4 Networking Tools for Introverted Lawyers

As I’ve posted previously, most of the mass-media networking tips you find are perfect—if you’re an extrovert. And since the general population is between 50% to 75% extrovert, most people can take the typical networking advice—go out to professional meetings, conferences, and the like and chat people up—and do fairly well at it. Not so much for introverts.

Lawyer working on laptop

Lawyers are great at thinking, but often not so much at networking.

When you’re an introvert—as many, many lawyers are, since the typical Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for lawyers is ISTJ—networking is much trickier. You fight yourself to even get to the darned meeting or conference in the first place. And then, you don’t know quite what to do.

So you need to find tools that are more likely to work for you and your inherent personality. In other words, you need networking strategies for the long haul, and that means ones that play to your nature, not require you to act against it. (Going against type can make you seem dumber, according to Psychology Today.)

Here are some good networking tools for introverts that are sustainable over more than a few weeks of initial enthusiasm.

1. Pursue a hobby or interest. Yep, seriously. With the caveat that it needs to be a hobby that involves meeting others, somehow. Most solitary activities have classes for adding skills, for example. And make it something that you really, truly, deeply would like to explore. That is what will light you up and attract people to you, which is what you’re really after in life and in networking, right?

An example from my own life: I once took a class in making tassels—those lovely, ornate things used for holding back curtains. (Note how this had absolutely nothing to do with law or writing.) While there, I met an interesting woman with a similar snarky sense of humor. I was too shy and clueless about networking to ask for a card. But about a year later, I ran into her at one of those networking thingies. I remembered her, we chatted, and not long after, I ended up with some freelance work from her company. We still keep in touch.
The other people at the networking thingie? Wouldn’t know them if you put them in a lineup AND illegally clued me in to which ones I had met. Just sayin.

2. Talk to people while getting coffee, lunch and groceries. I know, this sounds like one of those extrovert tactics, but it’s actually worth trying. It gives you good practice at talking with strangers—you need that for interviews, right?—with little downside. Someone doesn’t want to talk? No big deal, they’re probably shy, preoccupied or having a bad day.

Approaching these casual chats with the right mind-set is critical—your goal here is not to serendipitously meet the VP of a company you want to work for. It’s to be open and curious about your fellow human beings, and see where that curiosity takes you. That’s it. You might have an inane conversation about the weather. Fine! Or, you might hear something really interesting you never thought of before. And that could set off a train of thought that leads you in a new direction. You could meet someone who turns out to be very important in your life. Heck, I met my husband at a Starbucks, because I was willing to be open and curious, and talk to him instead of focusing only on the work I had brought with me.

3. Use social media. For those of you who are Gen Yers or are heavy social media users, feel free to eyeroll and skip this part. GenXers and Boomers, pay attention if you are social media-resistant.

The way that people relate is changing. Remember when partners and other fuddyduddies (and maybe even you) balked at “talking into those blasted machines” when answering machines and voice mail made their way onto the scene? Well, Twitter and FaceBook are the early 21st century equivalent of voice mail, folks.

FaceBook is truly stunning in its ability to connect you with people you’ve lost touch with. Aside from the joy of that—which to me is the main reason to be on FaceBook—they might just be good contacts. FaceBook also lets you keep up with details of friends’ lives that you wouldn’t know otherwise. Your friends can know, without a lot of effort on either part, that you still take an active interest in them.

On Twitter, you can make new friends in a target industry by following interesting people (your definition of that), replying to their tweets that really grab you, and posting helpful things of your own.

If you’re not on LinkedIn, for heaven’s sake read my earlier post about that. LinkedIn is the most socially acceptable form of online lawyer networking. Just do it.

4. Use your writing skills. Many introverts are pretty good writers, and are infinitely more comfortable communicating in writing than in person. So use that fact to your advantage. Blog, contribute content for newsletters, write articles for professional publications.

And use those writing skills to participate in online fora in areas you’re interested in. I’ve made some actual friends via a health-related forum I’m a regular on—people I will happily meet IRL (that’s “in real life”—and here’s a guide to online acronyms) at some point.

These networking tools don’t have the instant gratification of getting a business card at a meeting. They can, in fact, take longer to yield fruit, which doesn’t sound all that great when you are desperate to find a new job. But keep your eye on the prize here, folks: You are looking for a lasting change in your life, not a quick-fix job in which you’ll be unhappy, AGAIN, in 6 months.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer and career transition coach who put herself through an endless number of informational interviews. Some of them were even entertaining, and she met some nice people. Never did get a job out of them, though. What’s your favorite tip for networking? Drop her a line at jalvey AT jenniferalvey.com.

12 thoughts on “4 Networking Tools for Introverted Lawyers

  1. So apt. So soothing. My most hated concept is rainmaking, with networking close behind.

    Quinn suggested I check out your blog, and I’m glad I did.
    I’m a retired labor lawyer, former union activist, lifelong writer, burgeoning artist, and INFP (but the N and the F are close). I’ll be back here soon.

    Kate Colgan

  2. Kate, thanks for stopping by! I always love meeting a fellow INFP. I’m close on the I/E line, but pretty far into NF territory.

  3. Hi, Jennifer.
    It’s a delight to meet another INFP. What are we, 1% of the population?
    I’m fairly close on I/E, but that doesn’t mean I’m mildly introverted. I’m either On or Off. Representational emergencies and crises, however, move me from Off to SuperWoman. Then comes the crash.
    Kate

    Introverts of the World Unite!

    • So true. People who know me in limited contexts like teaching and choir are shocked if I mention I’m an introvert. What they don’t see is me going home and curling up with a book or movie afterward, and trying not to talk to anyone for a while!

  4. I’m pretty sure I’m INFJ, although I’m on the I/E line myself. These days I’m not around enough people. I’m way more N than S, that much I know.

    You noted:

    “most people can take the typical networking advice—go out to professional meetings, conferences, and the like and chat people up—and do fairly well at it.”

    This never worked very well for me.

    Apart from having an inability to chit-chat about nothing, it probably doesn’t help that I truly have no interest in practicing law. Although I have a significnat interest in the financial markets and the economy, so there’s lots to talk about with people in that area these days.

    For me, the most painful part is the legal writing. I absolutely hate that part of the practice, so I avoid it and procrastinate whenever possible. It’s taken me all weekend to write a five page appeal that should have taken 6 hours or so at work this week. Major legal briefs are absolute tortue for me.

    If I stopped practicing law, I don’t think I would ever call myself a recovering lawyer. I’m one of those people who went to law school after doing the economic analysis and figuring that I could make more money in law than in chemical engineering (which was my undergrad major). Yep, it was pretty much a purely economic consideration that I made without any considertaion of whether I had any interest in it.

    As it turned out, I didn’t have any interest in it, but that didn’t stop me from practicing intellectual property law in a corporate law firm for years for the money. I hadn’t had any interest in chemical engineering either, but I had a scholarship for that one.

    At this point in my life, I’m thinking that I should have gotten a Ph.D. in theoretical physics or gone to med school or something along those lines. I know I have more of an interest in either of those things than law (or engineering).

    • I wonder what it would be like to follow that interest you have in financial markets and the economy?

      Or, heck, to find something important to you that isn’t about money at all, and play with it just a little bit. Not necessarily career-wise, just find an hour or two a week to follow it. You might, possibly, find your world opening up a little. Even if we’re thrilled with our lives, opening up our worlds just a little more is usually quite worth it.

      And the writing–stop trying to be perfect. Start any writing project by being willing to write complete crap. It’s the only way I get half my blog posts done! You can always clean things up later, but first spew out a bunch of thoughts on paper.

      Hope some of this helps!

  5. Only in a law firm. I’m a very good writer and it would have taken me all weekend to write that appeal. We are not journalists, and appeals are not news.

    I am sorry you feel so out of place. Perhaps you can use your law degree to enter the financial sector that does interest you.

    Your comment brings up something I have often said. I love the law, and it was a good fit for me–except that there is no good way to practice law.

    1. Law firm. They want your life. When I worked for one, I felt as if my real life was like an underground river flowing along without me that carried all the things I love but was too busy to experience.

    2. Solo practice/small partnership. Too much administrative work. Too much work. No control over your time.

    3. Poverty.public interest law. What they pay is insulting. Resources for clients are poor and hard to come by. Getting paid is a nightmare. When I worked as an attorney/guardian ad litem in DC family court, you had to bill by the minute. Judges had to approve our bills. They could slash them at will, and we often had to wait months until they got around to them. I soon learned that neglected and abused children were worth a certain amount per case.

    4. In-house counsel. Some lawyers may not find this boring.

    5. Government. Influenced by national politics. Government worked best for me. They let you out of the cage early, and you can get details to other areas of your agency or to other agencies, so you get top-notch and varied experience without waiting three years to get out of the library. But agencies are run by presidential appointees. Most of the years I worked for mine, the appointees were sent to dismantle the agency from within.

    • I’m already basically practicing poverty law, since I work on disability claims. Lots of the clients are poor and unable to afford medical care. I’m in a small firm now where I basically control my practice. I went from Intellectual Property to disability law.

      I actually agreed to do that appeal because I felt bad for the client. Basically, the ALJ who did the disability hearing didn’t like him because he was morbidly obese.

      It was my choice to do the appeal over the weekend because I put it off unti the last minute because it invovled legal writing.

  6. Dear JP,

    Actually, in-house can be a good option. You don’t have billable hours. The atmosphere is more relaxed than in a firm. And, although you may not often get to keep them, you do have regular hours. Even weekends.

    I throw out two thoughts. Maybe you’ve already considered and discarded them; maybe they’ll stimulate an idea.

    1. I wonder if looking in-house in the financial industry could work for you. You might get to do far more negotiating than writing. I am an INFP, and I find negotiating very satisfying. Most of it is problem solving, and, if you are a ruminator and not a think-on-your-feet action type, as I suspect is true for most introverts, it is quite convenient that most of the real work is done away from the table.

    2. Another possibility that occurred to me is an economic policy think tank, where your experience as a lawyer–*especially* an intellectual property lawyer–would be extremely valuable (and therefore you could get a decent return on that investment), but you wouldn’t have to practice.

    I wish you well on this remarkable journey to a new life you are undertaking.

    • I’m not doing any remarkable journeying to a new life at the moment, particularly since i just started the job I have now. It’s better than the old job (in pay, benefits, and work stress).

      My wife prefers it when I am gainfully employed, since she is a stay-at-home mother with two small children. I recently went through the not-gainfully-employed process for about 5 weeks this summer. I do not wish to repeat that particular experience.

      I got rid of the billable hour problem when I left corporate law and entered the world of contingency fee retail law.

      I’m of the opinion that I should have probably figured out what law entailed before I decided to spend $120,000 on law school based solely on the amount of money I could make when I got out.

  7. I did a piece called Planning Persuasive Prose for The Editorial Eye some years ago. In it, I take the easiest, most enlightening rules–only 5–for brief-writing that I have ever found and show nonlegal writers how to apply them when they need to persuade. It is possible that this approach mayt take some of the grief out of brief writing for you. The website where it might be found is down now. If I find it, I’ll post the address.

    Calligraf aka Kate Colgan

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