I just got back from the Legal Marketing Association’s Annual Conference and I’m still trying to process the whirlwind of sessions and networking opportunities that I was able to be a part of. I’ll post a series of re-caps from the individual sessions over the next few days, but I wanted to start with my feelings about the conference as a whole. For me, the main theme of this conference was relationships. Perhaps I’m biased to look for that as a theme, since that’s an essential part of our ILN conferences, but I was struck by how important it was during LMA10.
One of the things that’s been drilled into me during client panels since I joined the ILN five and a half years ago is that “clients hire lawyers, not law firms,” essentially saying that it’s all about relationships. This was backed up once again by the client panel on Friday morning when the panelists talked about how important chemistry is when choosing a lawyer to hire. But this principle doesn’t just apply to law firms – everyone makes purchasing decisions based on chemistry. For example, if I’m looking for a new web designer for our group’s website, I’m going to want to work with someone I trust, someone who understands my personality and how I work, as well as what I want to communicate through the site. If I’m interviewing people for that work, I’m already going to weed out anyone I think doesn’t have the appropriate skills, so it’s assumed that the finalists will all be talented. So it comes down to chemistry – who can I work with? That applies both in my personal and my professional life and I’ve talked to others who feel the same, so when working with my own clients, I always try to think about how I would want to be approached.
But why wait until you need to hire someone to network and form relationships with people in your own industry? I have gained and continue to gain so much from the relationships I have formed with other talented, passionate people in the legal marketing industry and last week’s conference showed me that very clearly. Social media also played a large role in enhancing my experience, and was best explained by Heather Milligan over on her blog. By connecting with people through social media like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and then taking those relationships offline by meeting my contacts in person, I am able to build friendships that inspire me professionally, support me personally, and give me a collective expertise to draw on among people I already trust.
I’ve come away with a lot of good ideas and excitement about future projects thanks to the LMA conference and the people I interacted with there. But overwhelmingly for me, my greatest takeaway was about the relationships – whether you’re connecting online through social media, in person at a conference or cocktail party, or over the phone, it’s all about engaging people and finding that right chemistry. Not only can it lead to business (and it doesn’t have to), but it enhances my life in many other intangible ways. Nancy Myrland’s video about connecting with legal marketing Twitter contacts does a great job of summing this up.
I’ll also mention that relationship-building doesn’t end when you get back on the plane to come home – you’ve got to continue to connect and follow up with the new contacts that you’ve made. Heather talked about that today and has some great tips for what to do when you return from a conference.
**(Photo from Nancy Myrland)