I think that a lot of times younger lawyers feel either (or both) that (i) networking groups are inappropriate to join at an early stage in their career, or (ii) they are too junior to start their own networking group.
However, I think that the best time to start one’s marketing efforts is at the beginning of your career — this, so that you get into the habit of marketing as part of everyday life. Indeed, I always wish that I had done exactly this myself, instead of waiting until I was 39 years old to try to bring in clients. Sigh….
And networking groups are no exception. There is no reason to wait.
One of my marketing threebies is to “Get Out And About,” and networking groups are a great way to do this. So how do you get started?
Below I have outlined a few ideas on how to create your own networking groups. Here goes:
First, think of the industry you practice in. Is it fashion? Is it real estate? Is it liquor and related goods? Your networking group should be in your industry.
Second, think of a purpose for the group that is other than pure networking. This could be a hobby — you are a triathlete, you are someone who likes ballet, you like MMA, you like to race cars, you like movies, you like paintball, you like knitting, basket-weaving, or skiing — or just going out on the town and staying out all night.
Third, see if you know someone who is, well, it’s hard to say this subtly, cooler than you. Someone who will draw in others. Reach out to her first. See if she will join your group. If yes, this is a great beginning.
Fourth, once it is you and this other person, you have a team. That will make it easier to get others in the group.
Fifth, once you get a base group — probably five is about the minimum — set the ground rules, as to who is paying (usually costs are split equally), what you generally will be doing, how often you will get together, how additional people can get in the group, etc. Also — hard to be subtle here either — you probably don’t want other competitor lawyers in the group and you should make that known.
Sixth, make clear that there are two purposes for the group. One is to have a good time in the hobby or other interest you all have. The other is to network and support each other. There is no reason to be subtle here either.
Seventh, make sure the first event is a success.
Finally, here is a story from one of my junior associates who has set up his own networking group, which he did on his own in his first year here:
I formed the group after talking to a couple of friends working in the real estate industry about the value of building relationships early on in our careers. We all noticed that the successes of many of those senior to us could usually be traced back to relationships that started well before anyone was in a decision-making position, and we decided to all put the effort in (easier said than done as time goes on) to stick together as we grow in our careers. Since the purpose of the group is to build valuable relationships, we have two goals: (i) to keep the group small (only adding a member when someone thinks they’ve found someone who will actively contribute to the group) and (ii) to make sure that anyone who joins the group is a good “fit” so we’ll all actually hang out.