In my last post, The Networking Opportunity Most Lawyers Overlook, I listed 3 benefits you may reap from spending time and effort networking with the other attorneys in your firm.  This article is about how to start developing those relationships.  Here are 4 things you can do to kick-start your internal networking efforts:

Attend internal firm events.  Whether it’s an informal gathering for bagels and coffee, a formal holiday party or any other excuse to rub elbows with your colleagues, make sure you are participating.  It’s tempting to blow off meetings and events that don’t seem overly productive in the short term, especially when you have pile of work on your desk, but you are looking for a long-term payoff here, not just immediate results.  If your firm doesn’t provide opportunities for the attorneys to hang out together, create the opportunities yourself.  Your proactive efforts to generate value for the firm will start to establish you as a leader.

Get to know individual attorneys.  Identify an attorney in a different practice area of your firm and invite her for coffee so you can learn more about what she does and how you may be able to be helpful.  You might tell her, for example, that you know she’s a bankruptcy attorney but would like to know more about the types of clients she usually works with and what areas of bankruptcy she specializes in.  A great question to ask is “who would be an ideal client for you?” Be prepared to share similar information about yourself and follow up from time to time, as you would with any networking contact.  Use the same approach with other attorneys in the firm and you will quickly develop a strong internal network.

Sit on a law firm committee or volunteer for a project that benefits the firm.  One of the best ways to meet lawyers from other practice areas and at different levels of seniority is to participate in the life of the firm at a decision-making level.  Find out what committees the firm has that may be of interest to you and volunteer to get involved.  Don’t just be a fly on the wall, though.  Get to meetings early so you can chat with others.  Actively participate in meetings by offering potential solutions to problems, maintain a can-do attitude, and make others feel welcome.  Consider a leadership position on the committee – after all, everyone wants to know the leader of the team.

Give a seminar for lawyers in other departments.  A great way to get to know attorneys in another department and to establish yourself as the firm’s expert in your practice area is to speak on your subject to lawyers who practice in a different area of the law.  Consider using the following fill-in-the-blank for the title of your seminar:  “What Every [Blank] Lawyer Needs to Know About [Blank].”   For example, if you are an employment attorney, you might speak to the corporate lawyers about What Every Corporate Lawyer Needs to Know About Restrictive Covenants. Make sure you add in a note about when those lawyers should call you instead of trying to handle employment matters on their own.

When you develop friendly business relationships with the other attorneys in your firm, you will ensure that they know, like and trust you enough to rely on you to help serve their clients and to refer business to you that they might otherwise turn away.  You don’t even have to leave the office, so start developing those business relationships now.

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