I’ve been coaching, training and mentoring the legal profession for 9 years and there’s one key theme that comes up time and again.

Around 70% of the people I work with hate networking. The very word strikes fear into their heart.

But the truth is, networking isn’t as difficult or uncomfortable as many people seem to believe. Plus, a strong network is the lifeblood of a profitable legal practice and career.

When you’re in the building phase of networking, it’s important that you take lots of action and get lots of activity happening. If you’re not careful however, you can do too much and end up exhausted and feeling as though your efforts are wasted.

Too much of the wrong activity is what many people do in the building phase. Instead, I want you to focus on useful networking activities that you enjoy, and that get results.

1. Who, What, Where

To make sure your time is being spent wisely, you need to answer three key questions before you start:

  1. Who do you want to meet/form relationships with?
  2. What do you want to achieve from the networking? What’s the purpose/outcome?
  3. Where will you find the people you want to meet?

2. Choose Your Platform

Events, meetup groups, sport, social clubs, online, offline – today there are so many opportunities to network, with a platform to suit everyone. Choose one or two that match your above requirements, and make a commitment to it.

3. Practice Makes Perfect

Whether you’re outgoing or shy, networking gets easier and more successful the more often you do it. Be prepared, understand what you want to achieve, and keep at it till you till it feels comfortable. I promise – it gets easier, and if you follow my tips, you’ll get more out of it too.

4. Play Connect The Dots

To get started with building your network, there are four categories of people you need to connect with.

Connectors – These are the most valuable people in your network. You’ll know them because they will say things like, “You really need to meet Harriet. She’s just done an MBA and she can tell you all about it and what to look out for”.

Old Connections – These are connections you might not have been in touch with for a very long time, such as old school friends, Uni friends or work colleagues.

Re-connections – These are connections you used to have a good relationship with, but you haven’t seen for a while and who would be valuable to re-connect with.

New Connections – Obviously this is a key way to build your network. Use your Connectors, Old and Re-Connections to help put you in contact with relevant new connections.

5. Cultivate Focused Diversity

When it comes to a network, I’m a big fan of both quantity AND quality.

Diversity is important, but it needs to be what I call focused diversity.

Having coffee with your yoga instructor every week might be good if you’re looking to do work in the wellness space, but if you’re looking to build your clients in financial services, you definitely need to spend a good deal of time with people in that area.

Be smart about building your network and I promise you and your business will reap the rewards.

About the author

Fiona Craig is a former top-tier Corporate lawyer who thrives on connecting people in business and inspiring lawyers and other professionals to build a smarter career. Fiona is a professional speaker, trainer and coach with expertise in helping lawyers and other professionals build strong communication, influencing, business development and networking skills to enhance their career success. Fiona is also the Founder of SmartWomen Connect, a networking group for professional women.