If you haven’t had the opportunity to read retired soccer player, Abby Wambach’s remarks to the graduates of Barnard College, it’s worth taking a few minutes to give them a read. Wambach’s speech, and the discussion that we recently had at our Annual Conference with facilitator Wendy Merrill of Strategy Horse, which incorporated the concept of finding your “why?” are both things that have resonated deeply with me over the last few months. The idea of finding your “why?” focuses on digging down into the reason behind everything that you do, so that you give a purpose to it – it will be the driving force behind why your clients hire you, why you practice law, why other lawyers want to join your firm, and why young lawyers want to come into and stay with your practice.

A network is no different – it’s more than just a directory of names. It’s a living, breathing organism, and the thing that keeps people coming back to it and investing their time and energy into it is the why. Our “why” is defined by three guiding principles: 

One: We are in this together (Collaboration)

Our tagline is “where lawyers become friends,” and that can sound cute and trite. But it’s backed up by incredibly strong personal and professional relationships that are the driving force of our organization. How does that happen? It’s about consistently and constantly sewing threads into the blanket of relationships that exist in the group – we are together only as strong as the work that each of us puts into the ILN. It happens through:

  • Getting to know other members over time, through attending conferences and participating in initiatives – not just once, but consistently year after year.
  • Identifying opportunities for joint pitches and presentations, and reaching out to other lawyers in your network to work together.
  • Thinking of other members when a topic of interest comes up for more than your jurisdiction, and collaborating on webinars or papers.
  • Visiting each other’s offices when you’re traveling, and inviting each other for a meal or coffee.
  • Connecting on social media, so that you can continue to build your relationships in between face to face meetings.
  • Periodically reaching out with a phone call or email to see how you may be able to add value.
  • Introducing your clients with needs in their jurisdiction or practice area.

Every referral to an ILN member firm is a victory for every ILN firm, because it further strengthens the bonds of the Network. Every opportunity you capitalize on within your own network is a victory for the whole network. So reach out, connect, show up, engage. The key is collaboration.

Two: We are passionate (Passion)

Passion has always been at the heart of the ILN and what we do – it’s why firms join our Network, because they believe in doing what they do better by working together and serving their clients wherever their needs arise. I am fortunate to see that passion illustrated in so many ways within our group – late night emails, attending each others’ weddings, hugs at conferences, encouraging each other to try new experiences and foods, debating challenging ideas, collaborating on projects. Passion doesn’t just exist within the ILN (though I am biased enough to think we have a special brand of it). It gives us, and others, a reason to continue contributing to their networks with their time and energy. How do you know you have it?

  • Remember we talked about relationship equity in a recent post? That’s a good example – if an email or phone call comes in from someone in your network, and you’re eager to get right back to them to help them out, that’s passion.
  • If you’re eager to advocate for your network with  your colleagues and clients, you have passion.
  • When you know you must do excellent work for your network colleagues, because there’s no big brand to fall back on, you have passion
  • If you’re committed to growing, improving, and innovating as an active participant of your network, you have passion.

The ILN is an organization we believe in, and we use the drive and commitment that we have to energize, engage and inspire others. We are passionate, and we share that passion with our colleagues, clients, and the industry.

Three: We are committed to integrity and quality (Integrity)

There’s no greater risk that a lawyer can take than referring their client to someone else. Joining (or building) a network full of lawyers where you’re expected to refer your clients, for their own benefit and yours, takes a big leap of faith. It involves a tremendous amount of trust: in the organization, in its member firms, and in its lawyers. That’s something we never take for granted. It’s one of the reasons that we believe in the power of relationships so strongly, not just among our member firms, but also between the Administration and its members.

Most formal networks will have some type of rigorous quality control mechanism in place (or should), which will help to give you peace of mind in terms of quality. If you’re considering joining a network, you may want to ask:

  • What is your quality control process?
  • How do you handle any challenges or issues that come up between firms during the referral process?
  • What is the Administration’s level of oversight during the referral process?
  • Have you ever removed a member firm? Why?
  • Do you have a statement of values that member firms are expected to abide by?

We strive to be consistently honest, open, genuine and ethical. These are the guiding principles of our team: collaboration, passion, and integrity.