Being a small firm lawyer usually means that you’re not a cog in the wheel of some multi-national corporation while enjoying their stream of business sent to your firm because of someone on another floor. Small firm lawyers either have to blow their brains out on ads featuring their angry mugs (arms crossed in aggressive, “fight-for-you” anger), direct mail, or the art and science of talking to people and developing relationships, otherwise known as networking.
In this arena, there are two types of lawyers: Those that “don’t do networking,” and those that do it because it is required to establish a word of mouth practice. I know you think there’s a third — those that love networking, but those lawyers are to be avoided at all costs. Lawyers that love going out after work and eating bar food, drinking low-level vodka, and asking “so, where’s your office,” are rejects. Ignore them. They just want to give you their business card the minute they lay eyes on you and tell you to “call (me) whenever you have a (usually PI or real estate) matter.”
For those that want the word of mouth practice, and the reputation in the community as a go-to person (assuming you are a competent lawyer, and these days, that’s a big assumption), here are some things to consider….
Specialty bar associations can be great opportunities for in-house lawyers to grow their network and develop their careers. Unlike some mega bar associations, they tend to feel more intimate and collegial, even if their membership numbers are pretty large, because the members share a common interest.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the NAPABA (National Asian Pacific American Bar Association) convention in Atlanta. This organization represents the interests of over 40,000 attorneys and about 65 local bar associations. And let me tell you, they had a lot going on at their annual gathering. And I don’t just mean the after-hours partying….
I’ve been outed. My jealousy about never having sat in the front row of a courtroom gallery to take notes and hand documents to partners trying cases has now been discovered by the crack anonymous commenters. No, I never worked in Biglaw. No, they would never hire me. I didn’t have the grades, or the personality… I will forever regret not spending the first 5-7 years of my career hoping that the timesheet would evidence my ability as a lawyer and that I could brag at judicial receptions I was sent to for the purpose of meeting judges I never practiced before, about my (document review) work on a big corporate case (sorry, “matter”).
And so it appears that I am not a big fan of Biglaw — but that’s not true. Actually, Biglaw has been very good to me, and it can be good to you as a solo or small firm lawyer. Just don’t steal any of the embossed coffee cups, and consider some of these ideas….
When it comes to networking events, there are two schools of thought. Some say that networking events are a waste of time. Others believe that it is important to go to networking events. I am a proponent of networking events. I do not hold this belief because I think that attending such events will necessarily help you land a client. Frankly, I do not know how that happens.
I do, however, think these events are helpful for young attorneys to make connections with other lawyers who may help them along the path to finding a job or developing and strengthening an area of expertise. To test out this theory, I attended my law school reunion last weekend.
What did I find out? I learned that many of my classmates are married, several had children, and at least three had dramatic makeovers. I also learned that law schools are apparently really keen on getting donations. Oh, and yes, I learned that attending law school reunions is a worthwhile way to network with other attorneys, provided that you follow a few simple steps.
While I believe that reunions are a good networking activity, I am a bit of a disaster when it comes to these events. So, I followed the lead of one of my former classmates who I knew would be a networking pro. And, since I had several pinot grigios that night, I literally followed her lead. Here is what my reunion stalking uncovered….
I feel like we have this story every fall. Every year, new 1Ls get to law school campuses and invariably, some of them quickly look around to see which boots are most in need of licking. The first few weeks they kiss so much faculty ass they look like they’re applying for tenure. And right around now, they start looking for fellow students to suck up to.
Well, there’s a way to suck up to fellow students, and usually kissing butt requires you to be in the same room as your betters. Cold, unsolicited emailing — while fine for general networking — is almost always the wrong way to approach your peers. We’ve explained this to you before.
If you find yourself sending out cold, unsolicited, mass emails, well, welcome to Above the Law, little 1Ls….
* Just how rich are the members of SCOTUS? When you’re worth $45M, like RBG, you can afford to fall asleep during the State of the Union address. But you can’t afford such luxuries when you’re still Sonia from the block. [Forbes]
* An interesting read on the Kenneth Moreno case from the perspective of a juror. Buy it on your Kindle and check it on the way home today. [Gothamist]
* What is law school’s dirty little secret? If you have social skills, you don’t need to be in the top ten percent to get a job. Fair warning, because your mileage may vary with this bit of advice. [Law Riot]
* If Texas A&M is actually allowed to join the SEC, fans are going to have to learn how to start talking smack about the Big 12 and buy a pair of jorts stat. [ESPN]
* What a Masshole: sorry, lady, but if seeing your criminal history in print is too upsetting, maybe a career change is in order? No judge is just going to stop the presses for you. [Salem News]
* “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here! Thou art cash cows being led to the $laughter!” Well, if you’re going to riff on my school, at least get your facts straight. We cry in our cars. [LOLawyer]
* No, you cannot change your name to NJWeedman.com. We get it, you smoke two joints before you smoke two joints. But if you lose the domain, your stoner friends would be confused. [Gawker]
The managing partner of your firm tells you and your colleagues that you all need to “do more marketing.” What that vague phrase means is unclear, but the partner feels it’s imperative. It’s the only way to bring in more business. Someone — maybe even you — ventures to ask for ideas on what kind of marketing you all should be doing.
Your fearless leader looks nonplussed for a moment, then shakes his head quickly like a dog drying himself and sputters, “Network. Get out there and network.” Meeting over.
Now you and your colleagues are left trying to divine just how to go about “marketing” and “networking.” There were no courses on these arcane arts in your non-T14 law school. (Fear not: The T14 law schools didn’t have those courses either.)
Finally, one of the group members — maybe even you — recalls getting an email blast about an upcoming networking event that you can all go to at the local chamber of commerce. “Great,” you chorus. But what are you supposed to do when you get there?
Don’t worry. Here are the six best tips for attending networking events:
Most of our readers know this about me already, but in case you didn’t, I was a sorority girl in college (hardy har har, but I wasn’t an Omega Mu). I joined Kappa Alpha Theta during my freshman year at Lehigh, and I had some of the best times of my life as a result. And no, when I was pledging, the sisters didn’t circle my fat with a marker (there weren’t enough markers).
Anyway, being a member of a Greek life organization brought me a lot of fun times and awesome opportunities when I was in college. I learned how to funnel, and I turned into one of the best flip cup players around. I got to be my sorority’s pledgemaster one year, and I was in charge of recruitment the next. I accomplished a lot of great things in my sorority leadership positions, and you better believe I listed them on my résumé.
The reason I bring this up today is because a future law student is wondering whether she should list her Greek affiliation and leadership roles on her résumé when applying to law school….
Last week, I received an email from a recent graduate who is in the midst of a small firm job search. She is having trouble focusing her search because there are so many small law firms and so few resources (or so she thought) about how to find all the various firms. She wrote:
Every lawyer I speak to, whether a friend, in an interview, or informational interview, has an inconsistent network. The one small firm lawyer I know has referred me to solo practitioners and Biglaw attorneys, but not other small firms. Career services offices mainly work with big firms, not too many small firms. There are few small firm positions posted on job boards, but I know that most small firms fill open positions by word of mouth.
She asked me where to look to find and network with attorneys at the many small firms in her city. She signed it “Seeking Small Firm.” I decided that her nom de plume was so awesome, I had to help.
Hey, have you read Above the Law for like one single minute in the past month? If so, you probably know that we’re having this big blogger conference on March 14th at the Yale Club. Yeah, the Yale Club. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the only big… blogger guy surreptitiously holding a can of crimson spray-paint.
Speaking of coming, you should come. We’ve got CLE and all that. Click here to buy tickets to get CLE credit for listening to bloggers scream about stuff on the internet.
To refresh your memory, details on the panel that I’m moderating — almost entirely sober, mind you — follow.
My panel is called Blogs as Agents of Change, and we’re going to talk about whether all of these spilled pixels are actually making a difference. You know my view… just ask Lawrence Mitchell, but here are the panelists:
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
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