Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Don’t network. Work!

SAN DIEGO - I love networking because I love meeting everybody, volunteering everywhere and making people look their best through my photography (both lawyering and photography require the skill of representing your view in the best light and angle possible). Everybody you meet is fascinating in their own unique way. However, if it’s any significant business traction you’re after, your time is usually better spent on something other than networking. Lawyer networking can actually backfire on you:

1. Overdoing it puts a “jobless” stamp on your forehead. Which, of course, makes people wonder why exactly you don’t have enough clients to keep you busy? Bad economy is a good excuse for some time but you'll need a better one soon.

2. So what if you’ll meet all the important lawyers? As a "networker," you won’t get the cases you'd want and you don’t want the cases you’d get. This is a no-brainer: good lawyers with good cases don’t just give them away to jobless lawyers. Once you have established some expertise (for competent work, not schmoozing) in your niche, clients and referring attorneys will find you themselves.

3. So what if you’ll know all the judges? Will you know them well enough to rule in your favor when you slip them a twenty? Sure, they’ll trust you more and be more lenient in extending discretionary deadlines for you, etc. However, I actually find that people in general respond better to a competent presentation from a fresh face than when everybody is already used to running into your networking butt on every corner.

4. Attorneys are happy to mentor you on the things you can learn from Google, Nolo, and Westlaw but the odds of getting good advice drop off the more complex, specialized your cases become. Lawyers don’t like liability. They’ll be happy to mentor you on
how to write a will or negotiate a personal injury settlement, but if they know you’re gearing up for a jury trial with any of that stuff, they’ll understandably be too afraid that you’ll mess it up and blame them later.

5. You don’t need to be going anywhere to be going in the right direction.  Your business does not just benefit from business-related activities. Your business will also benefit if you just forget about your business for now, stay at home, relax, go to the gym, then pour yourself a drink and read something worthwhile. As a matter of fact, if you’ve read this far, you’re already ahead of the curve (kidding).

6. An hour-long event is really a half-day event, when you factor in the driving time, pre- and post-event schmooze with other struggling networkers. So, what to do if you have an extra half-day free? Read up on Internet marketing; it’s here to stay. Tricky to learn but, fortunately, our math-averse profession lags 5-7 years behind others in catching up, so it’s possible even for junior attorneys to successfully compete in this lucrative arena. Unlike the networking hamster wheel, smart Internet advertising can get your phone ringing TODAY.