Stell: Networking from 6 Feet
Stay-at-home orders and self-quarantine are impacting our ability to travel freely, but they don’t mean our networking efforts have to cease. Having a vibrant network is essential to keeping your law practice healthy.
When networking from six feet, it is inevitable that we use technology to build community and deepen relationships.
Here is an example of what one North Carolina law firm has done.
NC Planning, an estate planning and business law firm located in Cary, sent daily messages to clients and friends of the firm for approximately 10 days running. The emails contained brief information, with an informational video, on one or two topics of interest such as how to be prepared with telemedicine and health care directives. By week 2, they began to offer free 30-minute business owner consultations on topics such as how to apply for the new federal funding programs that were available. At the end of the second week, they announced they were moving from daily emails to weekly emails, but they were still offering free 30-minute business owner consultations and they were updating social media channels daily, including offering videos on Facebook Live.
A business example outside of legal is Constant Contact. I, like many small businesses, use Constant Contact for my email service. On March 31, in response to COVID-19, Constant Contact sent its small business partners a Small Business Support Kit, which included tools to help boost business, share stories of inspiration from other small business owners, reduced pricing on e-commerce management tools, industry-specific Small Business Action Plans, weekly webinars and access to a community online forum. When I clicked on the “consulting and training services action plan,” I found an 11-page plan that offered advice on building your brand online, moving in-person events to online events, working from home, and more.
During this same time frame, other law firms heard messages from their clients that they were overwhelmed with information in the opening days of March and they asked their firms to turn off the messaging. Listening to what your clients need and want is important, so turning off communication for a short period is also a great strategy. Let your clients lead the way in communication preferences.
Start by asking, how can I be of service? You need look no further than your local news feed or emails from community charities and food banks to see we have a tremendous amount of unmeet needs in our local communities. Here are a few ways you can help:
- Retweet the link to a helpful resource
- Share on social media what legal associations or other organizations are doing that provide aid
- Look for pro bono opportunities through bar associations and the NC Pro Bono Resource Center
- Drop food at a local food bank
- Volunteer to assist in feeding kids
- Give blood to the American Red Cross
- Send an online gift card as a thank you
- Watch and see what the needs are of others and if you can fill a gap
Email your contacts with a short note, “I wanted to reach out to see if there is anything I can do for you. You’ve been so generous with your time (or your business, your referrals), I want to return the favor if I can.”
Send Positive Vibes
Reach out to let someone know you are thinking of them. This is a great time to check on people with an email or call. Send a hand-written note of thanks. When you see someone doing good, offer congratulations or thank them for their service. It is important to be authentic in your networking communications and especially now when nerves are frayed. You don’t want to send messages that look like hidden requests for business or being tone-deaf to the people you are reaching out to. But this adage is true, the more you give, the more you get.
Use Tech to Connect
Use technology such as Zoom or FaceTime to connect. Extroverts are particularly feeling the pain of working from home. In addition to work meetings, schedule social dates and plan virtual conversations, morning coffee, and stay-in-touch calls.
Now is a good time to strategically take inventory of who you want to be connected to and reach out. Look for online communities such as Facebook Groups or through a platform such as Mighty Networks that match your interests. If you can’t find a group that speaks to you, create your own.
Follow potential clients, colleagues, associations, or referral sources on LinkedIn and other social platforms – connect, follow, comment. Use technology to stay connected and grow your network. This is also a good time to refresh and update your social media profiles.
Use Tech for Wellness
Use this time to start an affirmation, meditation, or another wellness practice through tools such as Headspace, Insight Timer, Breath, Calm. I’m a big fan of Insight Timer which has a huge collection of free meditations and calming music, chants, or sounds of nature that help me with sleep at night or a refreshing break during the day.
Search for lawyers in the wellness space and follow them such as Laura Mahr with Conscious Legal Minds or Colleen Byers with Bell Davis & Pitt. Both Laura and Colleen are gifted in wellness topics and offer CLEs, webinars, and consultations.
Use your Fitbit or other tech tool to remind you to get up and walk around, set walking goals daily, create contests among your friends and family to hit target number of steps. Sitting in my home office with no outside stimulation can be hard, but when my Fitbit alarms at 10 till the hour, I get up, refill my water bottle, and add another couple of hundred steps to my total for the day.
And, finally, reach out to your BarCares or the State Bar LAP program if you need to talk with someone. Or find a friend, a trusted advisor, a spiritual leader or your Employee Assistance Program, to get some help. This might be a great time to see how telemedicine works for you.
I hope you are safe and healthy during this time. I hope your law firm, organization, business, or association weathers the COVID-19 storm. I look forward to networking from six feet, but even more, I look forward to our next in person gathering.
Camille Stell is the President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at [email protected] or 919.677.8900.