“Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Usually I agree with Woody Allen, who is famous for (among other things) making this remark. But when it comes to networking for purposes of business development, I’ll have to differ from the well-known filmmaker.
Networking is a complete waste of time and money — unless one can sound confident and enthusiastic when doing so. Just showing up is not enough.
Simply put, no one wants to hire an attorney who sounds tentative and is not passionate about what he or she does. Think about it. Would you hire a lawyer who tells you, “I’m not so sure how to do that, but I think I can figure it out”? Would you hire a lawyers who says, “Been there; done that; wish your case were a bit more interesting”? Of course you wouldn’t.
Two war stories from my own experience practicing law illustrate the importance of confidence and enthusiasm when networking.
When I started my career at a large law firm, I was a green employment law associate. I rarely practiced what I now preach. I did little very networking. I was reluctant because my attitude was wrong. I thought, “Why would anyone I meet want to hire me? I have virtually no experience and essentially no clue what I am doing.” In short, I understandably lacked confidence.
Shame on me for falling back on such a weak excuse. With a little thought, I could have networked very confidently, truthfully and authentically. A confident Roy would have said, “I’m a new lawyer and still learning but, if I don’t know what to do, someone right down the hall does. Together, we’ll get the job done right.” I could have made that statement confidently.
A few years ago, I was retained by Super Lawyers magazine to help with a significant legal marketing ethics/First Amendment controversy it was facing in the state of New Jersey. My first significant task was to find outside counsel who was licensed to practice in New Jersey.
After talking to other ethics lawyers inMinnesota, where I am licensed to practice, I put together a list of four reputable attorneys. On paper, they all had excellent credentials and sufficient experience. All seemed capable of doing the job.
The next step was to interview each of these lawyers on the phone before deciding who to recommend to my client. All of them answered my questions ably, but one particular lawyer stood out. After I introduced myself and explained the call’s purpose, he responded, “I have heard about this problem. It’s a disgrace what the New Jersey regulators are trying to do to your client. Haven’t they ever heard of the First Amendment?” He then continued to express a passion for the First Amendment.
Who do you think got the nod? My client and I had a strong passion for the First Amendment. Outside counsel had to feel similarly. The last lawyer I was going to recommend to the client, regardless of how that person looked on paper, was someone who did not share that passion. I would never select the lawyer who replied, “I think we have a good case based on the First Amendment but, personally, I can understand how some regulators might be offended by the label “Super Lawyer.”
The next time you hear people say that credentials are much more important than enthusiasm, tell them that they don’t know what they are talking about.
For business development, I believe in the 80/20 rule. But with all due respect to Woody Allen, I like to reverse the numbers. When it comes to networking, 80 percent is a confident and enthusiastic presentation. Only 20 percent is just showing up.