Networking tips for junior lawyers and accountants

When you’re just starting out it’s not easy to balance your work and your business development responsibilities.  But, as your network will be pivotal to your future success/career development/financial rewards, building a productive network as early as possible is a must so we thought we should share some networking tips for junior lawyers and accountants.

Who do you know already?

As will all business development activities, it is far easier if you start with the people you know already.  These could be:

– School or university friends

– Ex-colleagues if you’ve recently moved on after completing your training

– People you have spoken to (and found you got on with) at your firm’s events

– People you know through what you do outside work (sports clubs, the gym, the playground, cookery lessons, your local pub etc.)

However, they can also be colleagues.  You have probably heard the term ‘cross-selling’, well that only happens if everyone is talking to each other. 

Set aside time for coffee with the people you like in your firm’s other departments.  Ask them what they’re up to and tell them what you’re up to.  It may not pay off immediately, but it will once you all start to progress.

Who do you want to target?

Simply turning up to every event that’s emailed around internally is not a good strategy.  You are much more likely to meet the people you want to meet if you know who you want to meet. 

Start by thinking what types of people could be useful contacts as your career develops.  For example, if you’re a residential property solicitor, choose the events agents and lenders go to.  Or if you’re a patent attorney who specialises in medical devices, choose the events focused on MedTech manufacturers.

However, remember a lot success when you’re networking simply comes down to being confident so you could start by signing up for your local young professionals’ events.  This gives you a chance to get used to making small talk with strangers so that once you do get into the ‘right’ events, you’re totally comfortable.

And again, all the people you meet will become useful contacts further down the line as you start to progress through the ranks.

Have something to say

I’ll be up front, I hate the whole ‘elevator pitch’ thing.  It looks synthetic and it sounds synthetic.  Worse still, if the person you recite it to has heard you say it to 6 people already, how genuine do you think you’ll look?!

Instead, just have an ice breaker.  When people ask you what you do tell them in a way that underlines the value you could offer to their colleagues, clients, family and friends.  One great example I always remember came from a tax accountant who – bored of seeing people’s eyes glaze over when she used the words ‘tax’ and ‘accountant’ – introduced herself by saying:

“You know you want to pay less tax?  I’m the person who makes sure you pay as little as possible!’

And it worked!

Avoid jargon

People don’t want a technical update when they talk to you or be made to feel awkward that they don’t understand the intricacies of your world.

Stick to everyday English, avoid jargon and always try to switch the conversation back to the person you’re talking to if you feel you’re getting too technical.

Better still …

…. Avoid talking about work altogether

Networking is not about pitching.  It’s about meeting people, getting on with them and then finding ways to keep that conversation going.

Those that work with us will be familiar with FFH.  It stands for football, family and holidays and if you work through that list someone will have an interest in one of them and you can take your conversation from there.

And of course, don’t take FFH too literally – it could be cricket, netball or sailing rather than football or it could be food, drink or future travel plans instead of holidays (especially at the moment).  FFH really means uncover their interests and talk about them!

Always use open questions

It gets awkward quickly when the only responses you’re getting are “yes” and “no” so take away the option!  Use what, where, how, when, why style questions instead and keep your conversation moving.

Most of all don’t expect immediate results

As we’ve said real networking is about meeting people, getting on with people and starting new conversations.  It is not about selling.

I’ve seen too many people give up too early on networking because they didn’t win a new instruction at their first event.  I’ll let you into a secret, this is because it never happens! 

Instead of setting yourself the goal of winning a new opportunity, change your objective to having coffees.  If you meet 5 new people, ask yourself which are relevant to your career and which you actually liked.  When you get 2 yesses, invite them for a coffee to find out more. 

If you would like to find out more about the specialist networking training we run for lawyers and accountants (which now includes tips on getting the best results from virtual as well as traditional networking events), please drop us a line and we can find the best time to talk.

Or perhaps we can share some top tips on how to do #BDfromhome?

Published by sizetenandahalfboots

Douglas is a director of Size 10½ Boots, a specialist business development agency that works solely with the professional services, helping firms grow by winning more new clients and more work from the clients they already have. Although every project is different our work generally falls into one of three camps - strategic marketing support, BD training and 1on1 coaching and independent client research.

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