NEW YORK — The “art” of networking and how to expand your book of business through the focused, frequent, and proactive practice of it was the subject of the Transforming Women’s Leadership in the Law (TWLL) initiative’s fourth event for its 2018 “Rising Star” cohort.
Kicking off the event, hosted by law firm Latham & Watkins’ New York offices, Latham COO LeeAnn Black welcomed the cohort of high-potential female law firm partners and other attendees, including several law firm leaders and general counsel on the TWLL Advisory Board. As Black explained, TWLL is about helping women advance in their legal careers, in part by providing opportunities to grow their connections and hone their skills for business development.
Co-presenters Valerie Radwaner, deputy chair of Paul, Weiss, and Sheila Murphy, SVP and associate general counsel at MetLife, then began the conversation with some helpful suggestions for how to approachnetworking, while offering compelling reasons for why it should be a critical element of any lawyer’s career.
Murphy advised those in attendance to take a long view on building their professional network, rather than scrambling to network during times of job insecurity, as many were forced to do after the 2008 financial crisis.
“A lot of times we think about networking as going to a cocktail party, begging people for their cards and doing some small talk, but it’s really about making and strengthening connections with people throughout the day,” Murphy said.
“A strong network gives you the freedom to own your own career,” she added.
The Value of In-Firm and In-House Networking
Radwaner, in turn, advised attendees not to overlook the opportunities that are right in front of them. “Network within your own firms,” she said, noting that there was the potential for “tremendous sources of new business from other colleagues”, whether partners or non-partners, in other practice areas, or professionals in other functions.
Indeed, a lawyer who has already established relationships throughout the firm — in part through joining other teams’ retreats or social events — will likely be more visible when partners are looking to staff a new matter in a relevant practice area. And with succession planning, early-career partners can strategically position themselves to be the most obvious candidates to inherit their business by developing relationships with partners who are nearing retirement.
It’s critical, especially for young partners, to plan for success over the next five to 10 years, Radwaner said, noting that this requires a daily focus on adding new clients and on broadening and deepening connections with existing ones.
“Don’t just do the work that’s at your desk,” Radwaner said. “Give yourself those opportunities to expand.” For example, engaging in pro bono work is a strong starting point for networking – in addition to being good for the world.
For her part, Murphy encouraged aspiring partners to recognize the value of developing in-house contacts at levels below the C-suite. “You may want to get to know the people below me, who are my rising stars,” she said.
Radwaner agreed on the importance of reaching out to peers on the client side. “They’re going to rise, or they’re going to move, so follow them,” she added. “Get to know everyone who makes up the office of the General Counsel and beyond.”
Other Networking Strategies
As another technique for network-building, both Radwaner and Murphy proposed volunteering with external organizations to raise one’s profile and visibility outside the legal industry. “Women tend to have narrow and deep relationships, whereas men tend to have broader networks,” Murphy explained. “And some research shows that broad networks and light touches are better for securing professional opportunities.”
Even in an age of rampant online communications, it’s smart to remember that conferences remain a very valuable path to meeting potential clients in person and developing a natural rapport, both speakers agreed. They suggested forging more personal connections by acknowledging one’s extracurricular interests, perhaps by sending a follow-up article or a book on a topic of interest.
They further advised selecting and attending a small number of annual events in order to become recognized within a given community. “Sometimes it takes a couple years of meeting someone at a conference to start to build a relationship,” Murphy said.
The Tools of the Game
And because an event about networking wouldn’t be complete without some LinkedIn power-user tips, the attendees happily crowdsourced a handful, including these:
- Individual Profile — Develop and maintain a current profile description, complete with highly targeted keywords and a professional (and current) profile picture;
- Client Connections — Beyond an individual client connection, be sure to follow his or her company’s LinkedIn page to stay abreast of notable business and other organizational updates;
- Industry Connections — Join relevant industry and other professional groups and then participate in worthwhile discussions; and
- Activity Cadence — Consistently engage by liking, sharing, or commenting on the activity posts contributed by your collective network.
Equipped with some fresh perspectives and words of wisdom about networking, the Rising Stars cohort members then engaged in some real-world practice in the art of networking.