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Navigating Attorney Ethics While Networking and Building a Book of Business

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Navigating Attorney Ethics While Networking and Building a Book of Business

Networking and client outreach are key at many points in a legal career, from strengthening current client relationships to getting jobs to building your professional community. Yet many lawyers shy away from networking or worry about running afoul of ethical rules when talking to prospective clients. This CLE addresses key professional rules lawyers should follow when engaging in practice management activities and walks participants through the creation of a personalized plan designed to help them communicate with current and prospective clients in an effective and ethical way.

Presenters

Kelli Lanski
Attorney & Founder
The Career Files

Transcript

Kelli Lanski - Hi, and welcome to this CLE, Navigating Attorney Ethics While Networking and Building a Book of Business. I'm Kelli Lanski, and I'm a lawyer with over a decade of experience in federal litigation, regulatory, and investigations work. I also founded and run The Career Files, a business dedicated to helping lawyers thrive at work by addressing professional development and other skills you don't necessarily learn in law school.

 

This CLE is designed to help you comply with your professional responsibility rules while engaging in practice management activities, and specifically on communicating with clients or potential clients for networking or practice building purposes. Effective professional communication habits can help you build your practice in a number of ways, not the least because they encourage clients or other lawyers to think of you when they have an issue or a new case for the simple fact that they've gotten to know you, your abilities, and developed a sense of trust. Remember that building your practice takes time, but consistent communication can help you reach your goals. With that in mind, the goal for this CLE is to help you develop a plan you can implement to make those practice building communications a habit.

 

Here's what we'll cover over the next hour. First, some ethical rules you should know when communicating with current or prospective clients. Second, we'll answer the why question. Why should you step up your communication efforts based on your own personal and professional practice management goals? Third, we'll cover the individuals with whom you should and can be connecting, keeping those ethical rules in mind, particularly Model Rule 7.3. Fourth, we'll identify key times in your calendar when it makes sense to reach out to your professional network and ethical land mines to avoid, again, using Rule 7.3 as our guide. Fifth and finally, we'll discuss how to pull all this information together to create a plan to reach out to consistently and ethically, particularly in light of rules 1.6, 7.1, and 7.2. As we go through the CLE, I'll be referencing your supplemental handout frequently and in detail, so I encourage you to download that now for easy reference.

 

First up, let's talk about some of the key professional responsibility rules that we'll be covering throughout the CLE. I'll be focusing on the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Many states have modeled their professional codes on the ABA's rules. And of course, you should be familiar with and follow any applicable rules in your state or jurisdiction. Four rules I'll discuss today are 1.6, 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3. These rules address attorney conduct when communicating with potential clients and soliciting business. As I'll discuss later, most of the communications in your practice management plan should focus on building relationships and finding common ground, not soliciting business. But there is some gray area when reaching out to potential clients and even current clients, it may be done with the ultimate goal of winning business. So, it's best to know and think about these rules whenever engaging in business development communications. I'll discuss these rules in detail throughout the CLE.

 

Let's move into the nuts and bolts of building your practice through ethical communication habits, and that starts with answering the why question. Depending on where you work, you may not need to go out and find your own clients immediately, but most lawyers in private practice will eventually need to do some work to retain current clients for new business, or to find new clients for new business. And if you're like many lawyers, when you think about doing that, you deflate a little bit, you might think of networking or client outreach as a chore, or is requiring you to act salesy or pushy, or to ask people to do something for you, or to give you something, and that doesn't appeal to you. I get it, that's not appealing to me either, and why would it be? Who wants to be the person who's always asking for favors?

 

The key to engaging in these communications successfully and getting motivated to really incorporate them into your professional life is to reframe them from that negative into a positive. I do that in a couple of ways. First, I think of networking and practice management like making personal connections, even friends. Second, I remember that these relationships are two-way streets. It's about people helping each other, not just one person taking and the other person giving. It's also helpful to think about what networking is not or what it shouldn't be. Networking is not transactional. Successful, enjoyable networking should form genuine connections and does not include score keeping. Now, successful networkers are often systematic in their networking, they do it on a schedule or they adhere to a plan like the one we're going to discuss, but their actual conversations and the connections they build with the people they meet are genuine. Even if they are putting reminders in their calendar to reach out to so and so, they're gonna reach out in a way that feels right. Networking is not taking without giving. In fact, most of the time when you reach out to your professional network, your primary goal should be to provide value to them, to give them helpful information or invitations to some sort of event or CLE, for example. It's important for you to understand your own more motivations for engaging in practice management and practice building communications.

 

So, here are some common goals and benefits to consider. First, making connections and building your professional community. Of course, a major goal and benefit of networking and client outreach is to help you make professional connections who can help you build and support your career. But another way to think about that is building your professional community or your professional support system, people you can lean on or who can lean on you for mentorship and for guidance. Another goal or benefit of networking is to learn and improve. When you connect with professionals in your industry, you can learn a lot about their work, about your work and their specific jobs or even workplaces. It can also help you identify experts in areas where you wanna learn more. If for example, you strike out on your own as a solo practitioner, networking with other solo practitioners can allow you to talk through challenges that you all face. And on a practical level, it can help you identify vendors, software, other solutions that your new business needs.

 

Networking is a great way to strengthen current and potential client relationships. Winning business tends to be a long-term effort. And if you're early in your career, it might not even be on your radar, but the connections you make as a young lawyer can last throughout your career and may actually become a source of business for you later. If for example, you start your career working at a large law firm, you're not going to be bringing in clients on day one, most likely. But as the years pass and your classmates and your colleagues move on from their first jobs to other opportunities like in-house positions, you're going to be growing and learning together. And by the time you do reach that senior associate or partner level, your friends and former classmates will also be reaching the point where they're senior enough to potentially dole out business and they could give it to you. That's a side benefit of building and sustaining what should otherwise be fulfilling relationships or friendships, but a benefit nonetheless.

 

Building connections with other lawyers is also a great way to get referrals. I see this all the time in my investigations work. If, for example, the SEC is investigating a company and your firm represents the company, your firm may not also want to represent individuals the SEC decides to interview, meaning the company needs to hire new counsel for those executives or those employees. Many will simply reach out to their current lawyers, in this case your firm, for a referral. And then your firm lawyers, the outside counsel will tap their networks to make a recommendation. Networking is also a way to deepen your relationship with current clients. If, for example, you get to know the general counsel of a firm client while working with them as a junior associate, they may begin to refer work to you as you develop into a senior associate, or become counsel, or partner. Or they may ask that you get staffed on their matters, that's a great way for you to demonstrate your value to your law firm. Getting a job is, of course, a huge reason why many people network or why they step up their networking game at key points and time in their career.

 

It's also another reason why you should remember that networking is often about a long-term pay off. If you get laid off or you simply decide you wanna move on to another job, your professional network can help connect you to great opportunities. People will be willing to stick their neck out for you if they can trust you and your work, meaning you've spent time establishing a relationship with them. Building your brand, establishing your reputation is another great benefit of networking. Getting your name known as an expert in your niche, or your industry, or your geographic location is a way to develop business naturally. By that, I mean you naturally become the go-to person for certain issues, or cases, or deals. Networking is a way for you to share that expertise and really add value to the people in your professional network. Helping others is a great benefit of networking. In my earlier example, if you recommended a colleague to your client as individual counsel in that SEC investigation, you'd be helping your friend, you'd also be strengthening that relationship. Many seasoned lawyers will network with young lawyers because they just enjoy helping them or they wanna pay it forward after a senior lawyer helped them when they were first starting out. Networking is a way for you to contribute to that cycle.

 

So, networking sounds amazing, why isn't everybody doing it consistently? While there are some barriers to these types of practice building communications, real and imagined. Three common barriers to reaching out to networks on a consistent basis are I don't know how to do it, I have no time to do it, or I'm nervous or I'm anxious about reaching out.

 

Let's discuss these in more detail. The first barrier, I don't have how to do it. If this is you, you're not alone. Business communications, especially for the purpose of building your network or managing your practice aren't something you learn in school. And if you're introverted or shy, you may have actively avoided practicing them while you were a student. The good news is that you can talk to people in ways that are comfortable for you. If, for example, you feel overwhelmed trying to work the room at a big event, you can focus your efforts on smaller even one-on-one interactions. The second piece of good news is that this CLE will teach you some simple ways to connect with your current and potential clients. In truth, there's no magic formula to networking or business development, it's about being committed and consistent in your outreach efforts, and genuine in your interactions.

 

The second barrier is I have no time. As a junior lawyer, this was my excuse for falling behind in my outreach efforts. When you're super busy billing hours or with family and personal obligations, it's really easy to let networking slide, it just doesn't feel necessary. This is where finding your personal motivation really matters. So, take a second and think about future you, where do you wanna be in your career? What do you want your law practice to look like? Now, think about what can help you get there. Maybe it's building some professional connections who can refer work to you or even help you get a job at their workplace. The key to getting over this particular barrier is to make practice management communications a habit and part of your everyday working life, or really your weekly working life. You do this by creating a plan and scheduling time to conduct outreach. Unless you're in a busy job hunting or business building season of life, the bulk of this networking can be done in about an hour a week.

 

The third big barrier to networking is feeling nervous or anxious about reaching out to people. Many people feel this way because they don't wanna bother others, they don't wanna annoy others, or they're afraid of saying the wrong thing or embarrassing themselves. Let's be honest for a second here is every interaction gonna pan out? No. Will you be a little awkward at times? Probably, but so will the rest of us. One thing to remember is that the people you're networking with are likely looking for connections too. As I said at the outset, networking is a two-way street. You're not bothering them, you're engaging in a mutually beneficial and hopefully enjoyable relationship. Some ways you can overcome this barrier are practicing and preparing ahead of time. The supplemental handout includes some scripts you can use for key networking opportunities, which can help you do that. You can practice in low stake situations like striking up a conversation with someone you don't know at a happy hour, or you can start out even lower stakes than that and simply observe people who seem to have a handle on small talk, on networking, and then try to emulate the things you see them doing. Also, think about putting yourself in the shoes of the person you're meeting. If for example, you're at a networking event, or a bar association meeting, or an alumni mixer, would you feel annoyed if someone came up and struck up a conversation and chatted with you? No, right? That's really why you're there, to meet people.

 

So, be that conversational icebreaker for somebody else in the room. My favorite way for getting over this barrier is to think about what's the worst that could happen? Maybe you walk up to somebody and they don't wanna talk to you. They're rude, they walk away. Maybe you send an email and somebody ignores it or they respond not interested. That's really it, right? None of those scenarios, none of those outcomes are catastrophic, you can bounce back from many of them. Now, take a look at your supplemental handout and specifically to practice management plan. After completing this document, which we're gonna start on the CLE, you'll have a three month communication plan in place. It's gonna include 30 of your key professional contacts plus at least one goal connection, somebody you don't know but want to, and at least one group you intend to join or you just wanna increase your participation in if you're already a member. Each month, you'll connect with 10 of these contacts in some meaningful way, sending them an interesting article or reaching out to share some news of your own. And you'll keep track of these efforts so you can always get a visual on who you haven't connected with in a while. First up is section one, which asks you to think about your personal motivation for reaching out to your current and potential clients. Either now or later, take some time to think through the questions listed and write down your personal answers to the questions on the sheet.

 

First, I want you to identify your personal why. What do you hope to gain from conducting consistent communication efforts to people in your network? Are you looking for a job? Are you hoping to make partner and wanna build a book of business? What is your motivation for engaging in networking communications on a consistent basis? Second, think about a specific practice-based goal you wanna work toward. Are you aiming to deepen your relationships with current clients, build relationships in a particular industry, learn about a new type of job for a career pivot? This should be a goal you wanna start working toward over the next three months. Third, think about your own personal fears, hesitations, your barriers to networking. Fourth, think through how you can overcome those barriers you just identified. Once you have your answers written down, refer to them as needed as you put your plan into action to both recall and reinforce your motivation and to bounce back from any minor setbacks.

 

Now, that you've identified why you wanna network and reach out to current prospective clients, other lawyers, you've gotta figure out who to get it in touch with. There is a whole wide world out there, how do you narrow it down? I have two rules to make outreach manageable in terms of answering the who question. First, focus on quality over quantity. Your goal when building your practice should not necessarily be to amass the most contacts on LinkedIn, but instead to build relationships with people you wanna get to know and who you think should get to know you. Second, think strategically. This can be difficult if you're working in private practice and thinking about business development, it may feel like the entire world is a potential client.

 

So, who's strategic for you? First, go back to your goals. Are you looking to advance within your firm or your organization? Then identify internal contacts who are essential to your professional growth, like individual partners, practice group chairs, or committee chairs. If your goal in section one was to deepen your relationships within a particular industry, think about your ideal client or connection in that industry. Where do they work? Where do they live? What interests them? What are their needs and how can you help them? And then how do you find them? Bar associations, maybe industry groups, or networking groups like the Chamber of Commerce, LinkedIn and Facebook groups might be another source. Who do you know in that industry with whom you already have a relationship? Maybe you can keep in that relationship. All those people you've just thought about that you have just identified, they should go into your practice management, your practice building plan. You may have many goals for your practice, there may be several industries that you're interested in. That's fine, the purpose of this exercise is to focus in on a pretty targeted goal for the next three months to help you create your plan and establish a habit of outreach and of networking.

 

So, you've just identified some contacts while thinking about your goals, to help you keep brainstorming here are some additional common categories of people who can be great additions to your professional community. Former classmates, fellow alums of your law school or your university, your former professors, particularly those with whom you established a good relationship while you were at school, your colleagues, current colleagues and former colleagues at the same level, people junior to you, and people senior to you. Co-counsel and opposing counsel on your matters, your current clients, other lawyers who are practicing in your practice area, people you meet in bar association meetings, special interest groups, industry organizations, and then people who are in your personal network, friends, neighbors, even family. That's quite a list, so another way to prioritize within these categories is by identifying connection points with your contacts. These are things you have in common that can make building a relationship a little bit easier. For example, someone might be an alum of the same university or law school, you might work in the same practice area, you might come from the same state or city or have the same pre-law career. You might currently live in the same city or state, or they work in your target job or industry. You might have shared hobbies or belong to the same industry or other group. The more connection points you have with a person, the easier you may find it to build a relationship and to find things to talk about.

 

And as I'll discuss next, focusing on people with whom you do have that strong connection is important in light of your ethical obligations, especially with respect to Model Rule 7.3, so let's talk about that now. Rule 7.3 address the solicitation of clients. It's a pretty lengthy rule, the text is on the screen for you. Mainly it prohibits live solicitation when a significant motive is your own pecuniary gain. This solicitation is prohibited when you're communicating with a person you know or reasonably should know needs legal services in a particular matter. With this rule and all of the rules we'll discuss, the comments can be really helpful to help you understand and flesh out what the rule means. And the comments to this rule note that the idea behind it is that when a lawyer reaches out to a person who needs or may need a lawyer and does so in a live format like a face-to-face meeting or a phone call, there's the potential for overreach. There's the sense that the lawyer might be taking advantage of this person's vulnerability for the lawyer's own financial gain. Note that information directed to the general public is not a solicitation under this rule. And if you reach out in writing in a way that can be easily ignored like a letter, or an email, or a LinkedIn message, there's less cause for concern because that is not a live solicitation. And the who really matters here. There is far less likelihood that a lawyer is gonna engage in overreaching against a former client or a person with whom you have a close personal, family, business, or professional relationship, or in situations where you're motivated by something other than your own pecuniary gain. There's also less serious potential for overreach when the person you contact is a lawyer themselves, or is known to routinely use the type of legal services involved for their own business purposes.

 

What are the take-aways of this rule? Well, this rule is what many people think of as the ambulance chasing rule, relates to personal injury lawyers, and it means that they can't follow you into the hospital after a car accident, chasing the ambulance along the way and give you their business card while you lie in the ER on a gurney. But it's not so limited, it applies to all areas of law, not just personal injury. A second key take-away of this rule is that the concerns expressed in the rule apply to a lesser extent if you have a close personal, business, or professional relationship, or if you're reaching out to a lawyer or someone who routinely high lawyers for business purposes. This rule should really drive home for you that when it comes to building your practice, focusing on your established relationships is key as is connecting with decision makers. So, be careful about the individuals with whom you're building those relationships. If you're targeting a particular company or industry, for example, focus your communications on in-house lawyers rather than a lower-level business person who isn't routinely hiring lawyers for the company's legal needs.

 

Let's turn again to your supplemental handout, this time refer to section two. This section provides a template you can model for a master contact list to track your networking and practice-related contacts over time. I've created a sample row for you here in the handout listing several categories I suggest you complete for each person. I like to use Excel for my own master list, but you should use whatever program works for you. Add professional context to this list based on the strategic thinking I just discussed, keeping Rule 7.3 in mind, and the goal you identified in section one of the plan. These are people with whom you wanna build a strong professional relationship potentially for future business, but potentially not based on your goals. To avoid getting overwhelmed, start with a manageable number, 30 contacts. When you're done brainstorming people, you may have more than 30 on your list so just highlight the 30 who are most important to you in light of your current practice building goals.

 

This list is a living, growing document, and you'll be adding to it over time as you identify additional connections with whom you wanna build a stronger or a deeper relationship. But if you don't have 30 people on your list initially, that's okay too, we all start somewhere. For every person on your list, you'll fill out a row for them in your master contact spreadsheet using the categories I've provided, which will allow you to identify people easily based on key features. For example, if you plan to attend a CLE on antitrust issues, you can filter your list by practice area to find other antitrust lawyers that you could then email to invite to the CLE. You'll have their email addresses handy in the chart. And if you look to the last several pages of the handout, you'll have some scripts you can use to tweak and write your emails. All of this means that in a matter of minutes you'll have engaged in some networking, been of use to your professional contacts, and potentially found yourself a friend to chat with at a CLE. This step is going to be the most time-intensive of all the steps, so I encourage you to set aside some time over the next few days to create your master contact list if not today. In addition to adding people to this list over time, you'll be making note of your key communications with them as a way to keep track of who you've been in touch with lately.

 

The contact fields at the far right of the chart show you how to do that. For each significant contact include the date of that contact and then a few notes about the contact itself. Over time, as you reach out to people repeatedly, add additional contact fields as needed. To really make your contact list a super resource for you, take a minute and also think about any gaps in your list once you have your initial group of 30. Are there individuals you wanna meet or get to know, but don't have on your list? Those are now goal contacts, so add a few goal contacts to your list. And in your final networking and practice management plan, you'll make a plan for moving those goal connections to your main list. So far, we've been really focused on individuals that you wanna connect with, but one way to fast track your networking and your practice building is to get involved with organizations that are relevant to your career or your practice area. So, spend a few minutes thinking about some such organizations and jot them down on your plan, include groups you've already joined and groups you wanna learn more about. If you don't belong to any industry groups, I suggest you join at least one like a local bar association. Now, it's time to turn to the when question. When should you network? And Rule 7.3 is going to continue to be our guide here.

 

So, you know who you wanna network with initially, the question then becomes when do you do it? Remember, networking and practice management are ongoing processes, and you should start building your network as early as possible. Your classmates and friends from college, law school, even earlier than that can be great business connections for you years down the road. That said, it's never too late to start building your network if you're taking this CLE as a more senior attorney. Keep in mind that repeat contacts are what lead to the most helpful and genuine connections and to business, so it's important to think through some times when it would be helpful or logical to reach out throughout the year. So, here are some logical times when it makes sense to reach out to various members of your professional network. When your job hunting, when you'll be in the same town as them, or at the same conference or event, that's a great time to catch up with your connections. When you get a new job, when they get a new job, or when one of you has something to celebrate. If you write a relevant article, or you are giving a CLE or a talk, if you notice that they do that, if you see an event they might enjoy if you're going to an event and you want to invite them. And follow-up communications are also really helpful to building and deepening your relationships if you do meet up or connect by phone or in-person. Those are some times when it might make sense to reach out, now, how often should you reach out to maintain your professional connections and relationships? As I said, more frequent connections are what will be most helpful to deepening a relationship, and also studies have shown that frequent contacts are what ultimately lead to business, but you don't need to go overboard. Generally, reaching out to your key professional contacts, your top 30 on that list you've been putting together three to four times a year should be plenty.

 

There are always exceptions to the rule and here are my exceptions to that general rule. First is LinkedIn. LinkedIn makes it so easy to check-in with your entire network pretty quickly and more frequently than every three to four times a year by reading posts people make, by liking, or by commenting on posts. And this is pretty low-key because it doesn't really require the poster, your contact to do anything in return. Another exception to the general rule is when you're job hunting, if you're speaking with a connection for job hunting reasons, you may be in touch several times within the span of a month or two, often at their initiation or their invitation to discuss the position, your application, maybe they help you with interview prep. And then, of course, you'll always reach out to thank them for their time. Sometimes more frequent contact will just feel natural. For example, if you meet a contact for coffee and you talk about a hockey game that they're going to that weekend, you're also a fan of the team, it may feel natural to you to check-in with them after the game to either celebrate your team's win or commiserate over the failure. Aiming to get in touch three to four times a year just isn't a bright line rule, but if you are focused on deepening a particular relationship, sustaining a particular relationship, it should be a goal. As always, we need to keep our ethical obligations in mind, and again, Rule 7.3 comes into play here.

 

Remember, this was the ambulance chasing rule we just discussed. And with respect to the when question, it has a couple of implications. First is remember that it was the live nature of these solicitations that was a major issue. And so, if you are reaching out to someone face-to-face or in-person to solicit their business at a time when you know or reasonably should know they're looking for a lawyer on a particular matter, that's when that concern is at its height. That is where the risk for a potential overreach or taking advantage of a vulnerable person is really highest. Remember also, that a reason you were reaching out was also important, so if you're reaching out for your own financial gain versus another reason, that's going to impact the potential risk and the concern associated with Rule 7.3.

 

So, in terms of takeaways for the when question, this rule teaches us that those live solicitation concerns only impact live solicitations, right? So remember, that outreach to the general public is not live solicitation, and an email or a LinkedIn message is not a live solicitation. So, you may find it easy or easier in your outreach efforts to do a lot of communications in writing over email. And again, the who really matters, so you're going to be mainly reaching out to people you already know with whom you already have a close professional, or business, or even familial, or friend relationship. And finally, the when question really matters, if you reach out only when you hear someone has been sued or is thinking about suing someone else, the concern for overreach is gonna be a lot higher than if you're reaching out to people when you have some information of value to share, or if you're reaching out, let's say, at the end of the year to wish them a happy new year, the concern and the risk with respect to the solicitation nature of the communication is going to be a lot different.

 

With that in mind, it's time again to apply this information to your personal circumstances. Refer back to your supplemental handout in section three of the practice management communication plan. Open up your calendar and look ahead to the next three or so months. Do you have any key moments coming up? By that, I mean you'll be publishing an article in an industry newsletter, you'll be attending a conference or a CLE, you'll be giving a CLE. If the end of the year is coming up, that's always a great time to reach out to your network by sending a simple end of year note or a happy new year card. Think about those moments and then write them down in your plan. These will be some of the markers around which you'll focus some of your outreach efforts over the next three months. These are times when it will feel natural for you to reach out to certain people. And these are times when, depending on your circumstances, their circumstances, the nature of the outreach, you may feel more comfortable reaching out to them in light of Rule 7.3 and your ethical considerations. If you look at your calendar and you think, "Wow, I don't have any key moments coming up in the next three months," I will discuss how you can find some in a moment. So far, you know why you personally want to deepen your professional relationships, who you intend to reach out to, at least initially, and you're thinking about or have thought about some key points in time when it's gonna feel right for you to reach out to at least some of those professional contacts.

 

The next step is actually doing it, actually networking, so let's go over some common outreach methods. Email, phone calls, LinkedIn, as I said before, that can be a really low pressure, easy way to stay connected. It's also a great way to identify interesting articles, news, et cetera. Bar association and industry events can be great networking opportunities. Again, they're relatively easy for you. The events are set up and the purpose is often to meet other people, so it's less of a cold call approach. Inviting your connections out for a drink or a coffee or a meal either in-person or virtually is also a very common and pretty simple way to engage in some networking. And then a more active way to network is to give or attend CLEs, seminars, conferences, and invite your connections to participate.

 

I said I would help you identify some key moments in your calendar if you haven't already, so how can you identify events, or seminars, or articles, or other points of note that you wanna share with your network? I suggest three methods. First, sign into LinkedIn regularly. Not only does this help you stay on top of individual connections and their news, but it's a great source of newsworthy content to share. Second, sign up for alerts and newsletters relating to your industry so you have a treasure trove of possible networking ideas, legal publications like Law360, The American Lawyer, and also just general news sources like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal are going to give you well-rounded coverage as will newsletters from any groups you've joined, which may alert you to interesting events or CLEs. Third, set up Google Alerts for your clients, for your cases or deals, and for key terms in your industry or your targeted industries so that you can stay on top of news and developments that are relevant to your practice. To avoid cluttering your inbox, I suggest you set up a filter to sort these newsletters and alerts into a networking ideas folder that you set up in your mailbox. And this way you can review them as you have time throughout the week, or you can review them during your weekly outreach hour, which I discuss shortly. The next slide lists some specific ideas to inspire you in your networking efforts.

 

Reading through these ideas, a few points should stand out to you. First, you can network within your own office. If you work at a law firm, business development frequently happens with your colleagues through inter-firm referrals between practice areas. So, it's really helpful for you even if you're junior to get to know lawyers who work in complimentary practice areas, firms really like to try to cross-sell. If for example, you work in some investigations work and you become an expert on FCPA issues, deal lawyers may want you to weigh in on their deals rather than have their clients go to an outside firm to find an FCPA expert. So, if the deal lawyers at your firm know that you can provide that guidance because you've networked with them, you've gotten to know them, that is a great referral source for you and you don't even have to leave the office. Second, you can network while working on your active matters. You may already be getting to know co-counsel on your cases who work at other firms. I frequently work on large matters with multiple defendants, and so there will be a deposition, lots of lawyers traveling in representing different parties, traveling for the deposition, it's common for us to grab lunch or a drink when we're all in the same town for the same deposition or hearing. Your relationship with the opposing council can also be a networking opportunity. It might be more contentious than your relationship with co-counsel, but getting to know each other as people can usually make the relationship a little bit better. You don't have to become best friends, but if you're both at the airport waiting for a flight home from a deposition, sit down, have a chat, have a drink at the airport bar.

 

Also, you can connect with your professional contacts on a personal level to discuss shared hobbies or interests. A great topic of conversation at professional networking events is often travel. In the age of COVID, it's not as popular, but in normal times, talking about vacations to where you've been, where you're planning to go could be a great way to break the ice with people and to find common ground on a non-work related issue. It's also a great and easy way to follow-up with someone if you or they give a recommendation for a trip one of you has coming up, you can follow-up with them over email later to let them know how it panned out. Did you love the restaurant they recommended? Did they enjoy the tour that you suggested they take? You can also invite professional connections to shared hobbies like a book club or an exercise class. You don't have to, of course, many people want to keep firmer boundaries in place between their personal and their professional lives. But my point is that you can be flexible based on what works for you and creative. Network and conduct outreach in a way that feels authentic and genuine for you, and you will be more likely to actually make it a habit and probably see much more success from it because you're building relationships that are meaningful to you.

 

Of course, when you're engaging in these networking communications, keep your ethical rules in mind. There are many of the Model Rules that could apply to a given communication, but I wanna focus on three rules, 1.6, 7.1, and 7.2, 1.6 relates to the confidentiality of information. This is a very, very important rule that I am sure you are familiar with as a lawyer, it's one of the very first things we learn about in law school and especially as we begin practicing, the importance of keeping client information confidential. This rule provides that a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to their representation of a client unless the client has given informed consent, or the disclosure is impliently authorized in order to carry out the representation. And then, it lists a number of ways in which that authorization may be implied. If for example, the lawyer reasonably believes that disclosure is necessary to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm, to prevent the commission of a crime or a fraud by the client, to secure legal advice about that lawyer's compliance with the ethical rules, to comply with another law or a court order. And there are others in the rule that you can read on the screen there for you. There are other Model Rules that relate to this rule like 1.18, 1.9, and 1.8, which refer to conflicts of interests and communications relating to other clients.

 

But let's talk about some of the key comments and take-aways to this rule. First is that this rule is foundational to the lawyer-client relationship and the client's trust that you will keep their information confidential is really necessary to that relationship and to the building of that trust in the relationship, it's going to lead to an open discussion, open discourse between you and your client, which you really need in order to represent them well. The duty of confidentiality continues after relationship has terminated, so that's something you wanna keep in mind with respect to networking communications because if you're tempted to talk about some of your past cases with prospective clients, or when chatting with another lawyer at a bar event, you need to keep this rule in mind so that you don't overshare and share information that's not public knowledge, even for a case or a matter that has already ended.

 

So, the bottom line for this rule is be careful, be careful when you speak to anyone about your work for your clients, whether that be a prospective client, or a friend, or another lawyer at an industry or a bar event, be careful what you talk about, do not reveal confidential information unless you have your client's consent or an exception to the general rule of confidentiality applies. One such exception may be with respect to conflicts of interest. If, for example, you are talking to another law firm because you are thinking about working with them long-term or on a particular case, just be mindful of the fact that that may mean you can share some more information about client work than you could otherwise, but that's a limited exception. And always, you should focus on sharing really what is just reasonably necessary to resolve the conflict of interest or fulfill the exception.

 

You'll also need to keep Rule 7.1 in mind, communications concerning a lawyer's services. This is a shorter rule, it states that a lawyer shall not make a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services. A communication is false or misleading if it contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law, or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading. Again, the commentary to this rule can be really helpful to understanding it. This rule is one we typically think of with respect to advertising, but it's not so limited in its text. And the comment to the rule explains when a statement may be misleading but truthful. If for example, a reasonable person would form an unjustified expectation of the same results the lawyer got for another client. So, you may have discussed the result you got from a prior case and in doing so you would allow a potential client to assume, "Well, I'm gonna get the same result." That could be an example of a time when you shared truthful information, but it was misleading. And that's why you tend to see lots of disclaimers on lawyer advertisements saying something like, "Results, not typical." The comments also caution against unsubstantiated comparisons about your work or your firm's work or fees compared to another lawyer or law firm. Those types of comparisons may be misleading if they're presented so specifically that again, that reasonable person would conclude that the comparison or the claim can actually be substantiated.

 

So, here are a couple of take-aways from this rule that you need to keep in mind when you engage in networking. First, be careful. Be careful when you speak, include this disclaimers, include caveats as necessary. That's likely pretty natural to you as a lawyer, but it bears stating anyway. Second, worry about yourself. Don't exaggerate, don't disparage other lawyers or law firms when talking about your work. You may think that you're better than all the other law firms in your practice area, you can have that belief, but let the people you're talking to come to their own conclusions, let them draw their own comparisons, don't make those comparisons for them.

 

Next up, we have Rule 7.2, which builds off of 7.1, it's communications concerning a lawyer's services specific rules. Another lengthy rule here, this one states that a lawyer may communicate information regarding the lawyer's services through any media. The rule also addresses formal business referral agreements, whether with another lawyer or through the use of a referral service, and it limits how you can describe yourself with respect to any specialization in your legal practice. As usual, the comments to the rule are very helpful and they point out that the purpose of this rule is to encourage transparency and honesty in making referrals. And to ensure that if a lawyer making a referral is benefiting from it in some way, it's known to the client. This rule prohibits lawyers from agreeing to an exclusive referral arrangement, but you can use referral arrangements again, if they're explained to the client and if you do your due diligence when working with any type of referral service. In terms of how you describe yourself, paragraph C allows you to communicate that you do or do not practice in particular areas of law. And generally, you can use terms like concentrates in, or specializes in a particular field, as long as it's based on your experience, specialized training, or education. However, keep in mind, that these communications are subject to the false and misleading standard that applied in Rule 7.1 to communications concerning a lawyer's services.

 

So, what are our take-aways from this rule? First, remember that referrals are allowed, but if they are given pursuant to some kind of agreement, you need to explain that agreement to the client, and that agreement may not be exclusive. If you use a lead generation or a referral service, you need to research it to confirm that it complies with the rule, and you should not hold yourself out as a formal specialist in a particular practice area, unless you are and can prove it. Generally, just be very careful when about your areas of expertise, you just wanna make sure you can back up whatever statements you're making. With that in mind, let's refer again to our plan and the supplemental handout. In section four, I want you to write down the outreach efforts you'll commit to making based on your communication preferences. These can be things like asking a colleague out for coffee or attending a conference. Write them all down, any ideas that you have, even if you don't have a specific way to implement each idea right now.

 

So, you can write down go to a conference, even if you don't have a particular conference in mind. Then in the future, if you find yourself sort of stuck or getting bored with your current networking efforts, or maybe they're just getting a bit stale, you can look back at this section of your plan for new inspiration. Add to this list over time as you practice networking, as you get comfortable networking, and as you learn which methods of outreach you enjoy the most and that have worked the best for you. The last step for this CLE is putting your three month practice management communication plan into action. So, keep your handout out and turn to section five of your plan, which includes a chart for you to fill out, and this will become your three month plan. Pick an upcoming make three month period, and for each month within that period, identify 10 of your professional contacts to connect with via email, or phone, or in-person. Next, pick one event or activity you'll participate in with at least one professional group each month. Again, you may not know specific events yet, that's okay, just write down a general event you might want to attend like a happy hour, or a CLE, or a networking reception. And then, you'll update your plan as you identify specific events over time. You should also identify and write down in your plan one goal connection you will reach out to during the three month period.

 

Here are a few tips to make putting this plan together a little bit easier. First, group contacts who have something in common with each other in each month. For example, they work in the same practice area or they belong to the same industry group. Then if you find an interesting article you wanna share with one of them, you can share it with all of them very easily in a series of slightly tweaked emails. Second, if your contact list includes more than 30 people, pick just 30 to network with each quarter, especially during your first quarter, your first three month plan. Third, you don't need to pick a networking idea for each person ahead of time. You can make that decision as you reach out based on what makes sense in the moment, and more on that shortly. Fourth, as time goes on, as you get more comfortable networking, as it becomes more of a habit and you're able to compose and send your outreach communications more quickly, you can aim to reach out to more than 10 people per month. As the months go by, you can switch people around on your plan if it makes sense to reach out to them sooner rather than later. Fifth, remember when you reach out to your contacts, you're focused on making connections and building relationships. The relationship should be mutually beneficial. Most of your communications will be aimed at helping your contacts, not the other way around. You'll be sending them interesting articles, or congratulating them on a big win, or inviting them to a CLE you think they'll find helpful.

 

I've talked a lot in the CLE about the Model Rules that apply to communications where a primary purpose is soliciting business, but that will not be and really should not be the primary purpose or even a purpose of most your communications to your network. It's something you should keep in mind so you don't run afoul of those ethical rules when you communicate with current or prospective clients. But as I said at the beginning, business development is a long-term gain, and it comes after repeated contacts, after sustained relationship building where you've developed trust with your contacts and they've had a chance to get to know you and get to know what it is you bring to the table as a lawyer.

 

Finally, as you connect with each of your contacts or reach out to each of your contacts, update their contact fields in your master contact tracker. Remember, you'll be adding a column for the date you reached out and a column for notes about that outreach effort about your conversation, anything you wanna keep in mind for the future that's helpful for you to remember as you continue that relationship. Of course, there's no point in filling out this plan if you never look at it again. So, after you've put your plan together and after you fill in the chart in section five, open up your calendar and for the next three months create a recurring entry.

 

The entry should occur on a weekday and last for one hour, it should occur on a day and at a time when you are fairly certain you can stick to it. This is going to be your weekly networking or weekly outreach hour. I like to pick Tuesday mornings, I've settled in at work for the week, but I still have plenty of days left to get my substantive work done so I feel like I have time to give to networking. If I saved networking to the end of the week, I know myself and I know that I would be more likely to push it off because as the end of the week gets closer, you start to feel the time crunch of the weekend coming and so you don't wanna add more things to your plate. When that calendar appointment comes around each week, here's an example of how you can spend it. First, look at your three month plan and your contact list, identify which of your to-do items are left, meaning which people you haven't reached out to, which groups you need to engage with. If you have a goal contact, have you thought about how you're gonna get in touch with them or get to know them better? Second, log into LinkedIn, spend some time skimming for recent news and updates from people in your network. You can like, post, comment on posts as appropriate. That first step looking at your plan probably only takes you a couple minutes, spending time on LinkedIn maybe 10 minutes, third for the next 15 to 18 or so minutes scan your recent industry and group emails and newsletters.

 

Remember, these are the ones I talked about earlier in the CLE, you should sign up for these, you can filter them to one folder of your inbox so they're already for you to review during your weekly hour. Look at them to identify interesting articles, CLEs, events related to your work, your long-term goals, your professional contacts. Sign up for an event for this month if you haven't done so already. Next, your gonna take the most amount of time, 20 to 25 minutes, and you'll jot a note to two to three of this month's contacts. This is gonna be based on the research you just did reviewing LinkedIn and reviewing your industry emails. As you write these communications, it's okay to work from the scripts I provided in the handout or from prior communications that you've sent, but do make sure you spend a little bit of time to personalize each communication so that you're not sending, for example, a mass email to 10 of your contacts about a CLE. Then with the remaining five or so minutes, you'll update your master contact list to reflect these latest communications. And that's it, in an hour, you'll have checked in with your entire network via LinkedIn, and checked in with a couple of your contacts personally. You'll also have gained some more information and insight into your industry, into your practice area, which can really only benefit you and help you deepen your experience and your expertise in your field going forward. You may also find it helpful to create an addition to the scripts document as you move forward if you find yourself sending similar kinds of communications over and over, it's okay to create templates for your personal use. And as always, just tweak those before you send them to different people so that your communications are personalized and it doesn't look like you're just sending out a form or a mass email.

 

Once your initial three months are done, create a new plan and keep going. After your first three month plan is done, networking should really have become a habit for you, it should feel a lot more comfortable for you, and it should be something that you can continue to incorporate into your weekly professional life going forward. And that takes us to the end of our hour together and the end of my tips for managing and building your practice through strategic, ethical networking and outreach efforts. I hope that you've found this CLE to be helpful. If you did, I encourage you to head over to thecareerfiles.com to learn more about my work and ways we can continue to work together.

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HandoutSupplemental Materials

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Course details

On demand
1h 27s

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