During your training contract you develop your understanding of the technicalities of the law, but being a solicitor is not a one dimensional role. You will also be expected to get involved in other aspects of the firm as a business such as marketing and business development. These are important parts of being a solicitor and it is not left solely to a dedicated marketing team.
At Woodfines, trainees are exposed early to this side of the job and are encouraged to attend events to network and cultivate relationships. It is not expected that we will bring in our own clients just yet, but attending these functions is a good way for trainees to gain confidence in these (potentially) daunting situations, and is good preparation for when we qualify. I have now represented the firm at a number of different networking events; at first I was unsure of what to expect, but it became easier with each event.
Getting to know local people and businesses can be extremely important. Since starting my seat in our Sandy office, where we are the only firm of solicitors in a small town, it was quickly clear that everyone knows each other and some clients have history with the firm going back decades. In these situations word of mouth referrals are particularly important and maintaining a positive presence is essential.
It can be difficult to walk alone into a room of strangers and strike up a conversation, and for a lot of people it isn’t second nature. But standing around by yourself in the corner of the room nursing a glass of water won’t benefit anyone, and you need to make a good impression.
In normal life you probably would not walk up to a group of new people and introduce yourself, however at these types of events everyone is there for the same purpose – to network. If you approach someone, they will be more than willing to make conversation.
A good tip that I received is to ask a lot of questions; it shows that you are genuinely interested and it puts the burden of doing a lot of the talking on the other person (great for the naturally introverted). Eventually these situations will feel more comfortable and the conversation will flow freely.
Volunteering for as many networking events as possible will force you into developing your networking skills. Along with the obvious networking benefit, many networking events can be quite interesting. I went to an event recently where a guest speaker was discussing how new developments in technology and the effects of Brexit may influence areas including education, the job market and the energy sector (there was also a free breakfast as an added bonus).
Networking is an important skill for a solicitor; if it did not produce more business then networking events simply would not exist! It sounds cheesy, but it is the people that make a firm and they are its most important asset, so putting yourself on show and creating a friendly, confident face for other people and businesses to see is great advertising for what the firm has to offer.