Stay in touch and the networking takes care of itself.

Not particularly inclined to write about legal stuff over the course of the last 10 days. But while sitting transfixed, constantly checking the web and television for updates, stories started coming out, how, even in the light of horrible pain and grief, goodness prevails. Civilians, at the risk of their own safety, running toward the bomb blast to render whatever aid they could. Marathon runners, after running 26 miles, refusing to stop, but instead running to local hospitals to give blood. Medical workers refusing to leave hospitals while the injured needed care. Amazing and heartening. Here’s to Boston Strong.

Now that things have hopefully settled down, back to writing about things legal.

Recently, I was invited to two separate networking events. One of them was the equivalent of a cold call – someone who runs a local business professional group in my area invited me to the quarterly meeting at a local pub. I didn’t know the person who invited me, or anyone in the group. At the last minute, my schedule cleared and I decided to go. When I entered the private room there were 30 to 40 people there. The room was spacious with lots of tables and chairs. But no one was seated. Everyone was clustered in tight groups around two tables of appetizers. Several guests were actually clasping wads of business cards in their hands, determined to press at least one card into the palm of any person to whom they spoke. There were no name tags, no sort of welcome table no list of attendees. I didn’t know a soul, but since I had come that far, I decided to at least try to meet a person or two. I tried to strike up a conversation with one group of folks, but their conversation was ending and they all headed in different directions. I get the sense that people at these things have a need to spray the infield – make contact with as many people as possible. Whether that particular contact is meaningful doesn’t seem to matter. I then tried to strike up a conversation with a guy about my age standing nearby. We talked for a moment, but he saw a friend and excused himself. Strike two. I then struck up a conversation with another guy standing nearby. He turned out to be the manager of the pub. Nice guy. Big White Sox fan. I would have talked to him longer, but that keg he was carrying looked heavy. He seemed anxious to put it down. At that point, I decided to call it a night.

A day or two later, I got a call from a very good friend who wanted to take me as his guest to a semi-regular dinner put together by some people with whom we had attended law school. My friend goes to these things pretty regularly. I do not. Additionally, my friend was on Law Review. Meaning top 10% of our class. And lots of the attendees at these functions are Law Review as well. I was not Law Review. Numerically speaking, I was maybe top 65% of my class.

So I had some trepidation. I didn’t really spend much time with Law Review types during law school. They were in the library studying. I was in Game Room, playing Donkey Kong. I didn’t know any of them very well and was pretty confident I was in for a long, tedious event. I was wrong. It was a great event. Saw lots of people I had been friendly with in law school and caught up. To be sure, sharing 3 years of law school gave us a common bond, but there wasn’t too much talk about law school. Most of the talk was about family and children. There was even some talk about grandchildren. And there were lots of questions about what happened to Mr. Smith or Ms. Jones[which is how we were addressed by professors]. Of course there was some talk about practice areas. And more then one comment that “I didn’t know you handled litigation matters.” Cards were passed – but usually only after a specific need. The evening flew by.

The takeaways here? First, the “mashup” networking event – running around passing out cards to strangers – is overrated. I’ve been to dozens of them over the years and don’t recall ever making a meaningful contact. When I get back to the office I can’t even connect a face to a business card. And the cards get tossed. I’m not bashing any and all forms of networking. Bar association memberships, and small, focused professional groups have been and remain good ideas. But groups/events devoted solely to the concept of networking? I don’t see the point.

The second takeway – stay in touch. I don’t do it very well and need to do it better. First, old friends and classmates keep you grounded. They refuse to listen to all your bullshit. They remember when you ran through parties naked[allegedly] and couldn’t get a date to save your life. Secondly, it makes good business sense. Some of those stoners I hung out with[it was the 70’s] went on to do very, very well. They almost certainly needed a lawyer along the way, but they didn’t call me because I didn’t stay in touch. And even if your old friends/classmates don’t need you, if you make that occasional call you stay on their radar. And when someone asks them for a lawyer, they mention you.

Finally, I wasted lots of money on Donkey Kong.