Eight Secrets of Networking and Business Development Success
Congratulations on your recent call to the Bar! You are no doubt excited about what lies ahead. It can be daunting and overwhelming as there is so much to learn and so much to do. But where do you start? To succeed as a lawyer, it is crucial to excel in your field and establish a solid reputation, but in addition to that, the Law Society of Singapore has asked me to share some tips on networking and business development that will help you over the coming years. Although you may think it is too early to focus on these things now, these eight secrets of networking and business development success will help you to become a future rainmaker.
1. Cultivate Your Affability
Being friendly, helpful, and approachable goes a long way in attracting work from senior lawyers, collaborating with peers, and winning over clients. Your attitude plays a significant role in your success by delivering exceptional work and fostering positive relationships. Aim to impress the partners who assign you tasks and leave clients wanting to work with you again. Having a positive and cheerful disposition will mean that others are more likely to want to spend time with you.
2. Become a Doer
Make sure that when you say you will do something, you are true to your word. Become known as a person who gets things done. Work hard to become the “go-to” associate that every partner wants to work with. You can do this by cultivating a “can-do” positive attitude. This helps you attract the best work and builds your reputation in your firm.
3. Start Building Your Network
It takes time to curate a valuable professional network that can provide work opportunities. You have to play the long game, so why not start now? Begin with keeping in touch with your batch mates, law school, university and high school friends. These individuals will become General Counsels and industry leaders of the future. Stay in touch and nurture those relationships over the years to come. Socialise with them and show interest in their work.
Don’t forget the importance of family and family friends. Perhaps Aunty Mae needs help with a will or Uncle Harry is selling a property? Make sure that they all know you have qualified as a lawyer and that they can reach out to you if they need legal help. You probably won’t be able to do the work yourself at this stage, but being able to bring work to your firm will be a good thing.
There is a saying that “your network is your net worth.” Remember that it is never too early to start building relationships that will support your career growth. Building relationships internally with your colleagues is also networking. Build trust with your peers and learn from each other as you progress. Staying in touch consistently is the best way to develop solid mutually beneficial relationships and stay top of mind.
4. Become a Curious Listener
Good listening skills are often overlooked by lawyers who tend to dominate conversations. Differentiate yourself by becoming an active listener who asks the right questions, shows empathy, and gets to the heart of the issue. By being genuinely interested in the people you meet, you can build rapport, establish trust, and become a trusted advisor.
5. Maintain Hobbies and Interests
Many lawyers make the mistake of giving up all their hobbies and interests outside work because they get busy. They then become boring because all they have in their life is work. You want to be interesting. You want to be someone who has plenty of conversation about current affairs, books you have read, movies you have seen, places you have visited.
When you meet new people, you want to find out the things you have in common. This is what builds rapport and trust and can lead to a relationship. Let’s say you attend a networking event and meet someone who tells you their favourite sport is tennis. If you can tell them that you love tennis too and would love to invite them for a game of doubles, that could be the start of a beautiful relationship.
6. Attend Events and Join Committees
Identify professional organisations relevant to your area of practice or industry focus and attend their events. These gatherings offer opportunities to network, learn and deepen your involvement by joining committees. There are lots of young lawyer committees and volunteering opportunities where you can foster trust and nurture relationships, for example, the Law Society’s Young Lawyers Committee (YLC) and Young SIAC (YSIAC).
7. Seek Out Mentors
Mentors can help accelerate your career by sharing insights that they have acquired over the years. Observe successful lawyers at your firm. Who seems to be happy and have lots of happy clients who instruct them repeatedly? What is that lawyer doing? What do they say to their clients? What do they write to their clients? How do they spend time with their clients? Ask them if you can go for coffee with them and ask them what advice they could share with you. Meet up with them regularly to gain valuable insights. But don’t forget that mentoring should be a two-way street. Ask them what value you could give back. Could you do reverse mentoring by offering them insights into the latest trends in technology and show them how to use tools that can help them with their practice? Make them want to invest in you. Develop relationships with multiple mentors who have different strengths, as everyone has something to teach.
8. Build Your Personal Brand
Use social media to build your personal brand and expand your network. Learn how to use platforms like LinkedIn well. Complete your LinkedIn profile and engage by commenting and posting relevant content. People do business with people they know, like and trust. Let them get to know you. Who are you? What do you do? Who do you do it for? Why do you do it?
Be authentic by sharing your opinions and insights into your personality. What have you observed in the world around you? What makes you laugh? What is it like to be a junior lawyer? What could you share that would help law students? Grow your tribe. Connect with like-minded people and thought leaders in your field. Follow inspiring people. Always be helpful and add value. Be generous with the content you deliver. Be supportive of others, grow relationships and explore win-win collaborations. Move from messages into virtual or in person meetings where you can deepen human connection.
As a junior lawyer, investing time and effort in networking and business development is essential for positioning yourself as a future rainmaker. At this stage, business development means generating new work for yourself though mastering your craft, cultivating an affable and “can-do” attitude and building a strong professional network. Remember the importance of active listening and maintaining diverse hobbies and interests so that people want to engage with you. Participate in relevant events and committees where you can collaborate with others and build relationships. Seek out mentors who can guide you and teach you. Leverage technology, particularly platforms like LinkedIn which provide a personal relationship database and opportunity to build a personal brand. Your career as a lawyer is what you make it, so embrace these eight secrets and start dancing in the rain. Good luck!