Every Day is a Networking Event

For reasons that can best be described as a generosity of spirit combined with some internal pride,  Fishtown Lawyer Jordan Rushie posted about the things he did in his extralegal week.  He had a busy week.

Monday: Confer with FNA Board to discuss PTSSD grant, which involves a significant amount of money coming into the neighborhood for civic projects
Tuesday: 6:30pm – 9:00pm – Hosted an FNA Zoning community meeting to take a vote by the neighbors on a large scale residential development proposal.
Wednesday: 12:00pm – 5:30pm – Testified before the Zoning Board of Adjustment on behalf of FNA about proposed development along the Delaware Avenue Waterfront (the largest development ever proposed in Philadelphia), and its impact on the Fishtown neighborhood.
6:30pm – 9:00pm: Hosted a Fishtown Area Business Association meeting, which was attended by over 60 local business owners to discuss happenings in the neighborhood (and drink a few beers).
Thursday: Attend FNA General Membership Meeting to discuss happenings in the neighborhood with the community, including all of the things that happened earlier in the week.
Friday: Quizzo in my local watering hole, Luke’s Bar.
Saturday: 1:00pm – 3:00pm – Station table at the Trenton Ave Arts Festival for FNA.
Sure, it smells a bit like “look at how awesome I am,” of the sort usually found on law professor blogs, but he knew that his contemporaries would react by slamming him for being self-promotional.  Yet he posted it anyway, including at JD Underground, where his offering was met with anticipated hate from the Slackoisie.

Coincidentally, the other Fishtown Lawyer, Leo Mulvihill, posted at the Puddle about creating a “book of business,” beginning with saying hi to people

Think about how many people you walk by on any given day without even looking up from your smartphone because you’re updating your Facebook status. Every one of those people is a potential future client, and you’re busy with cat pictures.

The handsome young couple down the corner, One-Eyed-Nick, Crazy Cat Lady, or even just your Friendly Neighborhood Postman — just say “Hello!” You’ll catch people off guard. You might even strike up a brief conversation. But more than that, these folks will begin to recognize you. While you might start off as “that weird guy who says ‘Hi’” every day”, over time you become “that criminal defense lawyer whose office is around the corner.”

This is in prelude to a post at a lame scamblog, Outside the Law School Scam, where a writer using the pseudonym “the adjunct law professor” schools the babies on “networking events.”

A few years ago, I was encouraged to go to local business meetings, breakfasts, lunch groups, etc. And they all – yes, all! – had the following composition:

– Attorneys
– Real estate agents
– Insurance salespeople
– Mortgage brokers
– Random chick selling gift baskets

Nothing else.  They were pathetic gatherings where people whose businesses relied upon sales handed out business cards to each other.  Look at who your fellow bottom feeders are.
He (she?) is certainly right about what one finds at a “networking event,” since the only people who have any reason to attend are people who need business. No one shows up at one of these nasty meetings because they have too much work or are looking for someone to give money.

But at the same time, this self-described adjunct law professor reaches the completely wrong conclusion.

If you’re not a salesperson, you will not be a successful lawyer. If you’re uncomfortable shaking hands and schmoozing and networking and spending half your life working the room in sleazy gatherings, you will not be a good lawyer. Law is not about law. Nothing that makes you a successful lawyer is learned in law school.  You would be better off spending three years slutting around on a used car lot, because that’s how you learn how to snare people into deals they don’t need for prices they can’t afford.
His math is all wrong. The desire to work the room in hotpants at a networking event has nothing to do with the practice of law, and everything to do with looking for the second easiest (and third worst) route to success. The events are sleazy? You bet. Worthless? Sure. This makes lawyers sluts? No.

Trying to put this into language the Slackoisie will understand, life is a “networking event.”  We meet people constantly. We chat with them, make friends (or enemies), hang out and share jokes and dirty looks. There is a world out there teeming with life. 

You want a networking event? It’s been going on since before you were born and will continue after you die, non-stop.  It’s up to you whether you want to be part of it, and while there will be the occasional “random chick selling gift baskets,” there will also be the occasional person who will one day need your help.

See how that works?  You aren’t going to meet these people staring at the screen of your iPhone or Ultrabook, but participating in something I like to call “life.”

Sure, there are some people who are more gregarious and outgoing, always able to make friends wherever they go and, somehow, get people to want to speak to them about their problems without coming off like a salesman.  So you’re not one of them?  That’s okay. That’s where Jordan’s and Leo’s posts come into play.

Get Involved. Not only is it scary easy, but there is a committee or group for pretty much every activity man ever invented, and there are never enough warm bodies to fill the seats. Groups are constantly trying to get new blood in the door, and anyone who offers to help is usually embraced. 

And so you know, if you aren’t given a big welcome, it’s nature’s way of telling you that you are the problem, not the world. You may want to adjust your attitude appropriately or go back to your Gameboy and beat that next level.

The networking event is going on now, as I type. But it is not happening in your parents’ basement. That’s why you weren’t aware of it until now. And you can thank the young lawyers who are out there engaged in it for letting you know instead of cursing them for making you feel inadequate.

2 comments on “Every Day is a Networking Event

  1. Marilou

    I’ve been an admirer for a while of the young men at Fishtown Lawyers. I saw Jordan’s post earlier but didn’t think he was doing anything other than celebrating the level of activity he has been blessed to enjoy. Nothing self-promotional about it.

    And Leo’s comments are equally instructive. He recognizes at his relatively young age that potential clients are everywhere, just like you and Brian and Mark and Nino always say, and the way to have them see you as a lawyer is to see you as a person first.

    Excellent blog post. I wish I had thought of the idea. Jordan and Leo have passed a very important test, one that few young lawyers pass in your eyes and those of your peers. This is huge for them.

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