. The uncertainty of the situation brought up some mistrust on the part of a colleague at the client. To effectively handle the situation, she reached out to the individual, offering to meet face-to-face and have an upfront, honest conversation about the issue. As a result, the issue was resolved by the end of the one-on-one meeting. The game-changer was that Sheila had a reputation and brand of being an honest truth-teller, even when her clients did not want to hear it. The positive outcome was a direct impact of her brand.

Sheila Murphy

2. How to Start a Chat At a Networking Event — Sheila advises individuals to begin by asking other attendees why they are attending the event. Once some warmth is established between her and the person, she asks more open-ended questions, such as “What are your working on?” or “What is worrying you right now?” She emphasizes the point about asking open-ended questions, saying you should make sure that the conversation is all about the other person.

3. How to Deepen a Connection — Sheila says that one way to forge better relationships is by going to events where your target connections are and do some homework. In particular, Sheila’s tactic was to reach out before the event to ask if the other person is attending; because even if they are not, that contact lets the other person know you are thinking about them.

4. How to Build Business Connections with Outside Counsel — Sheila is also a fan of doing research to develop business connections. She suggested using LinkedIn as a go-to resource. “Look at the person’s LinkedIn profile,” she says. “Take note of what the person posts and shares to gain insights on what is most important.”

5. Using Tactics to Keep in Touch — Sheila also notes that using LinkedIn was a great way to keep in touch. “I use LinkedIn as my rolodex,” she adds. “I receive updates on my connections’ career changes and other things that are important to them. I use it to communicate that I am there for them and care.”

6. How to Build an Internal Network for In-House Counsel — “I think broadly about my internal network outside of my line management,” says Sheila. “I made sure I developed relationships with people in other businesses as an in-house attorney at MetLife.”

7. How to Build an Internal Network for Outside Counsel —Sheila also offered her best advice for law firm lawyers to forge connections within their partnership, especially if there was an informal matter assignment system. “Set up meetings with people and say, ‘I haven’t had the opportunity to work with you yet. I have heard great things and know I could learn a lot by working with you. I am hoping you’d help me make it happen,’” she says.

8. How to Communicate Value — The best tip Sheila offered to the audience was about how to communicate value, sharing how a direct report once walked into her office and stated, ‘I know you are very busy with a bigger team. What can I take off your plate?’ Sheila says she was impressed by how the person seized the initiative, and she gladly took the individual up on her offer.