The importance of networking is engrained in law students from the first day of law school. In fact, you’re probably told something like, “networking with lawyers helps build a successful career.” I could not agree more with that statement, especially for law students and young lawyers. However, do not forget about building a client base network. This type of networking is equally as important, although it is not generally a skill that is taught in law schools. As a result, young lawyers may not feel comfortable with client networking.

You may be thinking it is too early to start client networking, but if you want to be proactive, you should start developing your client development skills now! Working on client development in the early stages of your career will also demonstrate your understanding of the business aspect of the legal profession. Now, you’re probably wondering how you, as an articling student or young lawyer, even start connecting with potential clients? Believe it or not, you have already established an informal clientele base – this includes people like your family, friends, teammates, people within your religious or cultural circles, and many others. The only difference moving forward is that your future encounters with new people will involve business cards.

Networking for the purposes of reaching out to clients can be intimidating, and even frustrating at times, especially in the early years of your career. However, as law or articling students, we can ease our transition into client development by being proactive today! Start by attending events that you are unfamiliar with or that would be outside of your comfort zone. This will help you navigate through unfamiliar settings, learn about other peoples’ interests and professions, and force you to engage in conversations on new topics. By attending a variety of events, you will develop the confidence to talk to potential clients who come from all walks of life. 

Client networking does not mean you need to be an expert in the area(s) of law your firm practices in. Instead it means, being familiar with your audience and their areas of interest. For example, if I were to attend a young professionals’ social function, at the event I would be sure to emphasize that Harrison Pensa practices in the areas of business, employment, and real estate. Whereas, if I were to attend a technology-based event, at the event I would point out Harrison Pensa offers legal assistance in intellectual property & technology and social media law. When you become familiar with the demographics of your audience, you will be able to capture their attention by speaking to them about their topics of interest. 

A key point to consider after you have attended client networking events is that your efforts may not produce immediate results. It may take days, months, or even years for a person you meet to reach out to you. But it will be your name that will first come to mind when he or she is in need of legal assistance. The art of client development takes time, patience, and lots of practice. 

If you ever need an incentive to start working on your client development skills, just remember that without clients lawyers would simply be solving fictitious fact patterns while reminiscing about the good old days of from law school… I don’t know about you, but I hope never to see a fictional fact pattern again!

Arifa Serter finished her articles at Harrison Pensa and is now a Partner with the Insurance Defence and Subrogation group at the firm.