Networking/business building and breaking out of my shell

10 Apr

I’m a fifth year associate, soon to be sixth year (yeesh, where does the time go!!), so business development has moved from “something to keep in my mind to work on in the future” to “a key issue to work on now.”  Business development, especially when you’re a litigator, is not something you can do with immediate results.  When I was doing personal injury work, I was starting to get the hang of it– in PI, you build relationships with other lawyers, and they refer you cases.  With commercial litigation work, however, you are seeking very different clients, and since litigation needs are often unpredictable and often not immediate, the key (from what I have been told at least) is to build relationships with people, so that if they have a need in the future, they will keep you in mind.  Of course, this is all stuff I’ve been told.  When it comes to business development, I’m flying by the seat of my pants.  If I had a book of business, I could speak with authority.  I don’t.  I’m throwing ideas out here of things I plan to do, with the hope of something working out.

I’ve been up to my ears in speaking and publishing opportunities– I published an article recently in the Legal Intelligencer, I’ve been doing periodic e-blasts on commercial litigation for my firm, I presented to our Managed Care group yesterday about Out of Network Reimbursement litigation, and I’ll be speaking to reporters at the Pittsburgh Business Times this week about libel law and social media. I’ve got writing and speaking covered, what I need to work on is connecting with people.

I’ve identified three things to work on over the summer:

1.  Polish my “Elevator Speech.”  More like compose my elevator speech.  When asked what I do, I go on a long ramble about commercial disputes, distribution agreements, managed care, and director and officer litigation.  The tough thing for an elevator speech for me is that litigation is more of a skill than a subject area, and I litigate in a wide variety of subject areas.  It’s tough to condense the broad range of things I work on into a 30 second speech.  Difficult, but not impossible, and it’s important that I pin it down.

2. Change my perspective.  I hate asking other people for favors, but I love helping other people out.  I need to stop thinking about business building as asking others to do something for me (asking them to give me their business), and I need to start thinking about business building as me doing something for them (helping them out in whatever legal conundrum they face).  This change in perspective should help me get over the dreaded hurdle of “the ask.”  It’s not an ask, it’s an offer.

3.  Introduce myself, and ask questions.  I dread networking happy hours.  I hate walking into a room of people I don’t know and having to introduce myself.  I have the terrible habit of identifying the one or two people I know in the room, and clinging onto them for dear life.  That works fine for hanging out with your friends, but doesn’t help at all when I’m attending a networking event with the goal of networking.  Summer is a wonderful time in Pittsburgh for parties and events.  I’m already planning to attend Pittsburgh Magazine’s Best Restaurants Party and the CFF Brewer’s Ball, and I’m sure many other fun events will pop up as well. My goal is to meet at least one new person (and not in that fleeting “hi how are you way,” I’m talking about meeting and following up later) at each event I attend.

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