Next Gen Leadership: Advancing Lawyers of Color advisory board members Bryan Browning, Shareholder at Bassford Remele, and Amy Keeney, Special Counsel at Adam & Reese, both served as mentors during the inaugural virtual Ask-a-Mentor session earlier this month. They shared their best guidance on how to initiate and maintain relationships with potential career champions and provided their most important tips on how to communicate value and be a business advisor.
How to Build Your Internal Network
Forging relationships with senior partners internally was the focus of the session, and Keeney advised the group to immediately build a personal connection with people, underscoring that this drives many people to help younger attorneys.
“What worked for me was attending social functions at the firm and going to lunch with people that I don’t normally cross paths with, to put myself in a position where I am talking with my senior coworkers about leisure interests,” Keeney said, adding that it was the personal relationship that helped her secure an effective mentor and sponsor.
To illustrate, she described how she attended her firm’s happy hour and connected with her future mentor over a TV show. After the event, she stopped by his office each week to talk about that week’s episode. As a result, they became friends and it was easier for her to ask for his thoughts about how to navigate the organization’s politics.
How to Start and Close a Conversation When Networking
Browning suggested starting any networking conversation in the context of the event you are attending. “I introduce myself, and then to learn about them, ask a question about one of the topics that was presented and what they think of the speakers,” he said. “I try to pick the session that I think applies to that person, just based on their name tag.”
He also suggested taking an interest in the person you want to connect with so that they in turn are interested in learning about you. To do this effectively, he suggested asking a lot of “open-ended questions” and actively listening to what they are saying. “Listening intently is one of the best things to do while making sure the other person is talking more than you,” Browning explained. “You want them to feel comfortable disclosing information to you and sharing who they are — once you can pick up on a theme or something they like, start interjecting your own personal views on that.”
From there, turn the chat to something more personal, he added. “As a foodie, I typically talk about dinner and food and what is happening at the reception.”
Browning additionally indicated keeping the connection on a personal level so when the conversation ends, the person walks away thinking, ‘Hey, Bryan is a really nice guy — I would love to have another conversation with him.’ Overall, Browning stressed it is important to “always be your authentic self,” and that authenticity should be “something that shines through.”
How to Follow Up After the Event
Both Keeney and Browning stated it is important to leave a lasting impression. Keeney, specifically, tries to end the conversation on a positive note and find a reason to reach out to the person again in the future, ideally about a specific aspect of the law that was presented or discussed.
Browning shows gratitude to close out the conversation, thanking the person for the time they spent chatting. Then, he turns the conversation to the follow-up. Like Keeney, Browning looks for a way to connect after the event — a way that is often focused on the law.
“Talk about some area of the law and mention a great article on new developments in the case law to get the person to say, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen that. I wish I would be able to see the article.’ And then, make sure you send it to them,” Browning said. He also compared the timing of a proper follow-up to the same question around a first date. “Do you wait one day? Do you wait three days before you call?” he asked, suggesting that you lean toward the side of sooner rather than later. “There is an expectation — if you are going to send them something,” he explained. “And then it’s fresher on their mind if they recall it when they receive the email. In my experience, they’ll give you more gratitude points.”