When most attorneys hear the word “networking,” palms start to sweat and inner thoughts turn to “You mean I have to do THAT in order to get new clients?”

What is THAT anyway, and how often do you have to do THAT?

THAT is attending some type of event (e.g. fundraiser, conference, reception) where there will be a large crowd, anywhere from 50 to 1000.

Let’s dispel a couple myths about these events.

Everyone seems to be having such good time; how come I’m not?

Not true. Some just fake it better than others. I can assure you that most attendees would rather be someplace else and are as miserable as you are.

Put these events into perspective. How frequently do you have to do THAT? A few times a year? Rarely more than a half a dozen. Just be grateful that you don’t have to go to more.

These events are crucial to successful networking.

Not so much. They can be help, but are hardly the holy grail. Here again perspective is key.

Let’s go back to some basics about networking. Its purpose is to create and develop relationships with clients and referral sources. Creating a relationship does no good unless it can be developed. Lawyers are rarely retained at the early creation stage; that takes place only after a relationship has evolved into a trusting one.

In short, developing the relationship is key. No one develops a relationship working the crowd at a capacity-filled hotel ballroom. That typically occurs by doing one-on-one networking coffees or lunches in a quiet setting. These are the encounters that are the holy grail of networking. This where you should devote 90% of your networking time to.

The other 10% is attending the large events (10%; now that doesn’t sound so bad). Here is where you may be able to meet a few new people or reconnect with someone who you haven’t seen in years. But don’t waste your time collecting business cards if you have no plans to follow up to schedule a coffee or lunch with the names on the cards. That should be the crucial 90% of your networking activities. THAT is important.