One Introvert’s Approach to Networking (or Rainmaking) in the Law
Last year I was asked to speak on a panel of “rainmakers” in the legal industry. The panel focused on how different personality types–extroverts vs. introverts–operated when networking in the law. The moderator had selected me initially because she thought I would be serve as an example of a successful extrovert. She was floored to learn that I am, in fact, an introvert who has learned to operate in an extrovert-oriented world.
Most people who observe me in public tend to get the same misimpression. They see me giving speeches, attending networking events, and engaging in the community. The truth is that these activities are not a primary source of energy for me. Indeed, I can only effectively engage in them by, first, routinely “going into my cave” for substantial periods. Only those who have lived or worked closely with me know this, and they would not waver in labeling me an introvert.
So how did I develop a healthy network in my 15 years as a lawyer?
I learned to leverage my introverted strengths in extroverted environments. One example is how I learned to meet new people in college and law school. In my experience, these places have been designed to reward extroverts. There was great emphasis on group projects and team learning, which I found to produce a misconception that most creativity stems from gregarious settings. This was great for extroverts, who love to “think out loud” and derive energy from learning collaboratively with others. Of course, most introverts prefer to study and learn on their own or in one-on-one learning environments, so I absolutely loathed group study sessions.
To cope with the near-necessity of group study, I attempted (in advance of these sessions) to learn everything I could about the subject on my own, even to the point that I would pretend to be a professor lecturing to a phantom audience in my bathroom. Then, with the group, I simply download everything I knew in this format. Members of my groups took a liking to these sessions and, before long, they were bringing me beer and inviting others. Eventually, I became known as “the Professor” around campus, and as classmates came to rely on my lectures before final exams, my network grew.
As a practicing lawyer, this process carried over and it is what I now call the “Knowledge-Based Networking (or “KBN”) Process.
Whenever I wanted to master a particular subject in the law, I read everything I could about it, then searched the globe for renowned experts in it, and reached out to request a conversation. In each instance, I contacted at least five people I did not know and asked for ten minutes of his or her time to discuss (and solidify) the information I had just learned. In nearly every case, ten minutes with this complete stranger turned into 45, and those 45 evolved into years of deeply gratifying mentorship, collaboration, and friendship. Not only did I master the subjects I was seeking to learn, but I built a dynamic network of superstar lawyers from nearly every corner of the world.
And I didn’t stop there. Perhaps the most significant thing I learned from these experts was that true mastery is achieved when we share our knowledge with others. So, on my road to mastery, no matter the subject, I have made it a point to share that insight and expertise with others. I have written [countless] articles, spoken at numerous conferences, taught CLE courses, and simply engaged those around me who wanted to learn what I had learned.
Now, the networking traffic flows in both directions. As my network has continued to expand, I have been deeply grateful to enjoy the privilege of people calling me from thousands of miles away and across the globe to ask for 10 minutes of my time.