How to Make Your Net Work: Beating the Numbers Game
You are not "networked" until you "work your net"
by Douglas Richardson
Skilled social media navigators frequently brag about all the people with whom they are "networked in" - their scores, hundreds or even thousands of LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers or Facebook friends. And certainly there's no doubt about it: the multiplier-effect capability of digital technology truly is astonishing if worked actively. Social media really can seem to bring the entire world within reach.
But what happens then, once you get it "in reach"?
For many of us introverted, autonomous lawyers, the answer is... absolutely nothing. We cultivate these lovely long lists of contacts, and we think and act as if having a bunch of electronic synapses means that the nerves are firing and meaningful message content is actually being communicated among all the cells. Not so. Those of you who gauge your networking success by the sheer number of contacts you can cultivate digitally (whether or not these contacts speak English or have any interest whatever in your professional services) need to get this through your head: you are not "networked" unless you make your net work, which is to say, unless you work your net.
A relationship game, not a numbers game
Whether you are using networking for business development, conducting a job search or just general professional self-aggrandizement, your networking efforts must extend beyond simply reaching out and touching someone - or a lot of someones. All you networkers - whether zealous or reluctant - must remember this: Contact Does Not Mean Impact.
A robo-caller may succeed in contacting me when I pick up my phone, but has no chance whatever of impacting me before I hang up. Or I may say yes to your LinkedIn request (and I usually do; what harm can saying yes do?), but that contact does not mean we have forged a functioning relationship.
It is far more important to know how to trigger an interpersonal impact, and in successful networking, impact - positive, actionable impact -- comes from one activity in particular: following up on initial contact.
Okay, I see you. Now what?
We're ready for your rebuttal here: you're going to say that powerful, positive impact also comes from visibility. All those articles you write, blogs you post, your Super Lawyer award (six years in a row), your year as Chairman of the Bar Association. Yeah, they count. They help bolster the brand, the image, the rep, the cred. But truth to tell, they generally do not translate directly into business: into new client relationships, into client trust and rapport - into mutually interdependent interactions. Those things come most and best from the impact that results from face-to-face interactions, from relationships that have a nuanced personal dimension.
FU means... Follow Up
Word of mouth may open the door but it does not close the sale. It's follow up that does that. Let me say that yet again: Following Up. Personally. Frequently. Appropriately. Effectively. Repeatedly. This is the part where lawyers' self-marketing efforts most often crater, because all this following up stuff is, by and large, a real drag and lawyers hate it: the calls (and repeated calls), the banal lunches lubricated with humdrum pleasantries, the articles, the speeches, participation on conference panels, rubber-chicken dinners and attendance at various meaningless events. All those things that take them away from practicing law, billing hours and showcasing their substantive legal expertise.
Just as social media freaks fall in love with their contact numbers, mindless networkers buy into the old salesman's numbers myth: If I get one sale for every 10 rejections, I should go out and try to get as many rejections as I can, right?
When you only have a limited amount of time for personal follow-up, setting priorities becomes Job One. You have to distinguish Tier One impacts from Tier Two contacts. That is, unless/until you have a lot of time available for mining low-probability leads, take the time to identify the people with whom you can hope to cultivate high-leverage, high-traction impact. Who are the people with high impact potential?
- People you have justifiable reason to believe may be Potential Clients
- Referral Resources: people who know others' needs and what it takes to address them
- Centers of Influence: people who can make things happen
- Connectors who delight and excel in bringing others together
Finally, to keep your networking interactions from devolving into a dull, daunting and disappointing numbers game, it helps to remember the fundamental characteristics of Christopher Columbus's successful voyages: 1) They had purpose. 2) They had direction. 3) They maintained momentum. 4) They rewarded perseverance. Put another way, effective networking is a human activity, not an electronic passivity.
Collaboration and Compensation (Part 1)
Collaboration-evaluation tools can help law firms improve teamwork outcomes
A senior executive in a large U.S. law firm recently sent me a challenging question that the partners wanted answers to: "Is there any proof that collaboration and teamwork improves a law firm's performance?" I sent the question to my colleagues at Edge and you could practically hear them muttering in their morning coffee across the countries we serve. The answers I got included "Are they serious? Of course it improves!" and "The corporate world is so convinced of this that their businesses have been working in teams for years."
I had to admit that it was a tough question. "Compared to what?" would be one response. There is no clear-cut empirical answer for law firms. To reframe the question: "Can we measure collaboration, demonstrate that it improves performance, and then reward it?" I believe that (1) good collaboration measurements exist; and (2) compensation systems can be tweaked to promote collaboration even when individualism is the reigning mode in lawyers' business development.
Business Development Collaboration Measurements
Two kinds of collaboration should be measured: (i) collaboration in business development, and (ii) internal teamwork in getting quality work done. In this article, I suggest some business development measurements.
A firm should measure both efforts and results. In preparation for annual self-appraisals and compensation interviews, partners should track this data throughout the year. Some examples are:
- Cross-referrals of existing clients to other practice groups (number made, number that lead to new revenue);
- Referral of new business prospects outside of your expertise or geographical location (and how many lead to new engagements);
- Participation in RFP responses and pitches (and success record);
- Joint speaking events and collaborative CLE offerings to clients, prospects or industry;
- Collaborative writing for publications (e.g., with an associate);
- Frequency of taking on a mentoring or buddy role for lateral senior lawyers; and
- Initiatives in forming cross-group teams to pitch new business to existing clients (without waiting for an RFP); success of those efforts.
This record keeping will only be effective if the marketing department provides forms and easy ways of "looking back," because many lawyers will do the tracking only in last month. Nevertheless, the individual lawyers should be responsible for keeping the data and reporting in table form at year-end.
Going back to our doubting law firm, imagine if they had promoted collection of this data for two years and then correlated high collaboration to the financial performance and business prospects of those teams?
Next month, we'll explore how to measure internal teamwork and how to assess these subjective factors in compensation.
David Cruickshank advises firms on talent development, leadership and compensation.
Contact the author, David Cruickshank.
Speaking to a Buyer's Market
How to align your personal skills with the worldwide evolution of the legal profession
by John Plank
The rules of engagement have changed. In the past, consumers chose local law firms based primarily on recommendations and local reputation. They were not expected to understand the language and the complexities of law, how long matters might take, nor what they should cost.
Today, with much more choice available, consumers are emboldened to ask questions: "Why your services?" "How long will it take?" "How much will it cost?" They need to hear straight, understandable answers: consumers respond positively to simpler, personally engaging communication.
So: how's your storytelling?
In this buyer's market, the successful lawyer will be the better storyteller, more skilled in creating and communicating clear and convincing descriptions of unique services, abilities and value to potential clients. He or she will establish rapport with clients at a personal level, tell relevant stories, and adapt to a wide range of personalities. Your stories, and how well you tell them, had better be good.
You can do three things, right now, to release your natural storytelling abilities.
1. Take a trial lawyer to lunch. The very best litigators are master storytellers. In a 2013 Yale University study, experts analyzed the qualities of competing narratives in trials before reading the juries' findings, and found that the variance in verdicts was reliably predicted by the quality of narratives. In short, the best storytellers win most of the time.
When offers of services from competing providers seem roughly equal, the better speakers have the competitive edge. So if you have friends or colleagues who are successful litigators, ask them to share their secrets.
2. Get your own story straight. To improve your storytelling technique, create your best, most compelling "core" story: take your own, personal narrative and the story of your firm and turn it into an interesting 20-minute story.
Set the bar high. This is not simply a transfer of information: you must make it a damn good story. You might be surprised by how much you'll learn in the process, and how much it will add to the effectiveness of all of your talks with prospective clients and new colleagues.
3. Enrich your culture. I am currently working with a group of forensic engineers who present expert evidence and appear as expert witnesses in trials throughout North America. Like many lawyers, engineers generally would rather write than speak, and often feel they lack credibility when required to do the latter. Reasoning logically, as engineers do, this group mandated the development of personal communication skills as a professional development priority.
They created a "Speakers Club" that gathers every week by video link to watch three or four colleagues give a short presentation, followed by a positive and constructive critique and group discussion. A "Speaking Idol" contest was the highlight of their annual retreat.
These engineers have delivered and critiqued more than 200 presentations in less than a year, and the quality of the presentations has undergone an astonishing improvement. In addition to achieving faster and better preparation and delivery of presentations, they have experienced a marked increase in individual self-confidence and overall morale.
These three activities can be implemented today, and you can enjoy an immediate and positive impact on your firm's culture, capabilities and client relationships in the result.
Contact the author, John Plank
Legal League Consulting, LLC
Delhi and Mumbai,
At The Podium: Upcoming Appearances by Edge Partners
Keynote Presentation, QT Hotel, Gold Coast, QLD, Aus 9th Lawtech Summit Australia
Jordan Furlong, Sept. 12
Keynote Address, American Bar Association (ABA)'s Section Officers Conference, Chicago, IL
Gerry Riskin, Sept. 18
Roger Williams University School of Law 3rd Annual Professor Anthony J. Santoro Business Law Lecture Series
Jordan Furlong, Sept. 22
Special Lecture, The 21st-Century Lawyer, Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, ON
Jordan Furlong, Oct. 1
Keynote Webinar, The Changing Legal Market, Washington State Bar Association, Seattle, WA