Don't Be a Networking Jerk

The unabashed manipulator – We’ve all met him. He’s the kid from third grade who wheedled his way into your group of friends and immediately started pushing everybody around. He’s the guy from college who only ever called you to ask for something; a ride across campus, Monday’s Psych notes, whatever. He’s the guy who practices across town and calls you every three months, like clockwork, to grab coffee and ‘talk shop.’

He is not your buddy and he doesn’t care about you. He just wants to ask you for referrals. He knows it, you know it, and he makes absolutely no attempt to hide it. Everybody knows that guy, and nobody likes him. Don’t be that guy.

Networking with other lawyers is important for a variety of reasons. We have to know an incredible amount of law and stay on top of new developments, and that requires us to bounce our ideas and perspectives off of one another.

Venting is a lot more gratifying when the person listening actually knows where you’re coming from; other lawyers probably will, while your spouse and the cashier at Krispy Kreme probably won’t. More important than anything, networking with other lawyers gets your name out there. It puts a face to your name, improves your visibility, and really establishes your footprint in the legal market.

But some lawyers network exclusively for the purpose of seeking referrals. Even worse, a lot of those folks don’t do a good job of hiding (or attempting to hide) their true motives. I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a bad thing; you might get the referrals, and some people might even appreciate your transparency. But a lot of your prospective referral sources are likely to view this approach as manipulative and off-putting. Moreover, even if you get what you came for, you’re overlooking everything else that the other lawyer has to offer. You’re reaching straight for the cases and ignoring the advice, unique perspective, and friendship of the person sitting across the table from you.

Yes, we all want referrals. We all want as many good cases as we can handle. But when you’re out there seeking those cases out, don’t forget about all the other good stuff that other lawyers can offer. You’ll develop better relationships, you’ll have more (and more meaningful) influence within your circle, and your practice will be richer and more rewarding. Focus on the relationship and let the referrals come naturally.

David Omer

David has been around civil litigation, in some capacity, for his entire life. While he always knew that he wanted to practice law, he didn't discover his passion for business until he got his first

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