Building healthy relationships is important for your law practice – but it’s even more important for your Law Life.
For practicing lawyers, work and home are inextricably linked. When one is lacking, the other suffers as well.
But the key to keeping both areas thriving is the same: strong relationships.
“One of the biggest mistakes people make is to bifurcate their personal and professional relationships,” says Rebecca Zucker in this piece written by Sachin Walker in the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “Our relationships are our relationships. They actually help us live longer, so they’re important not just to our careers but to our health.”
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Relationship-building is a life skill, not just a career skill, writes Walker in the Stanford Graduate School piece. Her article offers a blueprint for honing that skill.
Here are some key excerpts:
- Build bridges in unexpected places. “Never assume who will or won’t be helpful,” Zucker says. Takeaway: put yourself out there, with all sorts of people, in all sorts of situations.
- Momentum creates more momentum. “Whether you’re looking for clients or a new job, if you get introductions to new people, they can then introduce you to others and you’re more likely to find what you’re looking for. Getting one ball rolling in your search leads to others.” Takeaway: relationships grow exponentially.
- Take advantage of “weak” ties. “Zucker points to often-cited research by Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter on the value of weak ties — acquaintances, friends of friends, and the like — versus people we know best. She says, “‘He found that people who relied on weak ties in their job searches ultimately found better, more satisfying work…. Our strong ties have much of the same information we have. But the weak ties can provide new information and bridge us to new networks. The research was pre-internet but it holds in the post-LinkedIn era, too.’” Takeaway: expand your network beyond the obvious people.
- Don’t be afraid to reconnect. “It can be easy to talk yourself out of contacting those you’ve lost touch with, even if they might be helpful to you today. Don’t give in to that fear, Zucker says. ‘Don’t be afraid of a no. Put something like Blast from the past or Reconnecting in the email subject line. Acknowledge the absence of contact. They most likely haven’t reached out either and may be pleased to hear from you. Make sure you don’t sound desperate or entitled, and always give the other person an out — such as if it’s not a good time for you…’” Takeaway: the second – or third – time could be the charm.
- Open by identifying yourself. When connecting with someone online – especially on social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook – it’s a good idea to introduce yourself and tell the recipient how you know them. Don’t assume they will automatically know. Takeaway: no cold calls.
- Diversify your relationships. Zucker advises: “It’s important to be regularly connecting with people from different demographic backgrounds. You can learn a ton.” This can apply to diversity of industries, function, geography, and others. One example is when younger and older people connect. Takeaway: expand your connections as your career progresses.
- It’s not about you. “It shouldn’t be mostly about self-interest,” Zucker says. “It’s thinking things like ‘What can I do for this person? How can I help?” Takeaway: be generous with your time and attention.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Today he helps lawyers and firms succeed through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations (www.yourlawlife.com). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441 to learn how Jay can help your practice.