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Congratulations! You have finished law school and are now a hard-working Philadelphia attorney. You just completed the bar exam process and are ready to focus on your new law firm environment, an increased workload and those dreaded billable-hour requirements. As you begin your legal career, the last thing on your mind is attending a networking function. However, all law firms stress the importance of learning how to network to become a more successful attorney and a greater asset to your firm. Initially, Philadelphia law firms do not require associate attorneys to bring in business. However, if you eventually want to succeed within your firm, it is essential that you learn how to network effectively. Clients retain law firms largely because the client develops trust that the firm will provide good service. It is important to realize that in most situations, it takes about six to seven contacts before clients develop enough trust in the firm to retain the firm’s services. Accordingly, if you begin networking now, you are building a good foundation that will enable you to bring in business during years 3-6 at your firm. Most associates disfavor networking. Despite this, you will be expected to attend various networking events during the first and second years at your firm. It is important to realize that you are not alone. Most of your fellow attorneys are also extremely uncomfortable introducing themselves to strangers. Therefore, if you make a conscious effort to incorporate several simple tips into your behavior, you will be more at ease with networking and will begin establishing relationships that will lead to your future success within the legal community. Try these tips: DEVELOP A SUMMARY Before you go to a networking event, create a short summary that quickly explains who you are, where you work and what you do. Rehearse this summary so that you feel totally comfortable. This self-introduction should only be 8 to 10 seconds in length. You want to make sure that it is not too long; this will distract the other person and could destroy any chance of developing a good contact. DEVELOP A GOOD HANDSHAKE You must develop an appropriate handshake. Many people have lost job offers and client relationships due to negative first impressions caused by poor handshakes. When you meet someone for the first time, they make decisions about you in less than 10 seconds. If you convey any red flags during that time, like a weak handshake, the other person will dwell on them, even if the additional information you offer is relevant to his or her needs. Here are a few extra tips for handshakes: � Develop a firm handshake (not too firm), and shake the person’s hand palm to palm. � Avoid the “double-handed” shake, with your other hand on top of the other person’s. This is the politician’s shake. It will make the person feel uncomfortable. � Avoid the “dead fish” handshake. This is the least popular type of handshake. Regardless of the true intention, it conveys a sign of weakness. As a fellow attorney, I admit that we love to be heard. However, one of the best attributes you can have when networking is to be a great listener. Listening skills are imperative, and mastering them can help you become a better networker. If you want to become an attentive listener, you must make a conscious and deliberate effort to do so. Many attorneys fail to listen and, therefore, lose out when engaged in conversations with others. This occurs for a variety of reasons, including the following: � Attorneys will form rebuttals in their own mind while others are speaking. � Less experienced attorneys may act as if they comprehend the speaker’s message rather than risk embarrassment by asking the speaker to repeat himself or herself. � Attorneys may use words such as “right” or “uh-uh” in place of really listening. � Attorneys may assume they know what others will say and will tune out as a result. These listening pitfalls can be avoided if you make an effort to incorporate several tactics into your listening style. First, show the other person that you have an interest in what he or she has to say. Second, ask the other person questions to gather information about the person and show you care about what he or she is saying. Third, provide feedback to the other person so he knows that you understand. When introduced to others, it is often difficult to remember the other person’s name. One of the easiest ways to lose a good contact is to ask the person to repeat his or her name at a second, third or even fourth meeting. This conveys a message of either disrespect or inattentiveness to the other person. One quick tip is to repeat the other person’s name to him when you are introduced. This helps place his name on the tip of your tongue. In addition, try to repeat the name at least once throughout your conversation. These are just a few tips that will enable you to be more successful at your next networking function. The tips are rather simple; however, most people do not make a conscious effort to incorporate them into their networking style. Remember, learn to be brief and tactful in your approach. You want to make a good impression, but you also want to avoid being long-winded. Make an impact and move along. Keep in mind that your goal is to initiate contact with potential clients and to begin developing trust. Good luck! Tyler A. Ridgeway is an executive search consultant at Human Capital Resources, a division of Kereischer Miller & Co., where he provides retention-based recruiting, executive search services and human resource solutions within the legal profession.

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