Monday, February 15, 2010

Networking 101 for Law Students (& Lawyers), Part Three, Specific Concerns

Last week I spoke to law students again at the University of Michigan Law School. This time the topic was event networking. A few specific concerns came up that I'd like to share here in a few posts. This advice applies to lawyers as well as law students. I coach some of my lawyer clients on similar kinds of networking challenges, even those who have been practicing law for many years.

Is it okay to ask a lawyer for her card? Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: Yes, yes, yes.

The student who asked this question was concerned about bothering the lawyer, and thought that perhaps a better thing to do would be to look up the lawyer's contact information later on the Internet. That strategy might fail if the student forgets the lawyer's name or doesn't have the correct spelling. That strategy also doesn't alter the student's belief that he may be bothering the lawyer by contacting the lawyer later. Keep in mind that you are talking with business people. This is ordinary behavior that is anticipated at business events and even at social events. (Don't be dissuaded by the surprising reality that many lawyers forget to carry their cards or carry just a few. They're just not savvy yet.)

Also, keep in mind that many people are flattered if you ask for their card. Even though they may know that you are looking for a job and they have none to offer you, they can still feel flattered that you value their advice or experience. And who knows, maybe you, a law student, will have business to refer to them now or later, or perhaps you will provide value in some other way. We never know. Networking is about building relationships.

Monday, February 8, 2010

LinkedIn for Lawyers - A Few Personal Tips

Here are a few thoughts I have every time I get a LinkedIn invitation:

1. List your area of practice, rather than just associate, partner or lawyer at ABC Firm, in the "headline" space below your name. It will appear whenever your name appears. Let people know what you do as a lawyer. Make it easy for them to see and remember your practice area. This is marketing. This is developing name recognition for something specific as a lawyer. If you are afraid to list a specialty because you believe it will close the door to other potential legal work, consider how many other generic "lawyers" you are competing with in the same geographic region on LinkedIn. Are you willing to miss out on the legal work you really want to do in order to take anything that might come your way? Do you want to stand out or blend in?

2. When you send or accept a LinkedIn invitation to/from someone you know, consider the value of personalizing it with a few more sentences. Notes like that are easy, fast and free. Notes like that help you maintain relationships. At a minimum they say "I'm thinking about you personally rather than as just another name to add to my list." To me it's like the difference between an annual holiday card from a lawyer with (a) just a signature (and who knows who actually signed it) and (b) a signature plus a few sentences or even a single sentence as simple as "Elizabeth, I hope all is well with you" or "Elizabeth, I look forward to working with you again soon", etc.

3. If you send a LinkedIn invitation to someone you don't know, personalize the invitation. I don't accept all LinkedIn invitations and I don't accept invitations from people I don't know who don't even introduce themselves and say why they'd like to connect, where they saw me speak, where they met me, or if they know someone I know, etc. Imagine an in-person "networking" event where no one is allowed to speak. It's simply a business card exchange. How would that event serve you in terms of building relationships?

Remember that networking is about building relationships. Use your relationship skills.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Time Management: Procrastination, Part I

I coach several of my lawyer clients on various time management challenges. For some, this includes procrastination. I have a few clients who are sure they are the biggest procrastinator in the world. I assure them they are not in the Top 10 but they are probably close. I believe there is an endless universe of procrastinators clustered just below the Top 10 worst ones.

You are not alone. Does that make you feel any better? Perhaps not. You know you procrastinate and you haven't broken the cycle.

People procrastinate for thousands of different reasons. I am not convinced it matters why you procrastinate. I believe that what matters is recognizing that you have a choice. You have free will. You can choose to do now what needs to be done.

A friend recently gave me a little book by Steven Pressfield entitled "The War of Art. Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles." Copyright 2002. Pressfield, a fiction writer, wrote this book to show how he and we can identify, defeat and unlock our inner barriers to creativity.

Of procrastination, Pressfield writes:

"The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don't just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.

Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance.

This second, we can sit down and do our work."

We can win the battle. This second, we can sit down and do our work.