My Networking Diet
When I attended the Institute for the Future of Law Practice event last month, it was a refreshing reminder of what I used to do more often: go to conferences and network!
I used to attend every ACC, Corporate Counsel, General Counsel Forum, and in-house conference I could fit onto my calendar. Most in-house events, however, have gone to a sponsorship or “pay to play” model. It’s ante up or stay away for service providers. My search firm has indeed sponsored events over the years, especially those supporting women and minority in-house counsel initiatives, but I write without apology that I have come to resent the buy-in level it takes to sponsor the major national conferences. They have become the playgrounds for “BigLaw,” LexisNexis, etc.
The current conference model does work well for in-house counsel. If you have a sponsor contact, you can usually attend the national conferences for free. Or, the admission costs are reasonable for qualified in-house counsel (occasionally an event is General Counsel only), as your attendance is essentially subsidized by the sponsors who want you there. So, attend! My advice on that will never change.
But if you want to learn about boutique law firms, recruiting firms, and other service providers who may not be wandering Exhibit Halls these days, here is an old school option: lunch! My new networking diet has increased my waistline by at least one belt notch. I have been focusing on one-on-one meetings over events and cocktail receptions.
Here is a tip for your own one-on-one networking, whether you are in job search mode or simply doing a great proactive job of building peer relationships: polite persistence. You do have to accept “no” for an answer when your invitation is turned down or ghosted (although I would give it two attempts before accepting a non-reply as a “no” answer).
Often, you will get a “yes” to the coffee/lunch/meeting invitation, only to receive a “need to reschedule” message when the date arrives. Here is where you should follow-up and not let it go. Rescheduling is common, sometimes due to busy schedules, and sometimes because the other person really just wants to avoid it. Either way, once you actually meet, both parties usually find value in the discussion and your “audience” of one is often glad that you politely persisted and made it happen.
Mike Evers recruits attorneys for corporate legal departments throughout the United States. Visit www.everslegal.com. His firm also offers experienced in-house counsel to companies on an adjunct basis.