It's Not About Who You Know, It's About How Well You Know Them by Lisa Goldstein
Love thy neighbor as thyself, but choose your neighborhood. -Louise Beal
About two years ago I started coaching a young lawyer in a midsized law firm. The lawyer was doing a tremendous amount of "networking", attending various young professional events in the city. However, the lawyer found that although he knew a lot of people, after three years of "networking", he had not received one single piece of business.
As part of my coaching process, I ask each lawyer I coach to fill out a detailed questionnaire regarding his or her goals, expertise, personnel and professional strengths, weaknesses and passions. This young lawyer's answers stated that he was a general commercial litigator. He had no particular outside interests or hobbies. He had entered the practice of law because he believed that it could be a lucrative field. He described himself as a "nice guy". His ideal client was any client that would pay for his services.
When I first met with the young lawyer to review his questionnaire responses he did not understand why his "networking" efforts were not working. His contact list contained over 1,000 names. He was "out there" at least two nights a week. Everyone knew he was a lawyer at a midsized firm.
I asked the young lawyer to examine his relationships with the 1,000 contacts. How well did he really know each of the contacts? Our discussion revealed that for about 900 of the "contacts", the relationship did not really go beyond the business card exchange. They had exchanged cards, and his personal knowledge about those individuals was limited to the information on the business card.
He considered about 100 of the contacts to be friends or business acquaintances. I asked him when he had last met with any of those 100 contacts to find out what legal concerns were affecting their business lives. He stated that he had never done this. After all, "they knew what he did for a living, and they would call him when they had a legal issue".
I encouraged him to take a closer look at those 100 contacts. Other than the potential to be "paying clients", which contacts would he enjoy working with most? What types of companies did they work for? What types of litigation were most likely to arise at their companies? We developed a new set of criteria based upon his skill sets, and implemented a strategy where he would select the "contacts" that met this criteria. He started with the 100 friends and developed a targeted strategy beyond that. We planned an approach where he would take his time to create mutually beneficial business relationships that would turn his "contacts" into clients while helping him to narrow his area of expertise based upon their business needs.
Today, I am proud to say that the young lawyer has exceeded his two- year goal. He is also a lot happier in his career because he is beginning to solve problems for clients with whom he really enjoys working.