Networking is one of the most important skills an attorney can have. Attorneys network to generate business, and also to build professional and personal relationships with others. But often it falls to the last priority, especially when you are a mom.
This can be a dangerous thing. According to the recent findings of the National Association of Women Lawyers’ National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms for 2012, women make up barely 15 percent of equity partners, and just 26 percent of non-equity partners. Women lag behind men in compensation, bonuses, and credit for books of business. In addition, more women attorneys are opting out of the corporate law firm model, and are starting their own practices so that they can practice law on their own terms and on their own schedules. It seems that one of the best things women can do to improve their perceived status law firms and make their own practices successful is to get out there and build relationships with colleagues and potential clients to generate business.
This may seem quite daunting for those of us who have kids. Most of us spend our work hours doing just that – working – so that we can rush home to what little time is left in the day with our families. Where can we find the time to attend that lunch or after work event? What is the best way to fit networking activities into that ever-increasing list of things to do?
Fortunately, I received several helpful suggestions at an informal networking lunch at the gorgeous San Francisco offices of Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP. The topic was “Networking and the Working Mom: How to Stay in Touch While You’re Holding Down the Fort.” Women attorneys who work in a variety of fields such as in-house, law firm and solo practice, attended, and shared their strategies for making the most of their available time to incorporate essential networking activities into their busy lives.
A few of my favorite suggestions:
- Stay in touch with your established network of colleagues, clients, and friends. These folks are great contacts for referrals and even direct work. And you don’t have to go to an event outside of work hours to meet them.
- Set up coffees and lunches to fit that precious networking time into your schedule. One-on-one meetings are great for making connections and getting the most out of your available time.
- Networking does not have to take much of your time. Take five minutes every morning (or even just once a week) to exchange emails with colleagues, clients, and friends, to set up coffee dates. Cast your net wide, meet with colleagues who do not work in your practice area, and remember that you never know where that colleague from your former firm could end up.
- Your calendar is your best friend. Plan ahead by identifying one evening event per month (or other increment of time) and put it on your calendar. Chances are, you’ll stick with your schedule if it is manageable and calendared.
- Change your outlook regarding networking. Networking does not have to be intimidating – it’s all about building relationships. You are not going to that event to land the big client, but rather to mix and mingle with others. Thinking of networking as “building relationships” makes it more accessible and fun.
- Use social networking such as Linked In, Facebook, and Twitter. This can be done during that five minutes of daily networking time. Keep your profiles updated, post interesting articles regarding your area of work, and reach out to colleagues.
- Join local networking groups. You might have to do a little investigation to find out what groups are in your area, but these groups provide numerous networking opportunities. In fact, all of the women who attended the Coblentz luncheon were members of Loco Parentis, a group for women attorney moms in the Bay Area.
- Bring your kid! One woman brought her son to an evening networking event when childcare fell through. No one at the event even raised an eyebrow. If you are not comfortable doing that, arrange play dates or field trips with clients, colleagues, and friends who have kids. Others likely will relate to you when they see that you deal with many of the same work-life balance issues.
As we continue to find the best and most flexible ways to work, we need to rethink how we establish relationships and develop business. In my freelance practice, incorporating just a few of these suggestions has already gone a long way to getting me out there and meeting others – and I hope they do the same for you.
Amy Hirsh-Holtzman graduated magna cum laude from UCLA in 2000, with a B.A. in Political Science and a specialization in Business Administration. She then attended UCLA School of Law and received the Paul Hastings’ Barbra L. Davis Scholarship for demonstrated academic excellence and interest in employment law. While in law school, Amy also externed for the Honorable Dana M. Sabraw in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, and served as a teaching assistant in UCLA’s Legal Research and Writing Program. She obtained her Juris Doctor, Order of the Coif, in 2006.
After law school, Amy clerked for the Honorable Alicemarie H. Stotler in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. Then, in 2007, she joined Paul Hastings’ Employment Law Department in San Francisco. At Paul Hastings, Amy represented and counseled employers in single and multi-plaintiff employment litigation, with particular emphases on equal employment opportunity and wage and hour litigation and advice.
Amy left Paul Hastings in 2011 and joined Montage Legal Group. Amy is currently the Montage Legal Group’s lead attorney for San Francisco and can be reached at AmyH@montagelegal.com