It would do us good to shift our view of what networking can be, and what its purpose is. Networking does not need to be a self-interested, shameless, forced acquaintance with others for the purpose of attempting to advance ourselves to positions we cannot attain on our merits alone. Rather, we should see it as a positive practice of cultivating long-term relationships to gather information, gain exposure, and, yes, learn about both client development and job opportunities.
Why Networking is Necessary to Law Firm Practice
The young, well-credentialed attorney who goes to a large law firm would do well to not do what might seem obvious close the door, put her head down and work as hard as she can. If she thinks that just by working hard and excluding external influences, she will have long-term success, she is mistaken. By doing this, she runs the risk of missing work opportunities, and being left behind or being kept out of the loop. She also risks becoming stagnant in her practice, being unable to develop clients and thus less valuable to the firm who currently employs her. This is because when an attorney keeps her head down and devotes little to no energy to widening her network, she also keeps her opportunity for information gathering small. Consider some of the changes that occur within law firms, the knowledge of which is shared amongst insiders first: partners leaving, offices closing and opening, and practices expanding or contracting. With a small or non-existent network, the attorney limits her knowledge of the kind of pivotal information that is acquired through people in the know who is doing what kind of work with which firm, what practices are thriving, and the changes coming down the pike. Without this information, the attorney cannot anticipate and prepare for changes, or capitalize upon opportunities.