The Skill of Being a Successful Lawyer: Relationship Building
In law school, students are taught legal knowledge, how to write as a lawyer, and even how to think like one, but future lawyers are not often in classes on the most important skill of being a successful lawyer: relationship building.
To be a successful lawyer you will need relationships – all kinds of them. You need people to help you build your ideas, develop solutions to your problems, and offer key introductions to the “right” people when necessary. Professionally necessary people establish our network. We come to rely on them for all sorts of things inside and outside of the office. And, successful lawyers have a strong, diverse network.
Who makes up your network?
Don’t make the mistake of limiting your network to only lawyers or to people who are too similar to you. “When you interact only with people who are in similar positions, have similar views and share similar experiences, the result is an echo chamber – your network echoes back the same information and ideas to you. And, if everyone in your network has the same contacts that you have, you limit your opportunities to learn, grow, and develop new business.
The echo chamber effect is intensified on social media. Your news feed in Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms is likely to contain content from mostly those within your close circle of family, friends, and colleagues, many of whom have the same interests, concerns and views that you have, and is less likely to contain many people with differing points of view or perspectives.”[i]
What have you done to build or cultivate your network this week?
Be mindful of the limiting practices outlined above when building your network, whether online or off. “Instead of joining groups or speaking only to people who are like you, seek out people who have had different experiences and have different perspectives than you do. Look for new ideas and resources outside of your circle to avoid recirculating the same old information. Follow people from different industries and with different points of view on social media. Actively cultivate relationships with people with whom you disagree.”[ii]
Building business is, ultimately, all about relationships and trust, and these take time to develop, so the earlier in your career that you begin, the more successful you will be.
[i] Leading Through Relationships. Allison C. Shields. Law Practice (Nov/Dec. 2017).