Networking Advice

Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Rob Jordan explores how good use of technology can improve your skills at networking events.

“The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd, is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage, and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” — Bill Gates

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard attorneys and bankers initiate a networking conversation with the question: “What are you working on these days?” Given attorney-client privilege and/or other confidentiality issues, there is a strong likelihood that the recipient of that question is in no position to answer. And, so, the conversation is instantly uncomfortable and awkward. This is the professional equivalent of asking a potential mate “What do you do?” in a social setting — which is largely, mistakenly, and unfortunately the question of default (at least in New York City). Quite simply, many people either don’t or can’t define themselves by what they “do” or what they’re “working on.” So… don’t do that.

A better approach is to ask, “What’s interesting?”

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Over the last few weeks, I have been researching law firms and businesses with in-house legal departments. I checked each firm to see if they hired anyone from my alma mater or a comparably ranked school. I also checked the firms’ rankings both in certain specialties and their overall profitability.

Then I tried something more difficult – finding employee turnover rates and overall employee satisfaction. This information is important to me but is pretty much impossible to get without deeper digging and contacting people. The career counselor I talked to gave me some names of people who may be able to get more detailed information. If there was one thing I learned in law school, it was to find the negative information yourself because you should never trust the numbers on a company’s sales presentations and recruiting materials.

After the jump is a small sample of the prospective firms I researched, listed in no particular order.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Back In The Race: Occupational Reconnaissance”

I begin my quest for a fulfilling job by revisitng my alma mater’s career development office (CDO). When I was a law student, the CDO was unhelpful. This was because during my law school’s annual on-campus interview period, even the small firms and local government agencies wanted only the top 10% of the class. So the CDO tried its best to help me and the rest of the peasants scrounge for whatever was left. At this point, the Biglaw dreams and in-house wishes ended, and we were preparing for our multi-season starring role in Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown, sponsored in part by IBR.

So I was not expecting much from the CDO as far as job leads were concerned. And since I am well past the all-important nine-month deadline for post-graduate employment, I expected the counselor to tell me the cruel truth — that there was nothing the CDO or my law school can do for me — EVER. So to ensure that my visit wasn’t a complete waste of time, I emailed the secretary ahead of time, telling her that I wanted to talk to the career counselor about a number of things other than any available job openings.

So, how did my visit go?

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I am making plans to attend several conferences and major bar association events for the remainder of the year. My primary goal for attending is to meet people who will provide job leads. But I also hope to meet potential clients, industry leaders, mentors, referral sources, and possibly a shopping companion. The problem is that attending these conferences can be expensive, especially if you are a solo practitioner paying with your own money. But I believe with proper planning, I can make the most of it without breaking the bank.

When I was a newbie lawyer, I dreaded going to conferences. This was because the costs of registration, travel, and lodging were high, and the lectures were boring, obscure, or both (which was mostly the case). I went only because everyone told me that I should introduce myself to the attendees, offer my services, and possibly get a job offer or referrals. So I went, tried my absolute best to stay awake and learn something, and gave my elevator speech and business card to everyone I met. I even paid extra for the dinner reception where I listened to the keynote speaker ramble on and on about her pro bono work. After I left, I sent everyone I met a follow up email and requested a meeting over coffee or lunch. Most ignored me. Others politely declined. And the few I met in person were genuinely good people but probably not going to help my career. After spending several thousand dollars with no immediate results, it can get discouraging and frustrating.

Now that I am more seasoned, I still dread going to conferences, but my approach has changed….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Back In The Race: Conference Connections”

Social media is no longer new. This month, Facebook turns ten, joining LinkedIn, which hit the decade mark back in May. Lawyers have been blogging even longer than that, with the earliest lawyer blogs launched fifteen years ago. Even the book on Social Media for Lawyers that I co-authored with Nicole Black has been out for nearly four years.

Yet after all this time, social media still has limited traction in the legal profession, with few firms using social media for its “best and highest use”: engaging and interacting with colleagues and clients. Instead, large firms treat social media as another marketing channel to disseminate firm news and press releases, according to a recent ATL study, while solos and smalls treat social media as a poor man’s search-engine optimizer.  It’s no wonder that many practicing lawyers deride social media generally as a waste of time and counsel their colleagues to focus on traditional in-person networking, like meeting colleagues for lunch or getting involved in bar associations, to generate visibility and referrals.

Still, I wouldn’t give up on social media yet. The fact that so few lawyers understand how to use social media correctly makes it a powerful tool for solo and small firm lawyers. Here are three ways to use social media to get the most out of traditional, in-person networking, and to create new opportunities for yourself:

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan provides some practical advice for the new year.

It’s January, so we must reflect and resolve, right? Well, I’ve never been one for resolutions (just do it, don’t talk about it), but the beginning of a new year is a good time to examine recent history and identify “areas of potential growth,” shall we call them.

When I think about what I’ve been most surprised about in the 2+ years since I started The Girl’s Guide to Law School, one key thing stands out: The remarkable lack of urgency that many law students and young lawyers seem to feel about shaping their lives and their careers.

Before you get all offended, let me be clear. I’m not saying you’re lazy. I’m not saying you don’t spend a lot of time studying in the library. But — and I have to be honest here — there is an odd lack of gumption, of hustle, that permeates many of the interactions I have with law students and new lawyers.

A few examples…

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

The news continues to be bad for the impatient “just get me on the internet” types regarding the development of relationships. Regardless of how many times your name appears on the first page of Google, developing meaningful professional relationships still takes time, and it always will. Sorry.

I recently read of a lawyer who closed up shop, a prominent reason being that after dropping from the first page to fourth page of Google, “the phone stopped ringing.” Google doesn’t develop relationships that bring referrals. Some learn that that hard way.

I spoke at a local breakfast last week. It was a kick-off of a new chapter of a monthly “lawyers” group. There were 20 lawyers. One guy was in his 70s and is now of counsel to a firm after a long career, another just graduated law school and drove two hours to meet some Miami lawyers. Not sure why he drove so far to meet lawyers instead of sitting at home and poking around on LinkedIn. Anyway, a few said they were with firms I knew, and there were a bunch of solo practitioners, some just a few years in, and others who have been at it for a while.

I know, you’re thinking, “Sounds like BNI.” Kind of, but BNI is weekly, and not limited to lawyers.

As this was the first meeting of the second local chapter, everyone was there to check it out, to decide whether they would attend a second meeting. After going around the room and introducing themselves to each other, and then ending the meeting by walking around and exchanging business cards and “do you know so and so…” some will apply, while others will see getting up for a 7:30 a.m. breakfast once a month as the most awful thing they could think of and never come back.

The host of the meeting said something that may cause some not to return: “No one in this room is required to refer clients to each other.”

Wait, what? You can’t just sit there, eat eggs, and the cases will come?

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I know it’s not popular to write about lawyers doing well, because misery loves company, but the sad truth is, there are lawyers who don’t spend their days blaming their law school for the fact that they should have never thought of becoming lawyers, or trying to figure out how every new “future of law” tool on the internet can bring them clients.

There are lawyers, regardless of what you’ve been convinced of, who are actually making a living off the time and sweat they have put into their practice. These are the lawyers getting multiple calls a week, whose main concern is not counting the days until their worthless LinkedIn connections bear fruit, but how they are going to get all the work done, and if the stride will continue.

So for the whiners out there, the heartbroken dreamers, the ones who believe expressing their anonymous anger on the internet will one day result in something positive, take the week off. I want to talk to the success stories out there in Small-Law-Ville (anyone own that term yet?)….

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Tom Wallerstein

I try to approach new relationships without an express agenda. In my experience, business has always come from relationships indirectly, and unexpectedly. Looking back at my firm’s engagements with 20/20 hindsight, it is undeniable that positive relationships led to the work. But that was impossible to predict looking forward.

For example, lunch with a casual acquaintance became a friendship and led to a very lucrative engagement when he later developed a conflict. I could not have predicted at the time how the lunch would later lead to important business.

In fact, had I approached the lunch with a strict agenda, I never would have formed the friendship or subsequent business. Instead of meeting with the goal of developing business, I met with the goal of having a nice lunch. It is a well-known irony that sometimes it is easier to get something when you stop trying so hard…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Biglaw to Boutique: Networking Contradictions”

You know that there are a lot of holiday parties going on when planning to hang at another one starts to feel like a burden. Even if there’s karaoke involved. This is what happens when bar associations seem to have forgotten that there is now newfangled technology such as email and phones that can be used to avoid scheduling their holiday parties all during the same one week in December. Yes, I’m looking at you, NY/NJ minority bars.

Networking in festive environments is kind of like opening a nicely-wrapped holiday gift. It’s out of the ordinary and there’s a bit of surprise involved. But as with gifts, you don’t find out until after you’ve engaged someone new in conversation whether it’s just what you were hoping for or kind of… meh.

As with many things in life, preparation is key. Preparing for cocktail schmoozefests is easy. Look your best — clothes, hair, teeth — looking fabulous will help you to feel more confident as well. Have an interesting elevator speech ready and bring lots of business cards.

And please avoid these networking blunders….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Moonlighting: How Not to Network”

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