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Bar News - October 16, 2009

New Lawyers’ Column Networking: Overcoming Your Fears


Jaye Rancourt
Let me begin with a confession; I avoid networking like H1N1, in part because I believe that I’m really bad at it. When I was a law student, I skipped out on every cocktail hour, reception, and meet-and-greet that was ever scheduled.

I continued my avoidance of all things "social networking" in nature as I began my career as a young lawyer. However, I am proud to say that I’m in remission now and have come to realize the incredible benefits of networking in building my practice and establishing an essential network of colleagues with whom I may collaborate. I began my recovery with reading the book, A Lawyer’s Guide to Networking by Susan R. Sneider, J.D. (ABA Publishing, 2008) In this book, the author provides various definitions of networking, some of which may surprise you. Sneider says networking is "building relationships to provide value to others." His definition of networking helped make me more comfortable:

"Networking is building relationships through helping people. You can’t help someone if you don’t know what that person needs. You must ask others about themselves to learn what they need."

For Networking Phobes: Speak Up!

Attorneys at the Speed Networking event, above, learned that a five-minute conversation is enough to develop a new contact.
For those recovering networking phobes like myself, here are some tips for successful networking. Think of networking as simply establishing a relationship with another person through a conversation. The idea should be that the relationship, once established, can benefit both members. You can form your contacts or reconnect to individuals in order to begin establishing this network by attending social functions, including law school reunions, bar association functions and charitable events.

Sending personal notes, holiday cards, and other written forms of communication can foster and support your network. These notes should be sent to those whom you have already established some relationship and should be personalized.

Since the essential element of establishing a relationship is having a good conversation, here are the basic principles underlying a good networking conversation (p. 63):

(1) Making the interests mutual and reciprocal;

(2) Giving before getting;

(3) Asking open-ended questions;

(4) Listening well;

(5) Finding the point of commonality.

The best tips I took from A Lawyer’s Guide to Networking were the listening tips. First, do not interrupt. Second, "respond to what others say without self-aggrandizing stories in which you are the hero." Nothing can be more annoying!

Speed Networking

Law students from Franklin Pierce Law Center and approximately 16 New Hampshire Bar members recently demonstrated that they, unlike me, are not afraid of networking; they participated in a "speed networking" session on Sept. 23, co-sponsored by Franklin Pierce Law School and the ABA. At this event, law students were paired up with members of the Bar and they conversed for five minutes. Then they moved on to other partners. There was no set agenda or protocol, although participants were provided with sample questions and/or topics to discuss in case the conversation lagged.

The participants learned that simply carrying on a conversation for five minutes with someone you may not know can be an invaluable tool for law students and lawyers alike in learning how to network.

Jaye Rancourt is an attorney with Brennan Caron Lenehan & Iacopino in Manchester. She is a member and former chair of the New Lawyers’ Committee, and she is an at-large member of the NHBA Board of Governors.

Visit the online store to buy this ABA book at a discount.

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