Networking simply entails maintaining contact with people over the passage of time in order to develop a business or potential client base.
Why you should be networking
Networking is extremely important in the quest to build a solid career for any career-driven lawyer, and most particularly for a lawyer who wants to grow a good practice over the course of time. The reason is simple: most people tend to do business with people they already know and trust.
There is also a significant shift from the past when the legal profession in Nigeria was more about a privileged few; now, there are several thousand lawyers thronging the cities, and each of them has to make a living.
Unfortunately, many lawyers think that work is only all about work. They think that it is enough for them to put in a decent day’s work at the office, then go home to rest and prepare for work the following day, only to repeat the same process over and over again. They believe that the essence of law practice is to ‘work hard’ till they can set up their own law firms or make partner at existing top-tier firms.
I believe that this position is wrong. There is more to the work of a lawyer than that; an even bigger part of the work of a lawyer is positioning himself for opportunities.
This is why some law firms take pains and spend huge sums of money to host events. It is why some law firms insist on some of their top-performing rainmakers going on certain retreats and programs. It is why some firms insist on their workers and associates taking the time to meet other people, thus expanding their connections. It is why some law firms host important events that can draw stakeholders to attendance. It is why some law firms make such a huge deal out of hosting annual end-of-the-year parties for their clients as a way to foster continued goodwill.
Law firms do all these things because there is great power in a lawyer’s network.
Thus, young lawyers need to learn how to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones and meet with other people. Young lawyers need to become comfortable with meeting and developing relationships with people because you never know where your relationships can lead you or what can come of them.
How to Aid your Networking Efforts
Are you and other members of your firm attending a seminar? Fantastic! This provides a powerful and wonderful opportunity for you and the other members of your team to network and meet with other attendees.
A practical way to achieve this is to as far as possible, ensure that you do not sit together. Do not sit together with the people that constitute a part of your team unless it is absolutely imperative that you do so. It defeats the purpose of attending the seminar if you and your colleagues all take the same break session, go to lunch together, talk on with one another, etc. Mingle. Work the room. Strike up conversations with other attendees. Talk to other people (and I believe that a crash course in listening will go a long way because fantastic listeners are taken to be wonderful conversationalists unlike their more talkative counterparts).
Right there at that networking event, you may be talking to a potential client or client referral for your practice without even knowing it. And how can that happen if you are seated with the other members of your team, talking to no one but them?
Who should you connect with
Learn to connect with as many people as you can possibly meet with. The more they are, and the more diverse their professions and backgrounds, the better. A lawyer should not mingle only with fellow lawyers. If a lawyer does that, then how can he gain the referral sources he needs to convert prospects into paying clients?
Your network across borders can potentially make your team. It can potentially lead to fantastic and great gains for you over the long term. So, learning to network with as many people as you possibly will help you in the long term, and it does not matter that you do not reside within the same geographical location as that contact or practice within the same area of law as that fellow lawyer. The world we live in right now is so interconnected that lawyers facilitate deals for people living in other countries, and these are usually people they have never met with physically.
Following up with your network
Never keep your networks dormant; take out the time to call or send them messages over time. Make sure that you do not fall out of their minds. To be out of sight does not necessarily have to be out of mind if you are following up correctly and regularly.
Learn to remember their birthdays and other important anniversaries which they hold dear to their hearts. You do not have to remember all these details in your head – a phone app can be used to schedule reminders for birthdays and other important dates for your contacts. So, when you end up remembering the birthdays and putting your calls and/or messages across, you will delight the contact. You will make a friend who will certainly remember to bring work your way or send referrals your way when the time is right.
Please note that it does not matter that you have networks that are spread across different geographical locations and different professions. LinkedIn messages, emails, phone calls, video calls, will all help to build the relationships and sustain them over time.
Keep in touch with them, and when the time is right, you increase the chances of having them available for your use.
In conclusion, contacts and networks can be a gold mine for the discerning lawyer if cultivated properly over the course of time. Do not underestimate the power of a strong network. Young Nigerian lawyers must be deliberate and laser-focused about how they can maintain old relationships, develop new relationships and in turn generate new business.
Kingsley Ugochukwu Ani is an IP, IT, corporate and commercial litigation lawyer with experience advising on contracts, IP protection, corporate transactions, business advisory, offshore company establishment, Growth & Visibility issues and conducting litigation across Nigerian courts. He is a product of the Victoria Island campus of the Nigerian Law School and was called to the Bar in 2015.
He is also a certified digital marketer and has written several articles covering a variety of issues including Real Estate Law, business strategy & development, digital branding for businesses, Literature and Blockchain technology.