A young lawyer recently called me to meet with him over lunch. I had referred a client to his partner, and I had never actually met this young lawyer, who had been practicing for less than two years. The purpose was simply to network.
After having lunch, I reflected on all the great questions he had asked me. If only I’d had the good sense to network more with other lawyers and ask these questions when I first started practicing law. “What are the biggest challenges young associates face in your firm?” “What networking activities have worked for you?” “Have you participated in any particular organizations or civic groups that helped you with networking?” There were many more; I even stopped him at one point and told him, “You ask great questions!”
I am not sure how much help I was to this young lawyer. I told him that young associates sometimes struggle with the practical aspects of the practice of law: relating to staff, deciding what to delegate, and to whom. He also asked about our expectations of associates for developing new business. We talked about that and ideas for his own networking activities. I also mentioned that young lawyers often do not realize how much time it takes to build the skills to be a good lawyer. Young lawyers (and older ones, too!) struggle with maintaining balance between this learning curve and the demands for personal productivity in the law firm.
I concluded our lunch by remembering some good advice I read in Jim Durham’s book, The Essential Little Book of Great Lawyering. Durham wrote, “Clients speak highly of lawyers who understand the importance of relationships.” They want their lawyer to be someone with whom everyone in this business likes to work. Clients hire lawyers who they like and trust. It’s all about relationships!