For a number of years now there has been a lot of chatter and activity around business networking – including how and whether to make use of social networking tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter. All good – the more networking the better (as long as it is relevant and targeted; lawyers in particular don’t get out enough (possibly in every sense of the phrase!)
However what many firms – both large and small – tend to constantly ignore is the importance and value of networking internally. Doing this effectively can radically improve results by enabling your people to tap into the existing client and contact relationships of others across the firm. To ignore the importance of internal networking means that you are failing to take advantage of the often significant personal connections that already exist within your firm.
Consider how much – both in terms of time and money – you spend on business development (sales and marketing). Again all good (mostly!). But consider also that you probably have a ready-made market for your services on your doorstep; untapped … and already known (personally in some cases) to your colleagues.
To penetrate this market doesn’t demand much of your time and costs little in financial terms.
Neither does it take a great deal of planning, strategizing, or navel gazing to get right – it really is a case of JFDI!
Ask yourself and then your colleagues the simple questions:
“Do we know what services our colleagues are offering … to which clients and sectors … and why they prefer using or working with us over our competitors?”
Before you answer this question – it is important to think about what you really know. Most of us broadly know what litigation is….and employment….and corporate/commercial. Real estate? Yes of course you know what that is. You may even have picked up a few interesting nuances about capital markets, IP or funds.
But what sort of work is your firm actually providing under these headings? Who are the key clients and referrers? In what sectors have your colleagues gained particular experience (or even fame?)
So what is the solution?
Well, there are a few basic ‘behaviours’ that you can undertake and changes that you can implement. For example:
- Consider ‘placing’ your lawyers in cross-practice groups (in terms of where they sit in the office) rather than having everyone in a particular discipline sitting together. This has the effect of broadening discussion and leads to people developing a deeper knowledge of what others to (and for whom).
- Have regular and informal group discussions at all levels in the firm – have coffee either ‘in’ or ‘out’.
- Create hubs within your office that take water-cooler conversations to a new and more comfortable level.
There is a host of things that you can do to create a better internal networking environment and which can be explored outside the word-count of this blog.
Fundamentally, however, it is essential to also generate MUTUAL TRUST with your colleagues in each other’s abilities to handle the new legal work and new relationships that will flow from this increased knowledge and understanding; and to ensure enthusiasm for the more collaborative behaviours I recommend here.
All lawyers need to take responsibility for making the decision to accept that other partners and colleagues are capable of helping their clients. The starting point in creating trust is to ensure that lawyers have an understanding of each other’s personal and professional networks; their achievements and client feedback; their PR and awards; their capabilities and their professional history.
The first step is a willingness – at least in principle – to trust your partners and colleagues. Once that has been achieved, you can start to work on a myriad of techniques and solutions to improve knowledge and create trust within your firm.
If you want to find out more about how to make these changes work effectively in your practice CALL 0161 929 8355 or complete this contact request form.