For lawyers, both private practitioners and public servants, a network of people can assist you with the development of your professional career. For example, one of the reasons that I am a litigation partner at Bowie & Jensen is because of my network and not solely because of an overly impressive resume, fate or divine intervention. In fact, I can confidently say that the reason that I have been at the firm for almost nine years is because I knew the people vetting the resumes.
The day before my wedding in 2004, which was a little more than two-and-a-half years after I graduated from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, I receive a call from a friend and classmate. I was busy doing the last-minute wedding things as instructed by my then-future wife (i.e. drop off flowers, pick up fiance’s brother’s wife’s aunt from the train station, etc.) when my cell phone rang.
My friend Nicole (who wasn’t invited to the wedding, although she was on the bubble and was really the first cut from invite list) told me to send in a resume because Bowie & Jensen was hiring an associate and thought I would be a perfect candidate. After profusely apologizing for not inviting her and John to the wedding, I told her I would submit a resume when I returned from my honeymoon. I eventually was scheduled for an interview, which was conducted by Nicole and another friend with whom I served on law review.
By the time I interviewed with someone that I didn’t know, it was with the named partners and it was to offer me a job. Needless to say, knowing a couple of people on the inside helped.
Building a network is not easy, but it’s not rocket science. It is simply meeting people that may or may not share a common interest. Meeting attorneys can be done by attending bar association functions and joining committees. You can meet, in a non-confrontational setting, potential opposing counsel, co-counsel, referral sources and judges. (Remember the old lawyer joke: A good attorney knows the law, a great attorney knows the judge).
A Facebook “friend” recently posted an article from Forbes.com, “25 Ways to Win at Networking.” Without listing them all, I really liked the following: Be an open source by introducing contacts; listen as much as you talk; pay it forward by helping others, since they may eventually help you; and the more out of your comfort zone you go, the more new contacts you will meet.
Networking does, however, take effort. It is easy to go to an event and hang out with the people that you already know. This is not networking — it’s happy hour. It takes effort to talk to someone that you don’t know, but I always find that there is someone (or a couple of people) that are very interesting. I find it fun to meet new people.
Do you have any suggestions on ways to build your network?