The Business of Law: “Schmoozing” 101: Tips for Event Networking Success
by Mary Louise C. Hopson
It pains me every time I see it: A clutch of three or four lawyers, all members of the same firm, are huddled in a corner at a gathering for clients. But no client is in their midst. And they are not engaging anyone else in the crowd. I am wondering if they are billing their time right at that moment.
What is wrong with this picture? For starters, these lawyers are wasting their firm’s money and their time if they are attending this event to build relationships with clients and potential clients. They are not being good hosts. And they are not networking with those in attendance to make new friends, solidify relationships, cross-sell their colleagues and demonstrate their expertise.
Firms spend a lot of money on “client development” events every year. These can be informal receptions at the firm’s office, on-site client education seminars, appreciation dinners, lavish holiday celebrations, or outings at nearby entertainment venues and sports events.
How do lawyers maximize time and money spent on these activities? After all, lawyers are busy people. The last thing they want to do is spend a non-billable evening wasting time!
Time to call in an expert! Tracy Everett is Manager-Regional Marketing and Business Development with the firm of Littler Mendelson P.C. She joined the firm’s Dallas office eight years ago, and has worked in the area of law firm marketing and business development even longer. In July she moved to the firm’s Denver office, where she assists lawyers with marketing activities there as well as other offices, including Dallas. She speaks frequently about the art of “schmoozing.”
We put our heads together and came up with some tips and techniques for making the most out of networking opportunities. We think it is important to think about what you want to accomplish before the event, whether and how an event is worth your time, and who will be there. And if you are a young lawyer asked by your managing partner to attend an event, know why.
“Tag-team” network at events. It helps to have a team. One lawyer greets contacts near the door, and then brings them to other lawyers who are elsewhere in the room for more introductions. Follow up is important here: Deliver on anything promised or act on any information, whether work-related or social. And do your research before the event to know who will be there and why you would like to see them.
Know how to shake hands. So many people try (over-try) to have a firm handshake. Be careful with that grip! Shake hands palm to palm, rather than using just your knuckles and fingertips. Hang on to the person’s hand until you know their name and have repeated it back to them.
Use name tags. Put your name tag on your right shoulder. When people shake your hand, they will easily see it, which reinforces their memory. Likewise, glance at the name tags of people you meet. Say the person’s name during your conversation to help you remember it.
Do not try to eat and drink at the same time. Do one or the other, but keep your right hand free.
Watch your posture and body language. Stand up straight, head level, relaxed shoulders, knees slightly bent. Do not fidget.
Focus your attention. When you are engaged in a conversation, give all of your attention to that person. Do not look over his or her shoulder scoping out the room. Try to meet new people, in addition to seeing contacts with whom you want to solidify relationships. Have a pleasant facial expression. Smile. Make eye contact. Ask open-ended questions to learn more and possibly discover ways to be of help. Be an attentive listener. Do not interrupt.
Have business cards at hand. It is a cardinal sin to attend events without your business cards. But it happens. Check your supply beforehand. When you receive a card from someone, note details on it after you have left the event, and put this information in your marketing file or program. If you have a reason to follow up, do so.
Help others feel at ease. If you see someone standing alone, if you can, go over and engage that person. He or she will be grateful to you for putting them at ease, and you will have made a new friend. But do not monopolize anyone’s time. Exit gracefully. You have more people in the room to see.
Check your calendar. Surely you have a networking opportunity coming up. It might be hosted by your firm, a community organization, or professional associations—maybe even the Dallas Bar Association! Grab your business cards and give some of the ideas a try. You can increase your personal networking results!
Mary Louise Hopson is a longtime member of and past Co-Chair of the Publications Committee. She has worked with Dallas attorneys in business development and other support roles for more than 30 years in both corporate and law firm environments. She has attended many law firm events, both as an implementer and as a guest. She can be reached at email@example.com.