Tag Archives: Networking

Business Development for Women Lawyers: Strategies for Success

The current legal landscape—like the economy as a whole—is uncertain. 2022 was a moderately down year for major law firms, as compared to the industry’s remarkable 2021 boom. With firms bracing for what could be a challenging period, adopting effective approaches to business development will be more critical than ever.

This is especially true for women lawyers. Even in smoother economic climates, women confront particular challenges in business development and career advancement in the legal industry. In many practice groups, there remains a lack of female role models for successful business development. Strategies that have traditionally worked well for many male partners don’t always feel authentic and comfortable for women attorneys. More broadly, women often find that they must advocate more actively to receive origination credit and to receive fair consideration for equity partnership and for practice and office leadership positions.

For women associates and counsels, learning how successful women partners approach business development can be eye-opening. The transition to being responsible for developing business is a hard one to navigate for any lawyer. After years of focusing on the practice of law and becoming a highly competent attorney, it can be jarring to confront the reality that legal skills are no longer enough. The discomfort can be compounded for associates and counsels whose practice group leadership is heavily male. Mentorship from female leaders in the profession—including those outside your firm—is often invaluable. When it comes to developing business, there is no one-size-fits-all method for success. Exposing yourself to a diversity of styles and strategies can help you identify and pursue an approach that resonates with your personality, practice, and goals.

For women partners, the business development learning curve doesn’t stop. You have already received a vote of confidence in your ability to bring in clients, but delivering on that potential by growing a solid book of business requires targeted strategies. Business development success is key to increasing compensation, making the jump from non-equity to equity partner, or executing a successful lateral move to a more desirable firm.

On May 24, a virtual event organized by the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (WLALA) Business Law Section will offer actionable advice for women lawyers interested in successful business development strategies. The program will address strategies for success for every woman lawyer: associate, counsel, junior partner, and senior partners leading groups. The moderated discussion will feature three senior legal recruiters, including Susan Agopian and Gloria Sandrino of Lateral Link.

Themes that Susan and Gloria will emphasize include the need for women lawyers to be intentional about business development and the fact that “business development” is “client development”—one client at a time. Focusing on individual clients is a must in today’s legal industry.

After decades of working closely with partners and associates at the highest levels of the profession, Susan and Gloria are well-attuned to what it takes to develop business as a lawyer. Business development planning is central to the partner lateral recruiting process, with candidates expected to present a compelling case for how they will bring clients to their new firm. So Susan and Gloria regularly discuss business development strategy in detail with successful partners—including many women—at a wide spectrum of top law firms. In addition, Gloria brings her perspective of a decade spent practicing M&A in NYC and Miami.

If you are interested in joining the conversation on May 24, please get your tickets here. Note that the session is free for WLALA members!

How to Get Better at Networking: A Critical and Learnable Skill

Do you want to build a long-term career in private practice? As you likely have noticed from observing your firm’s most successful partners, a critical enabler will be your business development ability. It’s not the only factor: law firms also care about your legal skills and your internal contributions like mentoring more junior lawyers. But nothing lets you write your own ticket like a solid (and portable) book of business.

Success in business development is a cumulative process, built through years of strategic investment of your time and energy. It requires commitment and a well-crafted, regularly-updated plan. One of the most important components of that plan is networking. Through savvy networking, you will build your contacts, expand your referral network, and burnish your brand.

For some people, networking comes naturally, but many of us find it daunting at first. Fortunately, networking is a learnable skill. Here are a few tips to help you become a more effective networker.

Think broadly.

Some networking opportunities are pretty obvious: events sponsored by bar associations, legal industry conferences, service on committees with other lawyers. But don’t narrow your focus exclusively to professional events. Networking can happen at college reunions, community gatherings, and even on a flight. In other words, don’t wait until your next conference — you should be networking everywhere you go.

Do you have kids? Chat with other parents at the playground or at school events. Attending a fundraiser? That’s a perfect opportunity to meet people. Are you involved in an affinity group or diversity initiative? Those can be great venues to build connections based on shared heritage or interests. Are you a veteran? Attend a military event and use the opportunity to make new contacts.

Set yourself up for success.

Networking shouldn’t feel like a chore. Make sure you are putting yourself in situations where you’ll be in a positive frame of mind. Attend events that are relevant to you personally and that you find enjoyable. As with any activity, you will be more successful if you’re having fun.

If it makes you feel more comfortable, bring a “date.” A colleague or a friend can help you work the room. But be careful. Don’t bring someone who will serve as a crutch and prevent you from circulating.

Be prepared.

Keep in mind that every networking “event” offers an opportunity to build your brand, and that first impressions matter greatly. Be sure to represent yourself well, both with respect to your physical presence as well as the substantive content of anything you’re presenting. Be genuine and embrace your personal style.

Do your research in advance: find out who will be there and make a list of “targets.” You want to make the most of your time, so be strategic: arrive with a plan to prioritize engaging with the most relevant attendees. Prepare some stock questions that you can use to help start a conversation. For example, if you’re attending an event for lawyers, you might ask: “What are the biggest challenges your law firm has faced during the pandemic?” or “What have you found works best with regard to business development?”

Be ready with your elevator pitch: a short summary of what you do and your background. When you have someone’s attention, you don’t want to be fumbling for words or going off on long-winded tangents.

Be human.

When you first strike up a conversation with a new contact, don’t go straight to business. Nobody likes to feel used, and your first interaction is not the time to close a deal. Instead, build rapport, and let the other person talk. Ask open-ended questions, displaying a genuine interest in the answers. Remember that there is value in building relationships with a wide variety of people, including those who are unlikely to become your client. For example, making strong connections with other attorneys in private practice can lead to fantastic referral relationships that yield lucrative dividends over many years.

Follow up.

Take the time to follow up with everyone you meet after a networking event. Add your new contacts on LinkedIn, making sure to add a quick personalized note. Sending something by mail can also be remarkably effective. The important thing is that you have a process in place and stick to it.

Understand that practice makes perfect!

If you aren’t already comfortable attending networking events, try breaking down the process into small steps. Set yourself the goal of making three new contacts at each event. Commit to making a post on social media before each event you attend: this helps elevate your brand and may even lead to contacts approaching you! If you make it a habit to set and achieve attainable goals like these, I guarantee you will find that networking becomes increasingly natural over time. Good luck!