In the fall, the Center for Professional Development & Career Strategies implemented a mandatory eight-week Professional Development course for first-year students. In my opinion, the most important information I shared was this simple insight: relationships matter.
It bears repeating — relationships matter and are worth investing in. The people you encounter throughout the journey of your life are unique, fascinating and worthy of your time and respect. This includes all people, even the person you habitually park next to, custodians, neighbors, bosses and co-workers, in addition to family and friends.
In the work place
We have all heard the saying that business is relationships, so building relationships should be your business. Internally, it is imperative to actively develop friendships not just within your team but throughout your organization. Make an effort to interact with other departments, know their strengths and establish cross-departmental friendships and business opportunities. Always remember that it is especially important to be thoughtful and appreciative of the team members who support your practice or overall organization. Take the time to speak with them and treat them as individuals.
Be careful of how you behave toward opposing counsel even in the most adversarial situations. In the future, they may be your co-counsel on an important deal or the parent of your child’s new best friend. Keep in mind that this is a small world; I am constantly surprised by the ebb and flow within the legal community. How you treat others will have a profound impact on your happiness and success.
Law is a service industry, and the importance of developing and maintaining a strong client base should not be underestimated. If the idea of networking makes you slightly ill, I encourage you to reevaluate your end goal. Embrace the truth that all of life is networking. Instead of superficially “working the room” for business leads, take the opportunity to have a few sincere conversations and begin a friendship. You may meet fewer people, but you will enjoy the experience more.
Within your network, strive to have a value-add orientation as opposed to a “what’s in it for me?” approach. For example, you might share related corporate articles or employment opportunities with an acquaintance, or even introduce them to a potential client, without the expectation of personal benefit.
In addition to industry-specific networking, build relationships within the context of your natural interests, family activities and hobbies. These can range from working out at the gym to a photography class, school events or community service. I can’t tell you how many business opportunities I have encountered on the sidelines of lacrosse games or at the grocery store. The secret is to be genuinely open to new acquaintances.
There is a heightened awareness of the importance of work-life balance within the legal profession — and there should be. The practice of law is demanding from a time and intellectual standpoint, and rewarding personal relationships can provide a vital counter to career-related stress. Invest in and prioritize your relationships with family and friends. Devote time to maintaining your mental and physical health.
Ultimately, I believe that daily interaction with others is the richest treasure of all and the measure of true success.
Lyn Rogers Knapp is the senior director of the Center for Professional Development & Career Strategies at Georgia State Law. She previously worked as a director of human resources, guiding a number of privately held corporations with a focus on strategic initiatives, cultural enhancement, broad-based recruiting and employee development. She is passionate about building relationships and social capital, particularly in the context of professional development and career success.
Contact the Center for Professional Development & Career Strategies: email@example.com or 404-413-9070