When I spoke in Montreal last week, an associate asked.

How will I know what networking events to attend and what ones are a waste of time?

Developing a Strategy

I thought that was a really terrific question and it gave me the idea for the blog post today.

By the way, I had a longer answer, but I started this way:

If an event has the word “networking” in the title, I recommend avoiding it. You will spend lots of time with people trying to sell you something, and who most likely could not afford to hire your firm to do anything.

As you may know, I’m the keynote speaker (great honor) this week at a Boston Bar Association day long event for their young lawyers called Brand Yourself.

Looking back now, I wish my local bar association would have had an event like this one. I could have saved an incredible amount of time.

My topic for the program is Starting Right for Career Success. I love the topic, because some young law firm lawyers tend to think all they need to do is “good work.” Clearly, every young lawyer must do good, or even great work, but that is not enough to get ahead.

Those same young lawyers need to start early building their profile and relationships both in an out of their firm. When I was a young lawyer, it was pretty easy figuring out what to do. There were only a few choices on how to use client development time.

In 2015, continuing into 2016, there are so many choices on how to use your non-billable time. It’s far more difficult to make the right choices.

So, I contend one of the challenges to get off to a good start in 2016, is to figure out what “not” to do. For each young lawyer it will be different. It will depend in part on:

  • Priorities in their work and life (One lawyer I coached established that her family, church, health and fitness and her law practice were her four priorities in that order)
  • Where they are practicing law (Big City, Small Town)
  • What kind of firm (Big, Medium, Small)
  • What kind of work they are doing (Transactional, Litigation, Industry Based Practice)
  • How much non-billable time they have (Single, Married, Married with Children)
  • What they are passionate about and enjoy doing. (F’it’s not enjoyable, you won’t do it)
  • Their Strengths (I urge each young associate to take StrengthsFinder to find out their top 5 strengths.)’
  • What they are good at and what they need to get better at (Young associates can’t just focus on what they are good at. They need to also focus on what they want to get better at.

If you are a young lawyer, once you have done the self assessment, then it is time to create a plan for your non-billable time. Divide your time into:

  • Your own development (what you want to learn)
  • Client Development (Building your profile and relationships internally and externally)
  • Don’t just do “random” lunches. Be more strategic and focused than that.

Here are three more final thoughts on what to avoid.

  1. If you have a family, avoid dinners out. Try breakfast, lunch or coffee/tea.
  2. Don’t join a civic or charitable group to get business. Join only those that you are passionate about the cause, then find a way to ultimately lead the group.
  3. Even if you think it is the greatest client development tool ever invented, don’t spend more than an hour a day on social media sites (there is a young lawyer I see on Twitter all the time and it makes me wonder when he has time to practice law)