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Helpful Tips for SXSW Business Development

As tons of music, film and technology enthusiasts crowd Austin for the 2014 SXSW Festival, Texas Lawyer asked attorney-attendees of the March 7–16 extravaganza for tips about how lawyers can get the most professionally from SXSW. Their helpful tips are below.

John Saba, a senior associate with Dinovo, Price, Ellwanger & Hardy in Austin, said lawyers should simply attend events, meet people and focus on building relationships.

“When you are able to connect with someone in that environment, it really helps,” said Saba, who also is scheduled to play an official SXSW music showcase on March 15 with his band, San Saba County. “At the time you met them, they may not have had an immediate legal need. Then you get a call a couple years later, and they say, ‘Hey, I met you.’”

Matt Lyons, partner in Andrews Kurth in Austin, said lawyers who try to sell their services at SXSW may seem “off-putting to people.” Instead, Lyons explained, “you have to have something to bring of value to the other participants in the conference.”

Catherine Hough, chairwoman of the State Bar of Texas Entertainment and Sports Law Section, has attended SXSW for 20 years. She explained that some years, she buys a badge to attend official SXSW conference and festival events. Other years, she just attends free shows, mixers and day parties. Hough said that lawyers should bring business cards, wear comfortable shoes and simply “be available.”

“You never know who you are going to meet in the street,” she said.

For those who do buy badges, Austin entertainment law solo Amy Mitchell, who has attended SXSW for 14 years, wrote in an email that lawyers should be “strategic when attending panels. Allow time to stick around to meet the panelists, grab business cards, and/or ask follow up questions.”

Those who go the free route, as first-time SXSW attendee Ryan Valenza did this year, should determine the types of people they want to meet and figure out the events where they might congregate. Valenza did his research and attended free, unofficial SXSW events where he could meet entrepreneurs, technology startup executives and venture capitalists, he said.

“You do a lot more listening than you do talking. People come, and they have whatever it is they’re doing; whatever the company is; whatever their idea is. It’s what they want to talk about,” said Valenza, an associate with Winstead in Austin.