Lawyer networking and the 80/20 rule

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Lawyer networking–is it a good use of your time?

Some say that formal networking (the way most people do it) is a low yield activity. They say that the people you meet at chamber of commerce and other formal networking events are unlikely to have much business to give you. They are networking because they need business. The ones who have plenty of business, and thus plenty of referrals to give you, are not at the events, they’re at the office helping their clients.

I’m not sure I’m willing to accept this as a universal truth, but let’s say it was true. If you’re thinking about networking as a means to grow your practice, does this mean you should reconsider?

No. It means you need to approach networking with a different agenda.

One way to do this is to forgo meeting most of the attendees at these events and instead focus on meeting the organizers and speakers. These people know the people at the events, and many more who aren’t. They can steer you towards prospective clients and other professionals who might be a good match.

Meeting these centers of influence allows you to leverage your time. You will have to work just as hard to build a relationship with them as you would with anyone else, but if you are successful, that relationship could yield far more results than a relationship with someone who is just starting out.

On the other hand, networking with people on their way up can also be a good thing. They may not have much business to give you right now, but if you stick with them while they grow and become successful, they could become good clients or referral sources.

Spend 80% of your networking time courting high-value connectors and centers of influence. Note that these people are probably sought after by others who want to know them and may also have attorneys to whom they are already committed. These people may be a tougher nut to crack, but if you are successful, they could open many doors for you.

Spend 20% of your networking time building relationships with people who can’t do much for you now, but might someday. They may be small potatoes, but in a few years, they may be so busy, you’ll never have a chance to meet them.

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