The recent edition of Virginia Lawyers Weekly contains yet another piece written by a "strategic marketing consultant" trying to coach grown up lawyers how to speak to one another at social events. The article is entitled, "How to break the ice at networking events," and its premise is that "[b]oth parties are really interested in only one thing: getting new work. Do I have any interest in talking to this person? Is there potential for a business relationship? Will she try to sell me before I sell her?" You can read the author’s tips for lawyers pretending to be sincere when they speak to you at a party here.
In the last couple of years I read a similar article from a so-called marketing guru who happended to be a consultant to one of the biggest firms in the Southeast. One thing that struck me about that article was the advice about how to disengage from a conversation when you see someone more important than your current target walk into the room . I went to a local bar event shortly thereafter, and damned if I didn’t notice the lawyers from that firm keep looking at the door and scanning the room the whole time they were taling to me. I thought the behavior was shallow and rude, and I won’t be sending those folks any business.
Here’s my advice for breaking the ice at "networking events."
1. Don’t let a consultant tell you how to talk to your peers and friends. You are a lawyer, not a lemming.
2. Be yourself. Everyone other than the consultants who write these stupid advice pieces can spot insincerity a mile away.
3. It’s not all about you. Learn to listen to and be interested in the lives of others.
4. Don’t be the annoying jerk who goes to social gatherings with the sole goal of "getting new work." Most of us have plenty of work and are there primarily for the collegiality, so stop looking at every social gathering as a networking event.
5. If you need a consultant to teach you how to interact with your colleagues, you should probably just stay home.